I just finished reading it this week. Have you ever finished a book and been sad that it was over; like saying goodbye to a dear friend? Well, that wasn’t the case with this book for me. The first book I read by Sue Monk Kidd was The Secret Life of Bees. It is and probably will remain one of my all-time favorite books. For The Mermaid Chair, however, I was actually looking forward to the end and ready to put it down and say goodbye.
Perhaps my dislike of the book came from the fact that I could hardly relate to the main character who was a middle-aged woman who had been in a seemingly perfect marriage for twenty years. She suddenly found herself dissatisfied and decided to have an affair with a widowed, Benedictine monk, of all people. I read most of the book with a sickened feeling in my stomach and aches in my chest. It was not a story that reached into my soul and held me close.
The character I appreciated most was the monk. He wasn’t afraid to ask those hard questions of God that get stifled in many by some for fear of the “dangers” of doubt. If “no doubting” were a pre-requisite for belief in God, I would have failed years ago. I resonate often in life with Brother Thomas who,, “felt God the same way the arthritic monks felt rain coming in their joints. He only felt the hint of him.”
The story did end on a redeeming note for me. (Slight spoiler ahead if you plan on reading the book.) There is forgiveness in the end. It is not an overwhelming, outpouring of love and words like any of us who have ever been on the receiving end of forgiveness might want it to be. Instead, it was a quiet and steady shedding of grace and mercy. It was the kind of forgiveness that has to take place again and again and again, day after day.