By Erika Swyler
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: 6/23/2015
My Rating: 3 Stars
Dear Mr. Watson, 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—Verona Bonn—led me to believe it might be of interest to you or your family...."
Simon Watson, a young librarian on the verge of losing his job, lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home—a house, perched on the edge of a bluff, that is slowly crumbling toward the sea. His parents are long dead, his mother having drowned in the water his house overlooks. His younger sister, Enola, works for a traveling carnival reading tarot cards, and seldom calls.
On a day in late June, Simon receives a mysterious package from an antiquarian bookseller. The book tells the story of Amos and Evangeline, doomed lovers who lived and worked in a traveling circus more than two hundred years ago. The paper crackles with age as Simon turns the yellowed pages filled with notes, sketches, and whimsical flourishes; and his best friend and fellow librarian, Alice, looks on in increasing alarm. Why does his grandmother's name, Verona Bonn, appear in this book? Why do so many women in his family drown on July 24?
Could there possibly be some kind of curse on his family—and could Enola, who has suddenly turned up at home for the first time in six years, risk the same fate in just a few weeks? In order to save her—and perhaps himself—Simon must try urgently to decode his family history while moving on from the past. The Book of Speculation is Erika Swyler's gorgeous and moving debut, a wondrous novel about the power of books and family and magic.
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. Website Twitter
A special thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
THE BOOK OF SPECULATION, a whimsical debut by Erika Swyler, with hints of mystery, magic, history, supernatural, circus themes, mermaids, and tarot cards, for a dark and bewitching family saga. Unemployed librarian Simon Watson, discovers his mysterious family lineage traveling circus from more than 200 years ago, when a mysterious book detailing the wild history of a traveling circus arrives at his old house. A letter is included from a Martin Churchwarry of Churchwarry & Son Booksellers, Iowa; a bookseller specializing in used and antiquarian books. Simon sees his grandmother's name inside the pages. Soon Simon discovers a frightening pattern among his female ancestors, and becomes obsessed into with digging into the past generations of family to unravel the tragedies, lurking behind the magic tricks, and generations of women in the family have committed suicide by drowning on July 24. However, these women are great swimmers and love the water? Simon’s mother, Paulina, a former carnival mermaid, intentionally drowned herself, leaving Simon to care for his sister, Enola, after their father eventually died from heartache. They grew up in an Eighteenth century house on a bluff overlooking Long Island Sound. Eventually, Enola ran off to join the circus six years earlier as a tarot card reader and Simon is concerned about her and afraid she may be next. With it being June he has work to do as the July 24 deadline is fast approaching. With Simon feeling trapped by the past and he is in love with a woman he has known since childhood; however, he is loyal to his family. Within the log of Peabody’s traveling circus up and down the east coast for years, and appears his mother was from a long time of women with abilities (like mermaid). Are they cursed? Readers learn of a tragic story of two lost souls, Amos and Evangeline (Simon and Enola’s ancestors). Mute Amos who is adopted by Peabody's circus and his love, Evangeline, a young girl with her own secrets who is the first 'mermaid' in Simon's family. The author flashes back and forth between the two time periods for a tale of the power of books, family, love, and loss. For those who enjoy historical fiction, fortune tellers, mermaids, and the circus; a certain audience of fantasy and quirky magical lovers may find intriguing.