I have a new favorite author.
I don't make that proclamation lightly. For all the reading I do, one might think I end up with lots of favorite authors but it doesn't seem to work that way. I love nothing more than finding a new voice and then reading the rest of their work. It is safe to say that Susan Meissner's books will be holding my attention for awhile.
The Shape of Mercy from page 1. Lauren is a rich college student, struggling to figure out who she is apart from her wealth and her family. To that end, she goes to a public university and decides to forgo her monthly allowance in favor of a job. She's hired to transcribe the diary of her employer Abigail's ancestor, who was a victim of the Salem witch trials.
Mercy Hayworth's diary paints a picture of her life in 1692. Though Lauren and the reader know Mercy's fate, she does not and it is heartbreaking to watch the events unfold. Because Lauren is transcribing the diary and updating the language, we are saved from wading through the "thees" and "thous" of that time. Because of this, we can focus more on Mercy. Mercy's story is as much about first love and family, as it is about the hysteria of that time.
Lauren cannot help but see similarities between herself, Abigail, and Mercy. We learn more about Abigail and Mercy through Lauren's eyes. And in the learning, Lauren learns more about herself, her assumptions, her interests, and what really matters.
The Shape of Mercy is beautifully written. I should note that beautifully written novels are not always interesting and don't always move the plot forward (therefore negating their beauty, in my mind). However, The Shape of Mercy remained intriguing and plot-driven. I wanted to know more about why Lauren thought the way she did, what mysteries Abigail's past held, and what would seal Mercy's fate.
There are three separate love stories but they are entirely different from one another. Each brought tears to my eyes at various points. What each woman learns from their experience with love can be a lesson for us all.
While this book is categorized as Christian fiction, there is not an overt spiritual message. Mercy references what God would make of all the false accusations of witchcraft and is the most vocal about her beliefs but in a way that is natural. Prayer is mentioned occasionally but otherwise the reader is left to draw their own conclusions about what the characters believe. I don't think that's a bad thing as the characters go through quite a transformation. I reacted to their experience in terms of my own beliefs and I believe this is the mark of a good book.
Now that The Shape of Mercy is over, I feel let down, as if I've lost a friend. I wish that I was not quite finished reading it so I could continue to savor Meissner's words. But I take heart because Meissner's other books sound equally booklover worthy.
I can't wait to acquaint myself with her other characters!
Disclosure: I received this book free fromWaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their Blogging for Books program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
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What have you been reading lately? Any new favorite authors?