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The Mermaid Chair

The Mermaid Chair
by Sue Monk Kidd
Viking Adult, 2005

I love mermaids. I’m drawn to them because they belong to the depths, spiraling down into the core of the womb, mystical and enchanting. They carry secrets in their tangled hair and freedom in their fins. The Mermaid Chair captures this elusive longing in my soul to travel somewhere my body cannot take me. The journey is spiritual, sacred — because my flesh cannot follow.

Yes, the story chronicles a woman’s coming-of-middle-age story. Yes, it explores the challenges of a mother/daughter relationship. Yes, the protagonist falls in love with a monk. It isn’t the plot of The Mermaid Chair that carries the magic, but what remains when the plot is stripped away and the subtle details are exposed for the reader to sift through. Here is where Sue Monk Kidd touches the secret darkness of religion — not dark as evil is dark, but dark like chocolate or verdant earth or the deepest midnight — rich and delicious. A darkness that pulls a response from deep within us that we didn’t know existed. Like the mermaid, it awakens something primal.

The author also masterfully weaves the power of place into The Mermaid Chair, bringing the reader to understand that a small island off the coast of South Carolina has it’s own story to tell. Egret Island is a fully formed character in this book, speaking to the reader, conveying its history, confiding its secrets. It has its own opinions of family, faith, death and life, and Sue Monk Kidd has given the island a compelling voice.

The Mermaid Chair evokes on so many levels. Read it once to find its mermaid song, again to explore its dark religion. Read again to experience Jessie’s discovery of her sacredness and her strength, again to hear the island tell its story. The layers are endless, but you have to look. Look beyond the fluffy plot and the “Ya-Ya Sisterhood” dialogue. Look beyond the overplayed notion of a woman torn between two men, beyond the larger-than-life characters, and you will find an incredible story told in a quiet but powerful voice.

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MatriFocus Cross-Quarterly
is a seasonal web journal (zine) for Goddess Women and others interested in Goddess Lore and Scholarship, Goddess Religion (ancient and contemporary), Feminist Spirituality, Women's Mysteries, Paganism and Neopaganism, Earth-based Religions, Witchcraft, Dianic Wicca and other Wiccan Traditions, the Priestess Path, Goddess Art, Women's Culture, Women's Health, Natural Healing, Mythology, Female Shamanism, Consciousness, Community, Cosmology, and Women's Creativity.

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