Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Mermaid Chair - Sue Monk Kidd

I'd been on a two week vacation with hardly anything to read (ack!!) and my sister gave me this for the ride home.  I've read a couple of other of the author's books (The Secret Life of Bees in 2002, The Invention of Wings last year) and recognized her style early on in this book.  Her writing has a languid, lush language that's a little bit too descriptive for my taste.  I'd prefer more narrative and dialogue.

The Mermaid Chair is the story of a middle aged woman, a recent empty-nester who goes back to her family home on an island and has an affair with a local monk-in-training.  The opening line is great:

"In the middle of my marriage, when I was above all Hugh's wife and Dee's mother, one of those unambiguous women with no desire to disturb the universe, I fell in love with a Benedictine monk."

It's told in first person as a remembrance of her time on the island and the relationship and why it came about.  I like the twists and turns and as she struggled with finding out what she wanted from life now that she was not defined as only a mother and wife.

At one point she ponders the meaning of soul: "...a squashy substance, like a piece of clay or dental mold, which collected the sum of a person's experience--a million indentations of happiness, desperation, fear, all the small piercings of beauty we've even known."

At another point she contemplates life without her husband: "What if there were no more Hugh in my life?  No more of these small antics, the moments we'd pieced together to form a history?  But were these habits of love--or love itself?"

Another nice line "The mind is so good at revising reality to suit our needs."

And then there's the monk, thinking about the purpose of the monastery" "they'd been picked for a hidden but noble experiment--to see if people might actually be able to live in genuine relatedness, to see if perhaps God had made a mistake by creating the human species."

A good read for the end of my trip.  Thanks, sis.

Published:  2005  Read: July 2015  Genre: Fiction

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