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The Mermaid Chair will probably get the prize for the most disappointing book of the year. I was entranced by Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees, and so had high hopes for this one. My hopes rose even higher after I reached the end of the prologue’s first paragraph: I fell in love with a Dominican month. The joy was short-lived.

Someone might argue that it’s just too much of a woman’s book for me, but Bees was every bit that, so, not guilty. The overall impression I had was of Kidd stuck in the shallow end of the pool, thrashing to get to deeper waters, never making it. So many times her protagonist says words like “I just don’t know how to explain this,” meaning to me that Kidd doesn’t know. Probably the nadir of all this comes after the protagonist returns to her husband after months of absence and infidelity, falls on her knees, and says those deathless words which have been repeated on big and small screens multi-thousands of times over the decades: “I’m so sorry. Sorry I hurt you.” Which about sums it up for me.


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