I picked up The Mermaid Chair because I really liked The Secret Life of Bees, which was also written by Sue Monk Kidd. And it was still pretty good, but not as good as The Secret Life of Bees. So if you’re only going to read one, go with the bees.
Bees aside, The Mermaid Chair is pretty good. I kind of hated the main story line, which is about a woman with no sense of identity “finding herself” by having an affair with a Franciscan monk. (Yes, you read it right.) And apparently, she does find herself in the process, realizes she’s made a terrible mistake, and the person she really should have been loving the whole time was herself.
But even though I hate watching weak women making stupid mistakes in an effort to grow a spine, I did appreciate that by the end of the book, Jessie (the above-mentioned woman) grows a spine, faces some issues she’s been putting off, learns to love and appreciate her husband again, and—most importantly—gets married to herself. Metaphorically. And also literally. Sort of. At any rate, she realizes that she can’t rely on other people for her identity, finds out who she wants to be, and starts standing on her own two legs.
And while all of this is happening (and while she’s having a clandestine affair with a monk on the banks of a really gross-sounding marsh), she’s also solving the mystery of her father’s death. Which is a surprisingly twisted and poignant story.
If you really get wrapped up in your protagonists, maybe skip this one. But if you’re willing to say, “It’s okay if she’s stupid—at least she’s not me,” then this is a great book. And by the end, she’s not stupid anymore. So that’s nice. ♦