Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner

This is the first novel I've read by Susan Meissner, a former Minnesotan! Lauren Durough is a young woman living in the present day who takes a job transcribing the diary of Mercy Hayworth, a victim of the Salem witch trials. The novel splits its time between the present day and the late 1600's, with almost every chapter containing diary entries of Mercy's.  They progress from the start of the accusations in January of 1692 to the end of September, when she dies. Lauren's story focuses on her family , a young man named Raul, and her roommate, with her trying to figure out her place in the world, and how her family's wealth affects that. An overall theme seems to be about perceptions and making snap judgments without all the facts.

The diary entries were very well done, providing insight into Mercy and the circumstances surrounding the trials. While Mercy is fictional, most of the other characters were real people, which made it even more fascinating. The Crucible was mentioned and I had never read it, so I ended up reading that for more insight into the trials. Lauren's life seems dull by comparison and I couldn't wait to get through her parts and back to Mercy.  The book felt a little off balance because of that. I did like how Lauren got to know Abigail, the relative of Mercy's who hired her, and ultimately, how she tried to right a wrong from Abigail's past.  I did have a problem with where the author decided to go with Mercy's story.  I can understand why she did it, but it didn't feel like a fitting conclusion for her. Overall, I liked the book because the diary entries were fascinating and because of a few other plot points, but I was disappointed in the ending.
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