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.
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.
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.
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.
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!