Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Book of Speculation

The Book of Speculation

A Novel

Erika Swyler

St. Martin's Griffin

READ AN EXCERPT →

BUY THE BOOK

Trade Paperback

One of BuzzFeed's 24 Best Fiction Books of 2015

**Includes a bonus short story by Erika Swyler, "The Mermaid Girl"**

"As Simon, a lonely research librarian, searches frantically for the key to a curse that might be killing the women in his family, he learns strange and fascinating secrets about their past. A tale full of magic and family mystery, The Book of Speculation will keep you up all night reading."—Isaac Fitzgerald, BuzzFeed

Simon Watson, a young librarian, lives alone in a house that is slowly crumbling toward the Long Island Sound. His parents are long dead. His mother, a circus mermaid who made her living by holding her breath, drowned in the very water his house overlooks. His younger sister, Enola, ran off six years ago and now reads tarot cards for a traveling carnival.

One June day, an old book arrives on Simon's doorstep, sent by an antiquarian bookseller who purchased it on speculation. Fragile and water damaged, the book is a log from the owner of a traveling carnival in the 1700s, who reports strange and magical things, including the drowning death of a circus mermaid. Since then, generations of "mermaids" in Simon's family have drowned--always on July 24, which is only weeks away.

As his friend Alice looks on with alarm, Simon becomes increasingly worried about his sister. Could there be a curse on Simon's family? What does it have to do with the book, and can he get to the heart of the mystery in time to save Enola?

In the tradition of Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, and Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, The Book of Speculation--with two-color illustrations by the author--is Erika Swyler's moving debut novel about the power of books, family, and magic.

Buzzfeed Best Books of the Year, Amazon.com Best Books of the Year

EXCERPT

1



JUNE 20TH

Perched on the bluff's edge, the house is in danger. Last night's storm tore land and churned water, littering the beach with bottles, seaweed, and horseshoe crab carapaces. The place where I've spent my entire life...

Reviews

Praise for The Book of Speculation

“In this dazzling novel, the immensely talented Erika Swyler sweeps seamlessly through generations and centuries, moving deftly back and forth and weaving the strands into an exquisite tapestry. I was immediately swept up in this quirky, raucous, and bewitching family saga. Swyler's prose is so polished and elegant it reads effortlessly, even as her distinct voice shines through--her rendering of the sea and its savage appetite rivals that of Annie Proulx's in THE SHIPPING NEWS. I absolutely loved this book, and consumed it whole. My only complaint is that I am already on the edge of my seat waiting for her next.”
—Sara Gruen, author of WATER FOR ELEPHANTS and AT THE WATER'S EDGE

“Swyler has a tale to spin, and she does so with directness and wit.”
—NPR.org

“THE BOOK OF SPECULATION is a luscious experience--dark, sweet, and wild.”
—Katherine Dunn, author of GEEK LOVE

“A good book is magical. A piece of our heart stays tucked inside its lines when we return the book to its place on our shelf. Good novels about good books can be even more special, doubling the fun with two tomes to love. And when the book within the book is actually magical, as it is - or may be - in Erika Swyler's The Book of Speculation, well, let the wild read start.”
Star-Telegram

“A wonderful novel, full of mystery through the centuries [with] great details about carnival life, similar to The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.”
The Daily American

“Debut author Swyler creates a melancholy world with hints of magic at the edges. . . Fans of. . . Erin Morgenstern's THE NIGHT CIRCUS, Katherine Dunn's GEEK LOVE, or Katherine Howe's THE PHYSICK BOOK OF DELIVERANCE DANE, won't want to leave this festival.”
Library Journal

“Illustrations by the author add even more atmosphere to her prose.”
Booklist

The Book of Speculation is one of the best books I’ve had the privilege to read. While this is partly due to a weakness on my part for circus stories, it is mostly due to Erika Swyler’s striking writing style and intricately woven narrative. Erika Swyler writes with a whimsical, romantic prose that is beautiful to read, yet her story is grounded in the hard realities of life. Her characters are likeable, yet realistically flawed and their relationships with each other are complex and interesting. A subtle theme throughout the book features characters who, despite their best intentions, end up hurting the very people they love and are trying to protect. I would recommend The Book of Speculation to anyone who likes to read and even a few people who don’t.”
San Diego Book Review

"As Simon, a lonely research librarian, searches frantically for the key to a curse that might be killing the women in his family, he learns strange and fascinating secrets about their past. A tale full of magic and family mystery, The Book of Speculation will keep you up all night reading."
—Isaac Fitzgerald, BuzzFeed

“Mermaids, tarot card readers, a wild man and other carnival characters work their literary magic in this debut novel…packed with fresh, unexpected marvels.”
—Oprah.com

“With its puzzling story, circus sideshow and romantic plot lines, The Book of Speculation has plenty of attractions and will appeal to many. And if you’re a lover of books about books, you’ve got another fun tome to add to your to-be-read list.”
Toronto Star

“While a book whose narrative hinges on drowning might not seem like a great beach read, Swyler's debut effort, redolent of salty ocean air, is just that...Its clever plot-fueled by a musty book and a powerful set of tarot cards-and Swyler's wonderful descriptions keep the pages swimming along.”
Entertainment Weekly

“A strikingly written debut, The Book of Speculation is reminiscent of The Night Circus, but with more grit and darkness….[Swyler] proves her storytelling skills here, as generations and lifetimes are seamlessly woven together, and a beautiful narrative of magic, love, death and loss unfolds with every page.”
BookPage, Top Pick

“A wonderful novel, full of mystery through the centuries [with] great details about carnival life, similar to The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.”
The Daily American

“Whimsically dark…a fully formed mythos chock full of curses, omens, and coincidences.” —Publishers Weekly

“Part sideshow and part thriller, the smart story follows Simon as he races to discover the secret behind his family’s curse with only days before his troubled, beloved sister could become its next victim.”
Dujour Magazine

“A strikingly written debut, THE BOOK OF SPECULATION is reminiscent of The Night Circus, but with more grit and darkness…[Swyler] proves her storytelling skills here, as generations and lifetimes are seamlessly woven together, and a beautiful narrative of magic, love, death and loss unfolds with every page.”
—Haley Herfurth, BookPage

“Quirky and big-hearted, this novel creates an indelible portrait of two siblings who are each determined to save the other.”
—FamilyFun

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Erika Swyler

ERIKA SWYLER is a graduate of New York University. Her short fiction has appeared in WomenArts Quarterly Journal, Litro, Anderbo.com, and elsewhere. Her writing is featured in the anthology Colonial Comics, and her work as a playwright has received note from the Jane Chambers Award. Born and raised on Long Island's North Shore, Erika learned to swim before she could walk, and happily spent all her money at traveling carnivals. She blogs and has a baking Tumblr with a following of 60,000. Erika recently moved from Brooklyn back to her hometown, which inspired the setting of the book. The Book of Speculation is her debut novel.

Erika Swyler

Erika Swyler

Erika Swyler's baking Tumblr

From the Publisher

St. Martin's Griffin

Latest on Facebook

LATEST ON TWITTER