The Book of Speculation: A Novel, by Erika Swyler, (St. Martin’s Press), 352 pages, release date 23 June, 2015
I build a ten-best books list over the year, adding to it when I find a title that’s outstanding. The good books seem to come in clusters. January and February were good months for for the list, but things have been dead since then. As a result, I was particularly appreciative of Erika Swyler’s The Book of Speculation, which definitely belongs on a ten-best list.
The Book of Speculation offers a sort of East Coast side show magical realism. It includes three generations of “mermaids” (performers able to remain underwater for ten minutes or more), a wild boy turned fortune-teller, a recently fired librarian, a mysterious carnival log more than a century old, and a house that is slowly falling into the sea. It offers magic, menace, and romance. Swyler moves back and forth between time periods and plot lines, building multiple narratives that gradually draw closer and closer to one another.
I love reading this sort of rich fiction at any time of the year, but I particularly appreciate it in summer, when I can carve out more sizable blocks of time for reading. Once I began reading The Book of Speculation, I felt compelled to put everything else on hold until I finished. I expect a lot of readers will be doing that over the next month or two. The Book of Speculation is a very special book, indeed.