The Shape of Mercy    -     By: Susan Meissner
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The Shape of Mercy

WaterBrook Press / 2008 / Paperback

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Product Description

Lauren Durough is a West Coast English major at the proverbial age of discovery. Sheltered in her childhood years by family wealth, she is just beginning to grasp how people judge others by what they want to believe about them; particularly, how the poor mistakenly view the wealthy and vice-versa. When she opts out of her family's monthly financial support, she takes on a job as a literary assistant to Abigail Boyles, an eighty year-old reclusive, retired librarian. Abigail tasks Lauren with transcribing the diary of Abigail's ancestral cousin, Mercy Hayworth--a woman hanged for witchcraft in seventeenth century Salem, Massachusetts. The lives of Abigail and Lauren, two very different women, converge as they jointly piece together the life and death of Mercy Hayworth. Lauren finds herself drawn to this girl who lived four hundred years earlier, who also struggled against undeserved cultural stigmatization, but lost. But the more she learns about Mercy, the more Lauren realizes this project is as much about Abigail as it is her ancestor. As secrets unfold, the extent to which the lives of these three women are connected comes to light, and both Lauren and Abigail find their lives and the very way they view the world irrevocably changed

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 320
Vendor: WaterBrook Press
Publication Date: 2008
Dimensions: 8.00 X 5.19 (inches)
ISBN: 1400074568
ISBN-13: 9781400074563
Availability: In Stock

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Publisher's Description

“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?

Author Bio

Susan Meissner has been feeding her love of writing all her life. Her first novel, Why the Sky is Blue, was released in 2004, after she resigned her post as editor for a local newspaper in a rural Minnesota town. Since that time she has had several books published and moved to San Diego, where she lives with her family.

ChristianBookPreviews

The lives of three women are connected in The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner, a powerful story about mercy, preconceived notions, and love. Lauren Durough was brought into the world as a daughter in a wealthy family. Trying to get away from her haughty lifestyle, Lauren goes to college, lives on campus with a roommate, and decides to get a job. She is hired by Abigail Boyles to transcribe the diary of Mercy Hayworth, a victim of the Salem witch trials. Along the way, she struggles to overcome her judgmental attitude toward others around her and learns how to overcome the person she has been.

With a voice that comes out of the pages, Susan Meissner creates a believable set of characters and settings without resorting to the stereotypical ideas of what a person should be. The relationships work in the novel without become trite. Even the love interest that develops in the book is done well. The overall style of the book is one that captivates interest and makes the reader to want to keep reading. When reaching the end of the book, I was surprised at how much I was affected by the story.

While Lauren has faith in God, her relationships at the beginning of the novel hardly reflect God’s loving nature. She is too blinded by what she wants to believe about others. Through transcribing Mercy’s diary, Lauren learns to trust God even more and to see others in a new way. Mercy’s story teaches a wonderful lesson about displaying mercy to those who do wrong against you, and it gives a perfect example of mercy as described in James 2:13. Abigail’s story shows Lauren how to become the person she wants to be.

This book is a wonderful tale that delivers a powerful message about tolerance and peace everyone can learn from. I highly recommend it. -- Timothy Steece, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com

Publisher's Weekly

Meissner's newest novel is potentially life-changing, the kind of inspirational fiction that prompts readers to call up old friends, lost loves or fallen-away family members to tell them that all is forgiven and that life is too short for holding grudges. Achingly romantic, the novel features the legacy of Mercy Hayworth—a young woman convicted during the Salem witch trials—whose words reach out from the past to forever transform the lives of two present-day women. These book lovers—Abigail Boyles, elderly, bitter and frail, and Lauren “Lars” Durough, wealthy, earnest and young—become unlikely friends, drawn together over the untimely death of Mercy, whose precious diary is all that remains of her too short life. And what a diary! Mercy's words not only beguile but help Abigail and Lars together face life's hardest struggles about where true meaning is found, which dreams are worth chasing and which only lead to emptiness, and why faith and hope are essential on life's difficult path. Meissner's prose is exquisite and she is a stunning storyteller. This is a novel to be shared with friends. (Sept. 16)Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Editorial Reviews

“As raindrops become mighty rivers, Susan Meissner’s words seem simple in the beginning, but one thought builds naturally upon another, phrases and sentences flow together with effortless fluidity, and before you know it, you are totally engrossed by the powerful undercurrents of her story. To read Ms. Meissner is to put yourself into the hands of that rarest kind of author: an artist working in the medium of words.”
Athol Dickson, Christy Award-winning author of The Cure and Winter Haven

