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The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

book of speculationThis page-turning debut novel’s hero, Simon Watson, is a librarian who has just lost his job. He lives in an old family home on Long Island. The house is in such disrepair that it’s about to slide right into the sea. His parents are dead and his sister Enola has gone who knows where. Simon now lives solely in the company of long time neighbors and friends–And the sea.

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

This novel is not one that I particularly expected to enjoy, but it kept calling to me wherever I put it down, begging to be picked up again and read. I am still thinking about the story, which means I will be discussing it with my book clubs. It is such a good read, and I highly recommend it.


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