I just finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s The Mermaid Chair. The story takes place on Egret Island off the South Carolina coast where Jessie, a forty-something empty-nester housewife, returns home, having been summoned from her routine life in suburban Atlanta to care for her mentally unstable mother. While on the island she falls in love with a lawyer-turned-monk and learns the secret of her father’s death, which is also a key to her mother’s dementia. As in her Secret Life of Bees, Kidd paints beautiful word pictures and weaves religious themes of sin and forgiveness into a story full of believable and interesting characters, though I didn’t like the way she neatly tied up all the loose ends and put a happy ending on a story of adultery and betrayal.
One gem I discovered in The Mermaid Chair was a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison: “Before God and with God we live without God.” It’s a disturbing statement that has the ring of truth. The God who is present is also the God who forsakes (Mark 15:32). In Martin Luther’s theology of the cross, God is both the revealed God and the hidden God—deus revelatus and deus absconditus. Even if He isn’t playing hide-and-seek with us, it certainly feels that way sometimes. And whether we’re ready or not, God is seeking us. The question is, Are we ready to be found?