Erika Swyler’s debut novel, The Book of Speculation, traces the lineage of a family through generations of performers and suicides. Simon, mild mannered librarian, receives a mysterious gift of a traveling show logbook the day before he loses his job as a reference librarian. During his new found free time, Simon becomes obsessed with tracing his family and an apparent curse through the pages of the logbook. He uncovers secrets about his family and close friends that alter his past and possibly his future. He knew his mother and past maternal relatives had all been circus performers—“mermaids” in circus terms. However, the idea that each woman died in the water by suicide was a new revelation. To make it even creepier, every woman died on July 24th. In the midst of his genealogical quest, Simon’s estranged sister returns home. Simon believes she, too, will succumb to the curse. The book launches into a nail-biting race against time when Simon’s sanity might come into question more than once.
A great first novel with a bit of magical realism, a zany storyline, mystery, family drama, and bit of romance. Not many debut novels can achieve the denotation of “easy and fun,” but this will leave the reader entertained and pleasantly surprised.