Blogging for Books, Culture, Faith

Book Review: The Shape of Mercy

After reading and reviewing Susan Meissner’s Lady in Waiting, I couldn’t help but choose another of her books from the Blogging for Books program this last go round.

The Shape of Mercy didn’t disappoint.  Like Lady in Waiting, two story lines converge and you are drawn into the lives of a contemporary figure and a historical figure.  In The Shape of Mercy, the reader meets Lauren Durough, a wealthy young college student who is subconsciously determined to show the world that she can make it without the help of her family’s fortune.  She is employed by an elderly retired librarian, Abigail Boyles, to transcribe a centuries old diary of one of Abigail’s ancestors, Mercy Hayworth.  Mercy Hayworth was a victim of the Salem witch trials.

This novel drew me in, partly due to my interest in the horrific and heartbreaking part of our history that were the Salem witch trials and partly due to the incredible way that Ms. Meissner tells a story.  The characters are not unlike your next-door neighbor or eccentric relation, in that they feel tangible, as if you could cross paths with them on a university campus or in a cavernous library.  The historical fact interwoven throughout led me to really think about what the women (and men) who were persecuted as witches must have experienced.  The main character’s own revelations about her attitude, perceptions of wealth, and prejudice towards others is powerful.  The elements of sacrifice, mercy, and love are displayed beautifully.  Susan Meissner has demonstrated an ability to both entertain and subtly draw the reader out of themselves, urging them to look outward and upward.  The theme of faith is subtle yet powerful.

“I used to think mercy meant showing kindness to someone who didn’t deserve it, as if only the recipient defined the act. The girl in between has learned that mercy is defined by the giver.  Our flaws are obvious, yet we are loved and able to love, if we choose, because there is that bit of the divine still smoldering in us.” (p. 305)

I can’t recommend this book enough.

*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.