Review: “The Book of Speculation” by Erika Swyler

The Book of SpeculationDear Booksellers,

Remember all of those customers who found themselves unlikely fans of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern? Or the ones who keep looking for something like The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield? Well. Here is one you can confidently put in their hands: The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler.

Early reviews have also compared it to Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. And while I (just recently) read and loved Geek Love–I think that comparison is a little bit off. Where Geek Love is darkly tragic, morally blurry, and pretty intense, I found The Book of Speculation to be more commercially appealing. Closer, I thought, to the movie Practical Magic with Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock if the movie were about circus performers instead of witches.

Our hero is Simon–a young librarian who lives in his childhood home on the East Coast. And by “on the coast” I don’t mean somewhere out East. It is literally ON THE COAST. In fact, it is dangerously close to falling off a cliff in the Long Island Sound. Pretty quickly, we learn that Simon’s mother drowned in the sea below their house, and also that his mother, sister Enola and Simon himself all have the uncanny ability to hold their breaths for dozens of minutes at a time.

The novel opens with a mysterious package arriving on Simon’s doorstep–an old, old book filled with dates and names and cities. The old log book from a travelling circus. Quickly noticing that some of the names were familiar, he discovers that some of the “mermaids” in the circus’s log are related to him, and that a shocking number of them died by drowning, all on July 24th of different years. The same day as his mother’s death. As the date gets closer and closer, he frantically tries to solve the mystery/break the curse/connect all the dots in order to, so he thinks, save his sister’s life. I’d give it 4 stars and think it will be an easy sell (especially since the cover is great).


Elizabeth Schieber

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler (St. Martin’s Press | 9781250054807 | June 23, 2015)

Elizabeth Schieber

Elizabeth's first love, really, was Nancy Drew. She has worked at Rainy Day Books in Kansas City, Andrews McMeel Universal, and then Rainy Day again. She now works at the family business but moonlights at her local library. Elizabeth has an informal blog of her book-thoughts at She’s a self-proclaimed fiction girl, through and through. @litpicks