Customer Reviews for

The Mermaid Chair

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

Soul Satisfying Book

In The Mermaid Chair, Sue Monk Kidd does for fiction what the Flemish masters did for painting. She imbues each scene with so much reality it unfolds in your mind like a memory.

You can taste the salty sea air and smell the murky island scents of Egret Island. You fe...
In The Mermaid Chair, Sue Monk Kidd does for fiction what the Flemish masters did for painting. She imbues each scene with so much reality it unfolds in your mind like a memory.

You can taste the salty sea air and smell the murky island scents of Egret Island. You feel every horrific and blessed thing that Jessie experiences.

I have never fallen so completely in love with a book before. Her writing is beyond beautiful. It¿s startling and humbling. I found myself nodding and rereading lines, thinking YES that is exactly how it feels but how did she capture it so perfectly?

The book is brimming with brilliance. Some of my favorite lines are:

¿The mind is so good at revising reality to suit its needs.¿

¿There¿s release in knowing the truth no matter how anguishing it is.¿

¿Sometimes the heart wanted what the soul demanded.¿

The story felt like a mid-life crisis crossed with a finding oneself journey.

Sue Monk Kidd¿s website describes the story as ¿the transendent tale explores the lush, unknown region of the feminine soul where the thin line between the spiritual and the erotic exists. Here is an unforgettable love story, between a woman and a monk, a woman and her family, and ultimately a woman and her own soul.¿

I think of it as a spiritual journey that leaves Jessie and the reader forever changed by calling into question the bonds of love and commitment. By reminding us that everything is a choice. Whether to leave a husband, to reunite with a parent, to be fully alive.

Sue Monk Kidd is a master of the writing craft. Her ability to set the scene is breathtaking and realistic. Her dialogue is poignant. Her character¿s internal thoughts vivid and engaging. There was not one point in the book where I wanted to put it down. Every aspect of the writing was engaging. I will be rereading this book for years to come, hoping to gain insight into how she does it.

posted by KourtneyH on December 21, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

Buy The Secret Life of Bees pass this one by

I bought this book for my mom cause she loved the Secret Life of Bees, do not buy this book you will regret it. She hated this book and told me all the details daily as she read this book, she could not have hated a book more. Save yourself do not buy this book it is re...
I bought this book for my mom cause she loved the Secret Life of Bees, do not buy this book you will regret it. She hated this book and told me all the details daily as she read this book, she could not have hated a book more. Save yourself do not buy this book it is really bad.

posted by i-READ-BEFORE-COMMENTING on May 7, 2010

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  • Posted May 7, 2010

    Buy The Secret Life of Bees pass this one by

    I bought this book for my mom cause she loved the Secret Life of Bees, do not buy this book you will regret it. She hated this book and told me all the details daily as she read this book, she could not have hated a book more. Save yourself do not buy this book it is really bad.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Plot is too thin to sustain a full novel.

    Here's the plot: Jessie, 42, is questioning her marriage as she takes care of her emotionally unsettled mother. Jessie has a brief affair, learns the truth about her father's death, and they all lived happily ever after.

    It's that thin. I can't believe someone made an entire novel out of something so flimsy. The author tries to make it into something sacred, scraping for metaphor with hackneyed symbolism (water, fire, purification rituals) and tenuous ties to Roman Catholic mysticism, but in the end it is repetitive and trying. There is no richness here, only a lot of set dressing.

    For some odd reason the protagonist is narrating the story (set in the late 1980s) as if it were decades ago; you get to the end of the book and find it was only a year ago. Why the late 1980s? Why all of the references to the politics of the day, to Mr. Coffee and Sony Walkman, and the myriad other product placements in the narrative? There's no sense of why there was a need to anchor the story so firmly in that period.

    Briefly concentrating on a few of the other characters of the story were anemic at best. There are Kat and Hepzibah, the two old friends (think Ya-Ya Sisterhood) of Jessie's mother who know all of the secrets but have about all of the back story of wallpaper. There are the monks of the neighboring abbey who are as two-dimensional. There are some fake saints and saints tales, but these don't add substantially to the story. There is Jessie's brother in California who is mentioned mainly in retrospect; you really have no idea why he has turned to Buddhism and moved so far away.

    When at last Jessie's mother releases her awful memory, it's not so awful; it's just garden-variety grief and guilt over aiding her husband to die (like we didn't figure that out right away).

