I finished The Mermaid Chair last night. And I am now starting Jane Eyre. This is my maiden voyage into Bronte territory.
It was hard to read The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd and not compare it to her first novel, The Secret Life of Bees. There are many similarities because in both books there is a group of women who are lifelong friends that have secrets and rituals binding them together through the years. Both books also delve into the impact of parents' doings on the lives of their female children. The Secret Life of Bees is told through the eyes of a child while The Mermaid Chair is dealing with the impact of the past on an adult.
The main character in The Mermaid Chair, Jessie, leaves her devoted husband behind with some relief when she returns to the island where she grew up. Her mother has harmed herself in a very violent manner and Jessie goes home to take care of her. Jessie is determined to solve the mystery behind her mother's wound. Jessie also learns that there was more to the story of her father's accidental death when she was nine years old.
While dealing with the unanswered questions about her family, she plunges willingly and willfully into an affair with a monk. He lives near her childhood home in the monastery that houses the fabled mermaid chair of the title. The relationship opens Jessie to an honest examination of her past, present and future and allows her to reclaim the true self that was lost when her father died.
I loved this book as much as The Secret Life of Bees. I recommend both of them.