STARRED REVIEW
July 2015

Unraveling a family mystery

By Erika Swyler
Review by
Simon Watson lives on a precipice: His family’s old house on the Long Island Sound is slowly dying, leaning closer to the sea with every storm, and his job as a librarian is in peril thanks to looming budget cuts. In the midst of all this uncertainty, a bookseller sends a curious book to his doorstep—a journal kept by the proprietor of a traveling carnival. Full of sketches and damaged by water, the book has been passed down and annotated for centuries, and Simon is surprised to find the names of his grandmother and other ancestors within its pages.
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BookPage Fiction Top Pick, July 2015

Simon Watson lives on a precipice: His family’s old house on the Long Island Sound is slowly dying, leaning closer to the sea with every storm, and his job as a librarian is in peril thanks to looming budget cuts. In the midst of all this uncertainty, a bookseller sends a curious book to his doorstep—a journal kept by the proprietor of a traveling carnival. Full of sketches and damaged by water, the book has been passed down and annotated for centuries, and Simon is surprised to find the names of his grandmother and other ancestors within its pages.

Intrigued, Simon digs deeper into the book’s history, teetering on the edge of obsession while piecing together the water-smudged stories in the journal. He learns his family’s ties to the book are deeper than just his grandmother’s work as the circus mermaid: Generations of women have drowned on July 24. Are the women in his family cursed? If so, he has just six weeks to figure it out—his long-absent sister, Enola, is planning a trip home in July.

A strikingly written debut, The Book of Speculation is reminiscent of The Night Circus, but with more grit and darkness. Author Erika Swyler’s short fiction has appeared in WomenArts Quarterly Journal, Litro and elsewhere, and her work as a playwright has received the Jane Chambers Award. Her recent move back to her hometown on Long Island’s North Shore inspired the setting of the book. She proves her storytelling skills here, as generations and lifetimes are seamlessly woven together, and a beautiful narrative of magic, love, death and loss unfolds with every page.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read a handwritten Meet the Author Q&A with Erika Swyler.

This article was originally published in the July 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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The Book of Speculation

The Book of Speculation

By Erika Swyler
St. Martin's
ISBN 9781250054807

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