The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd
Published by Headline Review in March 2006
Number of pages: 416
My copy: Second-hand from a charity shop
In her forties, and married for half her life, Jessie Sullivan honestly believes that she is happy. She has a lovely home, a dependable husband and an accomplished and adored teenage daughter. But when shocking news about her mother compels Jessie to visit the island where she grew up, she finds herself drawn to Brother Thomas, a Benedictine monk on the verge of taking his final vows.
Amidst the seductive beauty of the South Carolina salt marshes, Jessie is torn between powerful new longings and her enduring marriage. After all these years she is finally beginning to understand who she really is and where she belongs. But she has still to discover how much of her old life has a place in the new one.
I really wasn’t sure what I was going to make of this book after reading the blurb – it sounded unusual, which is a good thing, but I did wonder what it would be like. And, unfortunately, it really didn’t work for me!
I was quite drawn along by the story at first. I really wanted to find out what had happened to Jessie’s mother, and the description of the island where she was grew up was rich and descriptive. But I found that very little really happened for much of the book, and there was almost too much physical description of the island’s beauty and not enough action! The relationship between Jessie and the monk didn’t quite convince me either – and some of the dialogue was really unbelievable!
I also found Jessie herself hard to relate to. I didn’t really like her and she didn’t seem a very convincing character overall. I also found a lot of her thoughts and feelings became repetitive, and I started to skim read by the time I was about two thirds of the way through the book as I had just lost interest in the whole thing.
I felt this book promised a lot, but didn’t really deliver for me. It meandered too much and never really went anywhere, and I found the central relationships too unconvincing.