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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THIS BOOK SPOKE TO ME...
This is the story of a woman's re-awakening of self. It is the story of forty-two year old Jessie Sullivan, a woman who has sublimated herself throughout her married life to her husband and her daughter. Now that her daughter is going away to college, empty nest syndrome looms on the horizon, along with a somewhat stagnant marriage. When she returns to her childhood home...
Published on 18 Jun. 2008 by Lawyeraau

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars I guess this book was just not for me.
Having read 2 other books from Sue Monk Kidd and rating those 5 stars, I was keen to read this book but was left very disappointed.

The story follows Jessie, as she travels back to the island she grew up on to try and help her mother after she cut off her own finger. The theme is about Jessie’s ‘finding herself’ after her daughter has moved...
Published 14 months ago by Mrs. S. Payne


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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THIS BOOK SPOKE TO ME..., 18 Jun. 2008
By 
Lawyeraau (Balmoral Castle) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Mermaid Chair (Paperback)
This is the story of a woman's re-awakening of self. It is the story of forty-two year old Jessie Sullivan, a woman who has sublimated herself throughout her married life to her husband and her daughter. Now that her daughter is going away to college, empty nest syndrome looms on the horizon, along with a somewhat stagnant marriage. When she returns to her childhood home to attend to her aging mother who has done something unthinkable, it is Jessie who then does the unthinkable.

On the island where she grew up, Egret Island, her deeply religious mother remains uncommunicative about having intentionally severed one of her fingers. Her mother, a cook for the Benedictine monastery on the Island, will simply not discuss the reasons why she engaged in such a violent act of self-mutilation, and Jessie suspects that it has something to do with the death of Jessie's beloved father who died when she was nine. Jessie had always felt tremendous guilt and sadness regarding her father's death, as he purportedly died while on his fishing boat, which exploded when a spark from a pipe Jessie had given him as a gift had ignited a faulty gas line.

While back on Egret Island, Jessie, pondering her mother's situation as well as her own growing discontent and dissatisfaction with her life, runs into Brother Thomas, a Benedictine monk battling his own internal demons and personal crisis. When these two lost souls come together, an illicit affair is begun, and Jessie embarks on such a surprising voyage of personal self-discovery that even she does not know how it will all end. When her husband, Hugh, a psychiatrist and no dummy, comes to the island, he pretty much figures out what is going on. He returns home, only to realize the reality of what actually has happened. He knows that he needs to look beyond himself and try to find a way to overcome his own feelings of personal devastation and betrayal in order to help right what went wrong. While Jessie's way of reaching into the core of her being was not necessarily right, it is the way that presented itself to her. Had it not, I doubt that she would have been able to put her life in order and appreciate what she had with her husband and to build on that. Jessie ultimately realizes that her love affair is the response to a crisis in her life but is not necessarily the solution.

This book spoke to me. Its theme resonated on a very personal level. So many women do sublimate themselves to their families that when their children grow up and leave home, they are an empty shell of their former self, their raison d'etre no longer there. They are left to rediscover themselves. Some do, while others, unfortunately do not, sleepwalking through their lives, shadowy remnants of their younger selves, never venturing out beyond their own self-imposed restraints, out of touch with themselves as people in their own right. The author addresses these issues through this lyrically told story. The essence of her haunting prose will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned.
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Facing the Unknown, 11 May 2005
This review is from: The Mermaid Chair (Hardcover)
In my opinion "The Mermaid Chair" is about the unknown. The title comes from (in the story) an ornately carved chair (carved with mermaid designs) that is dedicated to a church saint was actually a mermaid before a conversion (at least according to legend). The crux of the story is about the search for the unknown that drives us in life. There is an unknown that has tormented Jessie Sullivan's mother to act out in violence and bring Jessie back to her childhood home to care for her. There is the unknown of why happily married Jessie is mysteriously drawn to a monk on the verge of taking his vows. There is the unknown of what makes one yearn for a soul mate. The second novel from Sue Monk Kidd following her stunning debut "The Secret Life of Bees", "The Mermaid Chair" is an exquisite example of storytelling in its finest form along the lines of "Life of Pi", "Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time", "My Fractured Life", and "Kite Runner."
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why would someone cut the top off their finger?, 18 Jun. 2006
By 
DubaiReader "MaryAnne" (Rowlands Castle, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Mermaid Chair (Paperback)
The question at the centre of this book is just that, why did Nelle Sullivan cut off the top of her finger?

Her daughter Jessie is a typical middle aged mother, happily married, with a daughter in college. Her husband is a psychiatrist, very useful under the circumstances.

When Jessie hears news of her mother's exploits, she returns to Egret Island, off the coast of South Carolina. This is the island of her childhood, but it's been many years since her last, unsuccessful visit.

Her return opens up buried emotions surrounding her relationship with her mother and the death of her father over 30years before.

The Mermaid Chair is an old monk's chair in the Benedictine Monastry on the island, where Nelle is cook and

as Jessie becomes attracted to a monk who has yet to take his vows, the tensions start to rise.

I really enjoyed this book, especially Nelle's eccentric friends, who reminded me of the characters in "The Devine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" by Rebecca Wells.

