Friday, March 25, 2011

Review: Susan Meissner Molds Lives of Three Women Into Story For All...

Salem Witch TrialsImage by drurydrama (Len Radin) via Flickr
The Shape of Mercy

By Susan Meissner

She was accused as a witch. Perhaps she was, because the story of Mercy, as created by Susan Meissner, will undoubtedly enchant all those that hear her story...But as discovered, her tale is not one of evil but of something much more powerful. Could there even be an element of truth? It is not really important to know for sure, at least not for me. My role is only to tell you that I highly recommend, and perhaps more, urge you to read and see how you may be affected by this haunting novel.

Mercy was a writer, a dream of fantasy--of imagination. She lived during the Salem Witch trials. It was her fantasies that were used to accuse and convict her ultimately. We all know, however, that this time in our history was full of lies and all the ugly sins of a world of "proper religion"--jealousy, envy, and perhaps the worst, ignorance. Although we will never enjoy Mercy's stories, we do have the opportunity to read her diary. It has been handed down generation after generation. Now the last of her family has no daughter to whom she can entrust the treasured words.

The Shape of Mercy: A NovelAbigail had placed her hand-written ad for a literary assistant on the college campus notice board quite some time ago. She'd had a few who expressed an interest, but it was not until  Lauren Durough came that the old, hard-to-read journal was taken from its special box, finally to be read by somebody outside of the family, to be translated by someone with fresh eyes who would, hopefully, be able to verify each and every word and make a copy.

Readers are given the privilege of reading Mercy's diary as it is translated by Lauren. Her words will take you back to the horrors of mostly women being randomly selected to be accused of witchcraft. Randomly? Of course, because the choice was based upon whoever and whenever one of those who would accuse became vocal enough to publicly point a finger at another and begin their fanciful lies and accusations of witchcraft.

But most of the diary shares Mercy's life at that time, taking care of her elderly and ill father, as well as their gardening, their farm animals. It also tells a little about the stories she wrote and we learn that only one boy, a neighbor had been told during their childhood of her stories. And we watch as the two fall in love.

Abigail is looking back on her life, considering the mistakes she has made, feeling it is too late to try to recapture anything that Mercy had once showed to her. In fact, now, it is hard for Abigail to even look at or read the diary, knowing what she had once learned from reading it and knowing she had not heeded the most important lesson.

Lauren, on the other hand, is in college, trying to find her own life to live, not yet satisfied that she can meet the requirements she feels her parents have for her future. She meets Mercy and becomes lost in her life, knowing what she will face when she is accused by her peers... Empathizing? She also grows closer and begins to care deeply for Abigail, wanting to know more about her past and wondering how she has come to act and feel as she now does. Sympathizing?

How will The Shape of Mercy affect you? I am only sure of one thing. As a woman, you will find yourself somewhere in this book. Men will seek the woman who speaks to them, helping them to understand the women in their own lives. An especially important scene between Lauren and her father later in the book  shows that many times, we have no real understanding of how another feels... This book will help readers find, perhaps, the quality of mercy, flowing deeply and throughout. A truly wonderful book.

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