    It's a waste of time and money.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2013

    This is one of those books that remind how very different I am f

    This is one of those books that remind how very different I am from most people. I saw nothing "spiritual" in this book, just a selfish, rich, narcissitic woman who had a good husband and life (except for her nutty Mother that she hadn't seen in years) but has a lust filled affair with a monk - a virtual stranger, who she decides she is her soul mate and is in LOVE with. after a few minutes of meeting. I find nothing romatic or even passionate about adultery - especially when one of the people is a vowed religious.

    The whole story about the Mother and her friends covering up a virtual murder (assisited suicide - yeah sure) is horrific - that a Priest would help with such a thing and these people allow this CHILD to beleive she had something to do with her fathers death is also sinful.

    Not only that but the book wasn't even well written - I had a hard time finishing it and did so only at the urging of a couple of freinds who now are not friends anymore. There seems to be little regret or true repentance on the part of anyone, (except maybe the Mother but her mental illness may or may not stem from regret) especially the "lovers", who, in thier own selfishness and lust hurt so many other people, especially the womans family - this is a hurt that does not go away - just feeling "stagnant" in one's marriage is hardly a reason to cheat - there are many other ways to find joy in one's life - breaking vows and promises is not the way and trying to make it some great lesson learned is sad. I just never get the idea that a person has to lie and cheat to somehow find "fulfillment" and there is NO spiritual lesson that can be learned by lying, cheating, murder, adultery and breaking solemn vows. The idea that monks would beleive a actual Mermaid had become a woman and then a Saint is just about as ridiculous as the rest of the story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2015

    To who wrote this book? Which is WAY WAY down there

    Look at it. It says. You posted that the day I was born. Hopefully you read this reveiw. Its so weird how some books are like that.

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  • Posted June 25, 2014

    I agree with the review of Elishka.  I could barely believe this

    I agree with the review of Elishka.  I could barely believe this was a Kidd novel.  Very shallow plot and poorly developed characters.  Protagonist is more whiney brat than adult in crisis.  Brother Thomas is weak beyond words.  I am not bothered about the romance between the two,. I loved The Thorn Birds, but this doesn't even come close.  The whole think was so predictable each sted of the way.  One of the worst books I have ever read

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2014

    Im mad

    I got a sampke to wasn't even the book

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 16, 2014

    i really really love Sue Monk Kidd's other works. after reading

    i really really love Sue Monk Kidd's other works. after reading this book, i can't believe it's the same
    author - the overall book was boring and just hard to care about. there was no real character development
    and in my opinion no compelling story - it was very soap opera-ish. bits here and there were beautifully
    written - but overall just not a great book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2011

    Don't waste your money.

    I really can't say what this book is about because I quit half way. Nothing about this book was engaging, which was shocking considering how great The Secret Life of Bees is.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 23, 2010

    ABSOLUTELY AND UTTERLY HORRIBLE

    I am not able to understand why anyone would even remotely like this book.
    Way too boringly descriptive, not a good story line and absolutely no substance whatsoever. Bland, blah and yawn.
    Possibly an OK short story.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 23, 2009

    Ehh....

    I read this book because I read The Secret Life of Bees, and I must say I was thoroughly dissappointed. I could hardly get through this book. I was annoyed at the main character's selfishness and was overall not impressed. I would not recommend this book if you enjoy fast-paced, gripping books.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2008

    This book was just awful.....

    Like so many others, I loved The Secret Life of Bees. I cannot believe The Mermaid Chair actually came out of the mind of Sue Monk Kidd. It was terrible. Probably the worst book I have ever read. The plot was terrible, the characters shallow and the writing overdone and overly descriptive. I found myself rolling my eyes at some of the passages especially from the main character. Ugh.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2008

    Terrible, Terrible, Terrible.......

    This has to be one of the worst books i ever read. I had heard The Secret Life of Bees was good, so our book club thought we'd try this one. Just awful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2006

    Don't read.

