Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Book Review: The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner

The Shape of Mercy: A NovelISBN:  1400074568
Release date:  September 16th, 2008
Publisher:  WaterBrook Press
Read from March 30th to April 6th, 2011
Awards: ECPA Christian Book Award for Fiction (2009), Romance Writers of America RITA Award for Novel with Strong Romantic Elements (2009), American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year (2009)
Synopsis from Goodreads
“We understand what we want to understand.”

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.

The strength of her affinity with Mercy forces Lauren to take a startling new look at her own life, including her relationships with Abigail, her college roommate, and a young man named Raul. But on the way to the truth, will Lauren find herself playing the helpless defendant or the misguided judge? Can she break free from her own perceptions and see who she really is?

This book is amazing.  It takes place in two different time periods.  Lauren lives in the present day, but you also get to read Mercy's diary entries from the Salem Witch Trials.  If you've read this blog long enough, you know I'm a huge history nerd, and the Salem Witch Trials happened during one of my absolute favorite time periods.

Often I can't sympathize with rich characters that well because, well, I don't know what it's like to be rich, but I didn't have that problem with Lauren.  She had so many aspects to her character that I could relate to.  Throughout the book, Lauren's trying to figure out who she is, which is something I think all of us can understand.  She also has a love for books (all three of the female characters do), and I love reading about other people who love books.

I felt the same way about Abigail.  She was a very relatable character in spite of the fact that she has a lot of money and grew up in a different time period.

Mercy was probably the most fascinating character in the story even though she's been dead a long time when the book is actually taking place.  Her diary entries are wonderful, and even though you know it's impossible, you keep hoping that she won't die.  She was amazing to read about.

All of the other characters are amazing too.  I loved all of them.  I think the characters were by far the best part of the book although I also loved reading about the Salem Witch Trials in Mercy's diary.  Susan Meissner used a lot of real facts about the trials in the story, and it was fascinating to read about.  The diary entries are also extremely emotional (the later ones at least).  I read the end of the book at work, and I had to force myself not to cry in case someone walked in and saw me.

I highly recommend this book to everyone.  I think even people who don't care at all about history or the Salem Witch Trials would enjoy it.  There's just enough history in the story for people like me to enjoy it, but not enough to turn people who hate historical fiction off.

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