Erika Swyler’s The Book of Speculation

Hello, readers!

Today is the first day of the rest of your lives. BOOM. What a way to greet the day, huh? With clichés and loud noises! A Monday has never been greeted quite so energetically. And that is probably a lie, but who are they to define the limits of our enthusiasm, right?! Right. The truth is this particular Monday will be a bit of a battle for me. So, if for any reason you’re going into battle too, just know I’m with you. We’ll do battle together and watch the world burn.

Speaking of metaphorical battles, The Book of Speculation took a whole bunch of ammo to get me to pick it up. I don’t know what happened between being excited about buying it and now, but I couldn’t even understand why it was there in the first place. And let me tell you, that was a mistake. Once I picked it up and got over the unfamiliar pace of the book (after reading familiar authors for so long), I really enjoyed it.

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The book introduces us to Simon, a librarian with dead parents and a wild child sister. One day he receives a book in the mail from a stranger and nothing is ever quite the same. Particularly after realizing the women in his family, mermaids by trade, drown young on the same day. He’s got 10 days to save his sister before the same fate that befell his mother, and countless other women before them, finds her.

I love books about the circus, about carnivals. I always feel they have a strange sort of magic woven into their pages. Maybe it’s the fact that so many things are spinning, the dim lighting and the smell of cotton candy. The promise of strange and fantastic things. Whatever it is I’m always drawn to them, it’s probably what drew me to this book if I’m honest. All these women working as mermaids, generation after generation of girls who drowned for a living, drowning seemingly without cause. The tarot cards that bind the narrative together, I can almost picture the colors and see the worn edges.

The book lets you see Simon’s present, but it also lets you travel through his family’s past. You get to see where everything began, just as it seems like everything is going to end, and they converge beautifully in a show of understanding. By the time it’s all said and done, you can see the delicately woven threads that make up the narrative shining up at you from the pages. Glistening like the water that ties all these characters together. It was unexpected, but thoroughly welcome.

Maybe this Monday, this battle, will be like almost drowning. Not being able to breathe and then, just when you feel like you might give in, you’ll find new courage and, most importantly, a new breath. We’ll see.

Until next time, readers!

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