As far as contemporary novels go, Lisa Bergren has always been one of my favorite authors. I love her laid-back, yet interesting, style of writing that has just enough romantic tension to fulfill my occasional romance novel fix. Mercy Come Morning was such a book, and while it was originally released as Christmas Every Morning (a title I'd read long ago, but had forgotten), I was glad to have had the opportunity to reread it.
This is not a novel for everyone...let me just say that up front. The main character, Krista, has some deep emotional scars as a result of her relationship with her mother, and as her mother is reaching death's door after a long Alzheimer's illness, she struggles to find a way to set everything to rights before it's too late. If not for a book full of Christmas carols filled with hastily scratched notes from her mother, Krista might have never known why the relationship between her and her mother failed.
I found the imagery of "Christmas every morning" the perfect backdrop for this story. Sometimes, during the Christmas season, we hear so many of the same songs over and over again, but may not allow the words to penetrate our hearts. I know I'm certainly guilty of that. "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" and "Oh, Holy Night" now have a new meaning to me personally because of their inclusion in this story.
For those wanting to read Mercy Come Morning, be sure to have a box of tissues handy. Lisa penned some truly beautiful scenes between Krista and her mother that had me tearing up more than once. I have no doubt that this novel has ministered to many people both in the original release and the re-release--those dealing with a family member with Alzheimer's, or even those dealing with a recent death. It was a difficult story to begin, but one that has a bittersweet, yet joyous, conclusion.
Lisa Tawn Bergren pens a story of a young woman, Krista, and her relationship with her mother, Charlotte, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. It is obvious from the beginning of the novel that Krista does not have a close relationship with her mother. Krista seems very resigned towards her mother and holds much against her. When she finds out that her mother is close to going home to heaven, Krista makes the reluctant trip to her hometown. The author proceeds to unravel the mystery behind Krista's feelings toward her mother as well as allow the audience to follow Krista's journey into discovering who her mother really was. Along this journey, you will meet a couple of characters that I found truly endearing, Dane, a childhood friend and beau, and Elena, a confidante and friend. Christmas is a major theme in this story as it is set as the time of year in which the story takes place.
This novel is about forgiveness, healing, and relationships. The story is a bit fast-paced; however, it is still a wonderful read with a great message.
Note: I have received a free copy of this book from Multnomah Books in exchange for a review.
I was unsure how I would like this story - after all it's about a woman saying goodbye to her mother who has had Alzheimer's for a very long time and is now dying of congestive heart failure. Doesn't sound like a very happy or uplifting read. But it is.
Krista Mueller has had a rough life - she never knew her father, her grandparents died when she was 10, her mom was emotionally distant and then during her teen years became noticeably mentally unstable. It wasn't until Krista was in college that her mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
Charlotte was over 40 when Krista was born and hadn't had an easy life either. Krista never understood her mother and had never tried to understand her. But now Charlotte is dying and Krista realizes she needs to find some healing and let her go.
Dane McConnell is the director of the nursing home and a childhood friend of Krista. They even dated in high school, but something happened between them and then Krista could never bring herself to get too close to him again. Even though he still deeply cares for her.
Dane found an old Christmas song book amongst Charlotte's possessions with journal entries in it. Through the handful of entries Krista allows herself to think about her mom's life from a different perspective and find healing.
The story jumps between the present and the past frequently and it's rather confusing. Krista is a history professor so she remembers facts and events that took place around the time of each of her mom's journal entries. Which is neat, but it's hard to follow the timeline.
I would have found it helpful to know at the beginning that Charlotte was over 40 when Krista was born and that the story takes place in about 2002 (when the book was originally written - it was first published under the title Christmas Every Morning). So now you know. Hope it helps.
There are a few sweet kisses and the reader is told of some immoral choices and an instance of sexual abuse but no details are given. It's a sweet story of a daughter trying to understand her mother. It's a sad story of a woman once full of life now close to death. It's a realistic story of a woman coming to grips with her painful past and figuring out how to face her future.
Alzheimer's is a devastating disease. Slowly, inevitably, it steals who you are from you, and changes you into something other than what you have always been. As memories disappear, loved ones find themselves unable to connect, and the burden of losing someone over and over must be just as painful as the person who is unable to remember. What a lonely and distressing illness!
Lisa Tawn Bergren tells the story of a young woman who has been dealing with this very situation, but with a mother that wasn't always the best, even before the onset of the disease. Krista must try to come to terms with a relationship, even though she cannot reconcile in the normal way with a mother who cannot even speak. As the end draws near, Krista begins to realize that some of the issues and difficulties with her mother are also her own, and as she does she recognizes the ways in which she has sabotaged her own happiness while trying desperately to prove something to herself and her mother.
The story of Krista's mother is one of sorrow and reconciliation, and it is told with a sympathetic and compassionate bent. The residential care center for patients sounds remarkable, and I hope it is not a complete fiction - I cannot help but be encouraged by the idea that there are those whose care for the families and patients of this disease to the best of their ability, loving people that have become shadows of themselves.
I enjoyed the story. It touched my heart in many ways, and it gave me insight into a disease I had only previously seen romanticized in movies. The day after I started reading this book, I learned that a colleague had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's, who would no longer be working. As I read the story, my heart went out to his wife and daughters - realizing that their lives would be defined going forward by this difficult season. God's providence is not always so clear, but in this instance I firmly believe that he gave me the opportunity to read this book so that I might have an idea about how to reach out to someone with encouragement.
I recommend this book to those who need a moment to think about the circumstances of others, who need to hear that reconciliation is possible with God, and those who need to see that God's love is greater than any illness. Mercy Come Morning is a portrait of compassion and of forgiveness, in the midst of great pain and heartache. It will hold you captive in its pages, as you hope for the moment that the light of God's grace will dawn on Krista's heart, and change her life.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. 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
Krista's mother was dying...but only physically. That's what she told herself when she received the call from the Alzheimer care facility. They wanted her to visit. There was still time, they said. Time for what? For conversation? In Krista's mind, her mother had died a long time ago.
And if she went to visit her mother, she'd have to face her high school flame, Dane. He had conceived of and ran the facility that did everything possible to make the last years of Alzheimer patients as pleasant as possible. She'd have to go back home to Taos after deliberately staying away all these years.
But Dane talked her into it. She took leave from her teaching and made the drive.
As the novel progresses, we learn that Krista was born late in her mother's life and Krista was only college age when her mother needed extra care because of the memory loss. We also find out that Krista's youth was difficult with her mother often gone to bars and her father totally absent.
There is much Krista must face before her mother dies. A book was found in which Krista's mother had kept a journal of sorts. As Krista reads the entries and realizes her mother's struggles, she begins to heal the distance between them. Even as her mother has forgotten so much, Krista begins to remember.
Dane still loves Krista, after all these years. But can she overcome the hurt she suffered from one of her mother's boyfriends?
This is a character driven novel. We get to know Krista and she how she has made a life for herself, but at an emotional cost. There is a protective wall from past hurts that must be breached if Krista is to be reconciled to her mother. And there must also be forgiveness.
We learn about the Alzheimer facility and how rooms and walkways have been created especially for their patients' well-being. We also learn a bit about the Indians of the area and their Christmas customs.
This is a slow moving book but is worth the read in the end.
I received an egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.