Books: Sex and the Sacred

A bittersweet novel of midlife crisis and forbidden love from the author of The Secret Life of Bees

Sue Monk Kidd's first novel was a miraculous anomaly. A wise, tender little coming-of-age tale about a Southern girl finding herself, The Secret Life of Bees unexpectedly found itself on the best-seller lists and went on to sell 31/2 million copies. The heroine of Kidd's second novel, The Mermaid Chair (Viking; 335 pages), has already come of age, some time ago in fact. But her problems are just getting started.

Jessie Sullivan is 42--"just old enough for the bottom to start falling out of things," as one character puts it--and suffocating in a Stepford-perfect marriage. "I lived molded to the smallest...

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