“I loved The Shape of Mercy from beginning to end. Ms. Meissner’s prose sings, and her characters captured my interest from the start. As the story unfolded, those same characters captured my heart. I won’t soon forget Mercy, Lauren, or Abigail.”
Robin Lee Hatcher, award-winning author of Wagered Heart and When Love Blooms

The Shape of Mercy is vintage Susan Meissner: tender storytelling that keeps you hooked; living, breathing characters that capture your heart and madden you, too; and a message of redemption that sticks with you. Meissner deftly weaves the stories of three women of vastly different generations, connecting them perfectly and crafting a winsome, interesting, powerful read.”
Mary E. DeMuth, author of Watching the Tree Limbs and Daisy Chain

“A compelling tale that will resonate long after you turn the last page. A haunting story, deftly woven, full of layers and textures that will quickly pull you out of the present and into the long forgotten past. Meissner recalls a tale that must not be forgotten, about the tragedies and senseless cruelties which happen when we abandon grace and turn our backs on mercy.”
Siri Mitchell, author of A Constant Heart

The Shape of Mercy is a truly lovely story, one to savor again and again. In a fantastic blend of old and new, this modern-day novel has the scope and feel of a historical. The characters and their journeys will touch your heart.”
Mindy Starns Clark, author of Whispers of the Bayou

“A bit of mystery, fascinating history, and the biggest question of all: What would you do for love? I can't stop thinking about The Shape of Mercy.”
Roxanne Henke, author of After Anne and Learning to Fly

“With a deft hand, Meissner blends an intriguing storyline, artful writing, and memorable characters for a truly delicious read. This one’s a keeper!”
Denise Hunter, author of The Convenient Groom

Product Reviews

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Displaying items 1-5 of 32
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  1. Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    A Remarkable Book
    February 21, 2014
    Army Mom
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Nothing exists anymore of Mercy Hayward except her diary that was written more than three centuries ago during a very time known as the Salem witch trials. While some people will think that this is only Mercy's story, it also includes two modern day women. Abigail Boyles is a decent of Mercy's and has her diary. She hires you college student Lauren Durough to translate the diary and Lauren soon discovers that she and Mercy may have more in common than she could have ever thought.

    Lauren who was born into wealth and prestige, dreams of being her own person and living her own life, not to be the person her parents wish her to be, while Abigail a wealthy widow struggles to find peace about a decision that she made years ago.

    I loved the way this book intertwines the lives of all three women who are struggling with other people's perceptions of them. Mercy's story is told through her dairy and I thought the author did an awesome job of presenting it in an authentic way. It is a wonderfully engaging story that captivates the reader. I have always enjoyed this author's work. Her stories are always unique and her writing superb. I know that some people will not read this book because part of the story deals with the witch trials, however the true subject of this book is people judging people based solely on what they see on the surface. It is a truly amazing book and I have recommended this book to several people all who have loved it.
  2. Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Absorbing, engaging book
    November 26, 2012
    ACS Book Finder
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    My thoughts: Abigail, a wealthy elderly woman, hires Lauren Durough, an English major at the state college, to transcribe a three hundred year old journal written by her ancestor Mercy Hayworth.

    Mercy endured the notorious Salem witch trials, and Lauren's transcriptions of the journal reveal the horror and helplessness that Mercy felt when her innocent neighbors and friends were accused and convicted of being witches without any true evidence. Eventually Mercy is also accused by a jealous neighbor of being a witch because she wrote fanciful stories and loved a young man in the village. During the trials Mercy trades her life to save another.

    Mercy's experiences cause introspective Lauren to reconsider her own life and relationships with Abigail, her college roommate, and her friend Raul. She realizes that she judges people by what they have or don't have. Instead she desires to "see people for what they are on the inside" before she comes to any conclusions.

    Mercy's final sacrifice teaches Lauren that the choice is hers. Consequently, Lauren chooses to make a difference in the life of someone else. Readers will enjoy the resourceful plan that Lauren attempts in order to aid Abigail during a difficult time in her life.

    The author Susan Meissner uses the three generational realistic characters in the book to enable the reader to reach the conclusion that "we tend to judge people based on notions rather than truth, and without stopping to consider if we even have the right to judge them at all".

