Book Review

July '15

The Book of Speculation (Hardcover)
Erika Swyler

This debut novel was published June 23, 2015, and is fantastic!

It is a book that I did not expect to enjoy, but which called to me from wherever I had put it down, begging to be picked up and read again.  I am still thinking about it, which means I will be discussing it with my book clubs.

Our hero, Simon Watson, is a librarian who has just lost his job. He lives in an old family house on Long Island which is in such disrepair that it is about to slide right in to the sea.  His parents are dead, his sister Enola gone who knows where, and he lives alone, in the company of long time neighbors and family freinds.  And the sea.

One day Simon receives a book in the mail from an antiquarian book store. The volume is huge, heavy, and clearly water damaged.  It's a circus book from the 1700's - a log of the various stops the circus made, who was employed, what they did, and pictures of Tarot Cards that the "seer" for the circus used to tell customer's futures.  As Simon delves into the book, he is shocked when he reads about the death by drowning of the circus's mermaid - a woman who performed an underwater show, holding her breath over 10 minutes at a time. She died on July 24.  His mother, a former mermaid for a circus who could hold her breath for over 10 minutes at a time died on July 24.  It's days from July 24 again, and he is scared about his sister Enola, who is a seer, a Tarot card reader for a circus.  Enola who can hold her breath underwater for extended periods of time, who has come home, and seems...haunted.

The author does a great job of alternating chapters between the time the circus book was set, and the present.  Suspense builds as Simon struggles to find a job, keep his house from falling in to the sea, and protect his sister as more and more of the mystery of the book is revealed.

Page turning, such a good read, highly recommended.