This book and short story were provided free from St. Martin Press for an honest review.
When Courtney from St. Martin Press contacted me about potentially reviewing a book with a mermaid tale I immediately agreed. Between my 2016 Reaching Challenge forging ahead full steam and my love of all things magically mermish I knew I wanted to dive right in.
The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler chronicles the family curse laid upon the generations of mermaids and fortune tellers that are born into Simon and Enola's salt water infused bloodline. As a date fore told to be a harbinger of death looms nearer, Simon delves into the only clues in his nail bitten hands: a two century old carnival ledger, a name jotted inside the cover and the wizened old book antiquarian who sent it to him.
The story unfolds from both Simon's modern day point of view as well as the 1700's mute Wild Boy who traveled in that very same carnival that Simon holds the history of in the weathered book.
The book itself is beautiful. A black cloth covered hardback with copper embossing and deckle edged pages. The jacket foreshadows the haunting mystical feel of the story within the pages.
I read the book within a few days and it held my attention and mind and emotions the entire way through. Erika artfully painted a poignant landscape that originated on the New England coast with a crumbling house upon a sea cliff and a cast of full bodied characters with dark wit, depth, shades of melancholy and unique abilities. Horseshoe crabs, tarot cards and the call of the water make beautiful metaphors and carry their burnished threads throughout the tale of these haunted beautiful women in a matriarchal line who can hold their breath for such a long time that being a mermaid in a carnival comes naturally. With the gift of breath holding comes the mystical knack for telling fortunes via the cards, untimely demise and alluring magnetism to men's hearts that is all-consuming.
I would highly recommend this story as a brilliant summer read, especially if you enjoyed Water For Elephants, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, or The Red Tent.
"The Mermaid Girl" is a short story prequel to The Book of Speculation and delves into Simon's early childhood through his mother's eyes. I did read it before the book and it helped me to understand Simon and Enola's history a bit better, but I also want to read it again now that I know exactly what she was struggling with a bit more clearly.
Does this sound like a book you would enjoy? What do you plan on reading this summer?