Monday, August 3, 2015

Book Review: "The Book of Speculation," by Erika Swyler

About the book:
Simon Watson, a young librarian, lives alone in a house that is slowly crumbling toward the Long Island Sound. His parents are long dead. His mother, a circus mermaid who made her living by holding her breath, drowned in the very water his house overlooks. His younger sister, Enola, ran off to join the circus six years ago.

One June day, an old book arrives on Simon's doorstep. Fragile and water damaged, the book is a log from the owner of a traveling carnival in the 1700s, who reports strange and magical things -- including the drowning death of a circus mermaid. Since then, generations of "mermaids" in Simon's family have drowned -- always on July 24, which is only weeks away.

As his friend Alice looks on with alarm, Simon becomes increasingly worried about his sister. Could there be a curse on Simon's family? What does it have to do with the book, and can he stop it in time to save Enola?

My thoughts:
This book moves between the past and present. We learn the fascinating story of how a curse was cast many years ago and then how Simon slowly realizes that his family has been cursed and tries to figure out how to break it. As his knowledge grows, the pace picks up because it's a race against time before the curse comes alive again and claims another victim. All the while, water dribbles through the generations and becomes a metaphor for a family that is drowning under the tragedies of the past. The author eloquently describes a sense of place. We can feel the swaying of the circus wagon, hear the creaking of the old house, relive the shuffling of the tarot cards, and smell the mustiness of old books. Secrets and unknown connections are uncovered. This haunting story will make you believe in magic and the undeniably mystical threads that bind families together.

About the author:
Erika Swyler, a graduate of New York University, is a writer and playwright whose work has appeared in literary journals and anthologies. Born and raised on Long Island's North Shore, Erika learned to swim before she could walk and happily spent all her money at traveling carnivals. She is also a baker and photographer with a widely followed Tumblr, Cookie Dough &  Regret: Baking and Shame ( Erika recently moved from Brooklyn back to her hometown, which inspired the setting for this book. The Book of Speculation is her first novel. Visit

Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my local library. All opinions are 100% my own.

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