Saturday, January 3, 2015

Book Bingo / Audio: The Mermaid Chair

I listened to The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd narrated by Eliza Foss. When her mother is rushed to the hospital missing a finger and an explanation of what happened, Jessie Sullivan rushes to Egret Island to find out what happened and monitor her mother's health. But returning to her hometown turns over a lot of stones Jessie thought she had buried away, and she finds herself pulling away from her husband and toward freedom and artistic exploration in a mysterious puzzle of her past, present, and future.

(picture taken from Goodreads;
cover design by Amy King;
cover illustration by PoodlesRock/Corbis

Conclusion: I don't really know how to feel about this book. I picked it up at a library book sale, wanting to listen to more audiobooks. Initially, I was unimpressed, because I'm so sick of books about women breaking free at middle age of the lives they've built, but there is more to this story that I do like. I just couldn't bring myself to like Jessie. I can't approve of her choices and actions, and even at the end she just seems selfish to me. I was really surprised by the ending, and it explains a lot about the characters that didn't make sense earlier in the book. And I imagine the book is supposed to be some kind of message of love. The specifics of this message bother me, but I can't really imagine a way to make it better, so I'll let it go. I'll say this--the book got me thinking. Kidd adds great description to her writing, down to how a character looks when he sleeps and the little things in a person's appearance that convey how they are or what they do and feel. I can appreciate that, and I really liked Hepseba and Whit, as well as the variety of settings in the book. I haven't decided if I'll read more books by Sue Monk Kidd or not. I guess we'll see.

Audio: Eliza Foss's accent (whether natural or fabricated) is perfect for the location of Jessie's home town (Southeast US). She affects the right attitude for each character and has the fantastic inflection of a true storyteller. If I had been reading this in print, I probably would have stopped and set it down at some point; but Foss kept drawing me back when I got tired of the story, probably just for the sake of hearing her tell it.

Recommendation: I would recommend this for people who like books about (1) women exploring their independence after they reach a certain age; (2) families and friends with complicated emotional dynamics; or (3) culture on small islands off the Eastern US Coast.

The Mermaid Chair is my seventh TBR Pile choice for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge. Last book for my 2014 reviews! Whew! Happy New Year, everyone!

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