Unfortunately, "The Secret Life of Bees" was a hard act to follow and inevitably comparisons are made. "The Mermaid's Chair" falls below these high expectations, but still 4 stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An emotional read, 16 Sept. 2009
This review is from: The Mermaid Chair (Paperback)
I found myself getting quite emotional reading The Mermaid's Chair. Perhaps because I've been married for a long time and my children are growing up and I could feel Jessie's angst and restlessness as she found herself in that situation and wanting to escape. The telling of the tale was quite slow and thoughtful and very beautiful and I felt that I'd shared Jessie's journey and come home again slightly different when I finished reading it. I loved the group of older women who were Jessie's mother's friends, and the mystery of why her mother was so disraught, and what really happened years ago when Jessie's father had a fatal boating accident kept the pace and interest up while Jessie's illicit love blossomed. I liked the ending too - I could have my mid-life crisis vicariously through Jessie and was relieved that it all turned out alright.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a memorable read, 11 Aug. 2012
By 
Cloggie Downunder (Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Mermaid Chair (Paperback)
The Mermaid Chair is the second novel by Sue Monk Kidd. Set on the South Carolina barrier island of Egret, it describes three intense months that change the life of 42-year-old Jessie Sullivan when she returns to her childhood home. Believing she is dealing with a psychiatric emergency with her mother, she finds herself confronted by doubts about her 20-year-old marriage to Hugh when she falls in love with a monk from the island's monastery; simultaneously, her mother's behaviour unearths the deeply buried events of her father's death 33 years previous. The plot is well crafted, the prose is beautiful and the characters are interesting, some are really funny, but I found Jessie rather difficult to like: she struck me as rather selfish and self-indulgent, although perhaps some more detailed earlier description of her relationship with Hugh would have helped understand her actions. Kidd's descriptions are wonderful, though, very evocative of the South Carolina coastal landscape, and she has obviously researched marine flora and fauna, especially sea birds, as well as tidal marshes, estuaries and creeks, Gullah culture, dementia, Inuit legends, mermaid fables and folklore of the saints. The twist at the end saved it for me. A memorable read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical and memorable, 29 Oct. 2006
This review is from: The Mermaid Chair (Paperback)
This is a wonderful novel, spellbinding with characters that you can wholly visualise and want to know. The writing is very strong and not for a long time have I remembered the style, flavour and feeling of a novelist's writing long after I have finished it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect escapism, 19 Dec. 2014
This review is from: The Mermaid Chair (Kindle Edition)
Jessie is forty-two, lives in Atlanta, happily married with a daughter just in college when she gets a phone call from her mother's friend to come home urgently. Home is a small island just off the South Carolina coast, a haven for Egrets and Benedictine monks where Jessie's father died in a boating accident when she was nine. While she's nursing her mother, Jessie has a bit of a mid-life crisis and falls in love with one of the monks. This is the story of Jessie finding herself amid the wife and mother she's become, the mystery of her mother's illness and uncovering what happened to her father.

Sue Monk Kidd has a beautiful writing style, I loved The Secret Life of Bees and can't wait to read The Invention of Wings which is sitting on my to-be-read shelf. She creates little worlds which are so easy to escape to, the reader really becomes involved in the characters and the plot as it twists and turns.

Jessie's character was a difficult one to like, she starts off being rather dull and predictable, a bit whiny and annoying. As the story continues she changes into a stronger, more passionate woman and by the end I really liked her.

The other characters are just as wonderfully written, each very individual with a purpose to the plot. It really is incidental what the story was, with characters this good, this book could have been about paint drying and I would have happily read all 300 pages.

I didn't guess the ending in a million years, so heartbreaking and satisfying. I'd definitely recommend this one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great book, 28 Aug. 2006
By 
A. ayo (belgium) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Mermaid Chair (Hardcover)
I got it in one of those airport bookstores, and it must've been some sign from heaven to get it. This book is simply beautiful and smart and...unexpected. read it carefully!
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3.0 out of 5 stars I guess this book was just not for me., 10 Mar. 2014
By 
Mrs. S. Payne (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: The Mermaid Chair (Kindle Edition)
Having read 2 other books from Sue Monk Kidd and rating those 5 stars, I was keen to read this book but was left very disappointed.

The story follows Jessie, as she travels back to the island she grew up on to try and help her mother after she cut off her own finger. The theme is about Jessie’s ‘finding herself’ after her daughter has moved away and her relationship with her husband becomes stagnant. She is at the point in her life when she needs and welcomes some excitement and also finds that she needs to discover more about the mysterious death of her Father when she was a child. There are some religious issues raised and this book also seems to resonate with women of a certain age that have had similar experiences as Jessie.

I’m not sure if I missed the point, or if I am too young, or if it’s because I don’t have children but I really didn’t understand why things happened the way that they did. I liked the characters and enjoyed the writing. I followed the storyline and enjoyed the book as a read but it didn’t ‘connect’ with me. I cared what happened enough to finish the book but didn’t find myself excited by what I was reading.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing, 22 Mar. 2008
By 
This review is from: The Mermaid Chair (Hardcover)
Having read and loved " The Secret Life of Bees" I was looking forward to reading this book and chose it as my bookclub selection. I found it tedious and the characters unsympathetic and ultimately found it hard to finish.
I would not recommend it to anyone who loved the Secret Life as it will disappoint.
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The Mermaid Chair
The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd (Paperback - 6 Mar. 2006)
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