    The Shape of Mercy combines historical fiction with modern realistic fiction to write a thought-provoking tale of fear, mass hysteria, jealousy,and finally the right choices. Certainly readers will be ready to evaluate their own lives after absorbing the lessons in this engaging book. (reviewed by S.Fuqua)

    About the author: Susan Meissner is an award-winning author whose books include The Shape of Mercy, Lady in Waiting, and A Sound Among the Trees. She is the wife of an Air Force chaplain and a mother of four young adults. When she's not writing, Susan directs the Small Groups and Connection Ministries program at her San Diego church.

    DISCLOSURE: The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner is published by Waterbrook Press. A complimentary copy was provided to us to facilitate our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.
  3. Texas
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    A good clean read that will make you take stock
    April 28, 2011
    loopylou
    Texas
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    The Shape of Mercy

    by Susan Meissner

    We all come face to face with judgment . . . either judging or being judged. We all have to own our snap and unfair judgments about others and must accept that we will be judged and misunderstood from time to time in life. The Shape of Mercy unravels the layers of judgment that easily entangle us. The main character, Lauren Durroughs, must learn a tough lesson in misguided judgment while learning to accept who she is and who she was born to be. The Shape of Mercy is layered with life and time. While Lauren transcribes the 400 year old diary of Mercy Hayworth, a girl convicted of being a witch in Salem, MA in 1692 and suffered the harsh judgment of her own day, she must learn to trust without question Abigail Boyles, the owner of the precious diary and elderly woman who hired her to do the transcription. Full of life and history, this story entwines the lives of three women, Mercy, Lauren and Abigail. One from the past who still has much to teach us -- one whose life is coming to its end but still has a life she needs to learn to live -- and, Lauren, whose life is ahead of her and must learn how to live it well.

    The Shape of Mercy is a wonderful work of historical fiction combined with modern day drama and life lessons. I loved the book and found myself and snippets of my own life in each of the character's lives as they worked through their own questions and difficult situations. If you like traces of God's handiwork, historical truth, a little mystery, self reflection and clean reading in your novels, then I highly recommend The Shape of Mercy.

    I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.
  4. 5 Stars Out Of 5
    A fantastic blend of historical and contemporary f
    March 24, 2011
    Heatherly
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Susan Meissner has quickly become one of my favorite authors. She is more than an excellent author of historical fiction; she is a weaver of words, seamlessly tangling the lives of three women, one of whom lived more than 300 years ago.

    In The Shape of Mercy, Meissner guides us as we explore the themes of wealth, prejudice, and the power of love for another.

    Lauren Durough is a wealthy young woman desperately trying to prove that she does not need her family's legacy or wealth. When she accepts a part-time job transcribing a diary from the Salem Witch Trials, her eyes are opened to the tragedy of the historical hysteria. The diary's owner, Abigail, is saddened by her distant cousin's story, and burdened that it live on beyond the family legend it has become.

    "I should have realized then that this wasn't about Mercy alone." Lauren herself quickly realizes that she has a lot to learn from the choices that Abigail and Mercy, the diary's author, have made. The diary becomes a catalyst for redemption for the two women, as each comes to terms with their own prejudices and relationships.

    Because Lauren's perspective is revealed most often, we learn quickly that she is frequently unaware of her own prejudices and shallowness. At first, I found that I didn't like her; but although I was disappointed in my lack of adoration for the protagonist, Meissner gives her room to change and grow, and makes her teachable, without fixing all of her flaws by the novel's end. All in all, I came to appreciate Lauren, a woman willing to admit her faults and push through to do what is right.

    Mercy's diary, the story within the story, was written into the novel beautifully, and was so well written that I had to remind myself that it was not a primary source document being translated into story form by Lauren.

    Mercy challenged me to check my own opinions and caused me to ponder what I would truly be willing to do for one my heart loves. Meissner has created a story that will long stay with me, and will certainly be found on my list of favorites.

    I highly recommend The Shape of Mercy for fans of historical and contemporary fiction, as it is a perfect blend of both.

    *Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing provided a free copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. I have not been compensated in any other way.
  5. Nashville, TN
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Loved it from start to finish
    March 13, 2011
    Leigh Kramer
    Nashville, TN
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    I was drawn into The Shape of Mercy, which I was given for free from Waterbrook Multnomah, 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 interesting. 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!
Displaying items 1-5 of 32
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