    I read this book because I thoroughly enjoyed The Secret Life of Bees. I loved that, but The Mermaid Chair didn't do it for me. It 'stung' me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2006

    Reads Like A Rough Draft Rushed to Print

    I believe that the book is a rough draft. One rushed to print by an anxious publisher pitting a good writer against some bureaucratic deadline. This happens with frequency -- I read a good book and then that author's next book reads like an unfinished draft. BAD ON PUBLISHERS. A SHAME FOR THE AUTHOR. I really tried to like this book because I loved The Secret Life of Bees. My friends warned me that Mermaid's Chair was not as good. They were right. It is not only badly written, its just plain stupid. The Mermaid main character doesn't really have a problem that resonates. THE HALF-GROWN GIRL IN SECRET LIFE had an immediate need -- her father was cold, if not crule -- he let her think she fired the gun that killed her mother when she was only 3 years old -- her sympthepathic caretaker was a black women in the deep south threated by 1960s violence. I cared immensly about that little girl and her pain. BUT THE CORE OF THIS STORY, A STUPID MERMAID WITH WINGS -- PULEEZZE. The whole idea of the Mermaid Chair is just dumb...a monastery dedicated to a semi-nude woman carved on a chair? A WOMAN WHO DOESN'T GO HOME over great spans of years to see her mother at all, now goes to take care of her mother. Yet the mother/daughter relationship story gets abandoned by the author to a half-baked story of a wimpy affair between the woman and a monk? I would forgive her if the affair was a hot one. THERE ARE A COUPLE OF CHAPTERS told from the monk's point of view as a means of letting the reader come to know that character. Switching viewpoints is not unusual -- but to simply insert them into the main character's story is too much like a rough draft for a novel rather than a finished work. AND MAYBE Sue Monk Kidd knows all about the natural environment of the barrier island -- the color of the water, the kinds of trees, the birds -- but I gotta tell you, I wasn't convinced. For example -- creek water the color of cantalopes? Does she mean the orange inside or the brown outside? A tree limb resting on the ground -- could it be an ancient Live Oak? If so, why doesn't she name it? To just have a character walk over to sit on a tree limb that rests on the ground is extremely awkward -- after the fact she gives some details of the tree. First that's just bad composition. Second, a huge part of her reading audience is female, AND, book reading statistice place most of those females in the souther tier of states, WHERE, Live Oaks abound. Who among us has not seen such a tree? Why is she so coy about describing it or naming it? Are we reading a rough draft? That's my conclusion.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2006

    Awful Book

    The book appeared to be interesting with the reviews on the paperback version but when I read it and discovered the book was awful. It involves someone cutting off their fingers and another character falling in love with a priest and cheats on their spouse. The book also disgusts me. I'm rapidly losing interests in finishing the book. I don't think I'll ever read this disturbing book again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2006

    Borrow, don't buy!!

    I have read The Secret Life of Bees several times and I was excited to reak Kidd's new book. However, I found it was badly written. I read it straight through (not stopping for 3 hours) and found several places where it seems that I missed something. So I read it again. Nope, definately seemed to have gaps in the story where important stuff must have occured. Glad I borrowed it before considering buying it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2006

    easy, boring read

    I'd already read The Secret Life of Bees. That story was unique, so I thought I'd give Mermaid Chair a try. I found it cliched and dull, and I couldn't get into any of the characters. The main character reminded me of a whiny housewife-type trying to 'find herself.' Blah blah blah.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2006

    Cliche' piled on top of cliche'

    I had not read The Secret Life of Bees before reading this book, and now I doubt I will read it. I found this story contrived and the author's writing style uninteresting and uninspirational. In my view, this book is a 'Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood' knockoff. Don't waste your time unless you just want something to read while falling asleep at the beach.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2006

    One of the most disappointing books I have ever read

    This book was awful! The book jacket's description was nothing like the actual storyline. I was continuously nausiated at the thought of someone cutting off their fingers. It's definately something I have never read before, but I can't understand why someone would write a novel focusing on this. I couldn't even bring myself to read past page 50. It's that bad. I may still try to read 'The Secret Life of Bees', but even that I'm a little leary of.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2006

    Unfaithful Wife and Mother

    Lack luster reasoning to have an affair with the first needy person who comes along how low - a monk? Look out when a monk removes the cross from around his neck. Wallowing in the decaying stinking mud was indeed symbolic of Kidd's portrayal of Jessie's character. This book seems to be a manual for self destruction with no thought of existing commitments and resulting casualties deceivingly set amid the majesty of nature. Jessie left a trail of lust and bad behavior waiting for Hugh to discover to say nothing of being a pathetic example to her daughter. However, for a book group pick there are lots of subjects for personal introspection and group discussion. How bad is the psychosis when one cuts off ones finger? Just a whit of the charm and integrity of 'The Secret Life of Bees'. Was that sweet story and masterful writing a fluke?

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