THE BOOK OF SPECULATION by Erika SwylerThe Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
Published by Macmillan, St. Martin's Press on June 23rd 2015
Pages: 352
Genres: Family Life, Fantasy, Fiction, General, Literary
eARC provided by Copy provided by publisher via NetGalley, St. Martin's Press


I came across this book at auction as part of a larger lot I purchased on speculation. The damage renders it useless to me, but a name inside it led me to believe it might be of interest to you or your family....
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?


Reading time 4 mins

This story had my attention right from the start. Never mind what I thought it would be about, I was completely off. This book tells two complex stories. One is running in present day, one is far in the past but it’s influence is still being felt. The book which brings these time lines together is one of speculation. It is a a collector’s hunch that it might be worth something to someone.

I came across this book at auction as part of a larger lot I purchased on speculation. The damage renders it useless to me, but a name inside it led me to believe it might be of interest to you or your family...

This story weaves present day scholars with circus tarot readers, and even throws in a mermaid or two. Simon is a lonely young librarian who lives in an old house that is slowly being taken by the sea. His sister left to join the circus, his parents are both long gone. When an old book arrives at his door with personal note, he calls and finds that his grandmother’s name was found within. In his study he finds that the book contains the history of his family and it reveals a terrible curse that was brought upon them. All the women in his family die from drowning on the same day. Simon is convinced he can stop his sister from becoming the next death in the line. Just when he thinks he can help his sister, he loses his job and the situation with his house becomes critical. Should he leave with her and go join the circus as well, or stay and try to save the home he has always known from falling into the ocean?

The book becomes Simon’s obsession. His own history is laid bare for him to interpret. It contains the history a of circus from the 1700s, and a mermaid performer’s death. The mermaid performer was none other than Simon’s grandmother and the first mermaid to drown on July 24th. His grandfather was a fortune teller, and a certified wild boy. Simon starts to relive the idea of his mermaid mother and the tarot cards she used to use. Her death on the same day as his grandmother’s seems like too much of a coincidence. Simon’s life is surrounded by loss, and it looks like that is a family tradition.

I found Simon’s love interest, Alice, to be the one thing that irked me about this story. Their love seemed ill placed in this story. They had known each other all their lives, lived across the street from each other and their parents were best friends but all of a sudden now they admit their attraction? She reacts badly when her father tries to help Simon, and it was never really explained why. Also, she wants to keep her affair with Simon a secret. This just didn’t make any sense to me. Alice is a character I could have done without.

Except for that small detail, ( and believe me, it was small when everything else is considered), I couldn’t really stop thinking about this story. Even now, I am haunted by the lives of those characters. The circus Erika Swyler draws for us is full of mythical and mysterious people. At times I got lost in this book. It is magical realism, with a lot of freaks and a suspected Selkie, which I know will be an acquired taste. If that sounds good to you, and you enjoy a well told tale, this is a book you should not miss.

My Rating



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 and has a baking humor tumblr with a following of 60,000.
Erika lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and a petulant rabbit. The Book of Speculation is her first novel.

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I received this product free of charge in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links. This review is in compliance with the FTC guidelines.

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