Sue Monk Kidd and The Mermaid Chair

The Toledo Blade interviews Sue Monk Kidd, author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair. Kidd discusses the moment it struck her that she actually was a successful writer.
Success was banging on her door, but Sue Monk Kidd wasn't opening it up, until one night when she was alone in a Boston hotel. Watching the quiz show Jeopardy, she knew the answer to a $600 question was "bees," and it referred to her debut novel, The Secret Life of Bees. Monk Kidd hollered out the answer, as did a contestant on the show. She began comprehending that her creation was part of mainstream American life. "I was just going to have to step up and take this in," she said. "The only problem is then you have to follow it up."

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The Mermaid Chair, her 2005 novel about a 42-year-old woman, in midlife marriage who has "become lost in the small spaces of her life," began with a friend's description of an old wooden chair into which a mermaid was carved, in a little church in Cornwall, England. A mermaid symbolizes sensual urges that swim beneath the surface, and a mermaid in church suggests dualities, such as above and below, the sensual life and God.

"How do you reconcile all these things?" Written in intimate first-person, the book was her attempt to answer a question that befuddled even Sigmund Freud: What do women want? "A woman wants love and freedom and she wants them at the same time," she said. By freedom, she means self-realization, finding one's substance, one's inner authority, one's voice.
Having your book title be an answer on Jeopardy is pretty cool, we must say. But what's even better is that the contestant got it right.

Posted on October 26, 2005

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