If there’s one thing I’ve always loved, it’s books about books. Books about old books, in particular, with mysteries to be solved about them. This novel satisfies both of these loves! Simon is a librarian and book restorer living on the Long Island Sound, with a sister in the circus and a long-dead mother who was also a circus performer, reading tarot cards and swimming as a breath-holding “mermaid.” Simon shares his mother & sister’s unique gifts of holding his breath for over 10 minutes under water. When he gets an old book in the mail from an unknown bookseller that chronicles the life and times of an old traveling circus – a circus that may have included his ancestors – he begins to realize that this unique gift may in fact be a curse tied to his bloodline. The Book of Speculation jumps back and forth between present-day Simon and his sister and neighbors – as he reads through and tries to untangle the secrets of the book – and the lives of the circus performers about whom Simon reads. This is author Erika Swyler’s first novel, and I’ll be keeping my eye out for more from her. She weaves the past and present storylines together seamlessly, and creates and explores a fine line between reality and magic that keeps you guessing and wondering the whole way through.
Reviewed by: Tate DeCaro