Monday, November 26, 2012

"The Shape of Mercy" by Susan Meissner

About the book: Leaving a life of privilege to strike out on her own, Lauren Durough breaks with convention and her family’s expectations by choosing a state college over Stanford and earning her own income over accepting her ample monthly allowance. She takes a part-time job from 83-year-old librarian Abigail Boyles, who asks Lauren to transcribe the journal entries of her ancestor Mercy Hayworth, a victim of the Salem witch trials.

Almost immediately, Lauren finds herself drawn to this girl who lived and died four centuries ago. As the fervor around the witch accusations increases, Mercy becomes trapped in the worldview of the day, unable to fight the overwhelming influence of snap judgments and superstition, and Lauren realizes that the secrets of Mercy’s story extend beyond the pages of her diary, living on in the mysterious, embittered Abigail.

My thoughts:  Abigail, a wealthy elderly woman, hires Lauren Durough, an English major at the state college, to transcribe a three hundred year old journal written by her ancestor Mercy Hayworth. 

Mercy endured the notorious Salem witch trials, and Lauren's transcriptions of the journal reveal the horror and helplessness that Mercy felt when her innocent neighbors and friends were accused and convicted of being witches without any true evidence.  Eventually Mercy is also accused by a jealous neighbor of being a witch because she wrote fanciful  stories and loved a young man in the village.  During the trials Mercy trades her life to save another.

Mercy's experiences cause introspective Lauren to reconsider her own life and relationships with Abigail, her college roommate, and her friend Raul.  She realizes that she judges people by what they have or don't have.  Instead she desires to "see people for what they are on the inside" before she comes to any conclusions.

Mercy's final sacrifice teaches Lauren that the choice is hers.  Consequently, Lauren chooses to make a difference in the life of someone else.  Readers will enjoy the resourceful plan that Lauren attempts in order to aid Abigail during a difficult time in her life.

The author Susan Meissner uses the three generational realistic characters in the book to enable the reader to reach the conclusion that "we tend to judge people based on notions rather than truth, and without stopping to consider if we even have the right to judge them at all".

The Shape of Mercy combines historical fiction with modern realistic fiction to write a thought-provoking tale of fear, mass hysteria, jealousy,and finally the right choices.  Certainly readers will be ready to evaluate their own lives after absorbing the lessons in this engaging book. (reviewed by S.Fuqua)

About the author: Susan Meissner is an award-winning author whose books include The Shape of Mercy, Lady in Waiting, and A Sound Among the Trees. She is the wife of an Air Force chaplain and a mother of four young adults. When she’s not writing, Susan directs the Small Groups and Connection Ministries program at her San Diego church.

DISCLOSURE: The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner is published by Waterbrook Press. A complimentary copy was provided to us to facilitate our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

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