CAFE: A gathering place. A place of refreshment.

Thirsty for the latest releases in Christian fiction? Ready for a peek into the world of publishing and writing conferences? Hungry for spiritual and real-life nourishment? Pull up a seat; you're in the right place, and I'm so glad you've stopped by.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Encore Review of THE SHAPE OF MERCY by Susan Meissner plus a chance to win the book!

Today I’m happy to share with you an encore review that I did of Susan Meissner’s lovely novel, The Shape of Mercy. An extra bonus this time—you have a chance to win a signed-by-the-author copy of a Limited Edition Advance Reader’s Copy (ARC) of the book. It’s gorgeous, folks!

To enter the contest please leave a comment on this post with your contact information before noon next Friday (June 5). If you’ve been itching to get your hands on this book, now’s your chance.

One last note before the review: The Shape of Mercy was named to Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2008 and the ECPA's Fiction Book of the Year for 2009. Well done, Susan!

The Shape of Mercy is set on opposite shores of America—California for the main character, college student Lauren Durough, and a village near Salem, Massachusetts for Mercy Hayworth, a young woman convicted in the Salem witch trials.

Two plots intertwine more than 300 years apart. I couldn’t imagine how Susan would accomplish this feat without having a character travel back in time. She did it, though, and both Lauren’s world and Mercy’s pulsed with urgency. I slipped easily from one world to the next because of Susan’s meticulous writing.

What worked for me and kept me turning the pages:

• The contrast of Lauren’s privileged modern day existence and that of Mercy’s meager colonial days. Mercy’s story unfolds from the pages of her diary, which is described as “the color of toast in some places and in others, the color of wet ashes. The ink . . . was so faint it looked as if I could blow it away if I leaned over it and merely exhaled.” The pages are described as whispers, too delicate to bear the weight of my (Lauren’s) fingers. In one short paragraph, the reader knows that whatever is found in this diary is hallowed. You can’t help but long to know what those words are and what Mercy’s story is.

• Mercy’s words. Her plain, everyday language with specific details of life in the Village, her dying father, and the increasing hysteria about witches in their midst, pull you in by their simplicity. Mercy’s words are set off by italics to signal the reader that you are once again in Mercy’s world. Details are minimal, but the tension grows with each entry as you fear what is coming.

• Lauren transcribes the diary in the library of Abigail, her employer – a daunting woman who lives a life of solitude in a massive Tudor home on the west coast. Lauren’s first visit to the library gives a clear picture not only of the room, but also what her relationship with the older woman will be like. The shelves are lined with books, but others are stacked throughout the library. In Susan’s words, “The rest were loose, unfettered, as if poised to attack. . . towers of pages stacked like scaffolding . . . I minded my ankles as if the books closest to me might nip at my feet.” This visual planted me firmly in Lauren’s world as she did her work.
• Contrasting the two worlds physically is only part of what I liked about this book. As Mercy finds herself accused in the late 1600s, Lauren examines her own life, and finds her twenty-first century values shaken. Her own journey unfolds with that of Mercy, and she finds in Abigail, not only a job opportunity, but an avenue of change that will affect both their lives.

The Shape of Mercy satisfies in so many ways – the rich writing, the storytelling, a hint of romance, and giving pause for reflection. The very cool thing that Susan has done is set up a blog so that the characters live beyond the life of the book. Ever wondered what happened after the last page? You can find out here. You can also read more about Susan Meissner here.

Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the drawing.


Gina C said...

I want to read this one!

windycindy said...

It sounds like these characters are living in parallel worlds! They are living in different times, but their lives are similar. Please enter my name in your drawing. Many thanks, Cindi

Josanne said...

Can't wait to see what happened after the last page, but I need to read the last page first. The book sounds like it would make an amazing movie. Hope the links to "after the book" are mentioned in the book! Please enter me in the drawing. I'd love have this one for my next read. Thanks, Carla. Enticing review.

Pepper Basham said...

It sounds like a great book! I've never read anything by this author. Your site is lovely, btw.

Koala Bear Writer said...

Sounds fascinating. Reminds me The Scarlet Thread by Francine Rivers - two stories centuries apart again, as the modern-day character reads through an ancestor's journal. Neat how the author's tie the stories together.

Cheryl Barker said...

I want this book bad! :) Thanks for offering it in a giveaway, Carla!

Carmen7351 said...

I would love a chance to read this book by being entered in your drawing. Thank you.

desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Myra Johnson said...

I've heard so many good things about this book! Thanks for a great preview!

bigguysmama said...

I'd love a chance at winning this ARC. Thanks for this offer. Blessings,

mnjesusfreak at gmail dot com

Reneah said...

Carla, you certainly peaked my interest in this book. I think it may be my next read.

Reneah Wilson

carla stewart said...

Hey, everyone! Thanks for the interest in Susan's book. I wish you could all be winners. Yes, it is intriguing and lovely. Stay tuned.

windycindy said...

Happy June! I have been reading so many good things about this book.
It would be fun to see how the two time periods intertwine. Please
enter my name in your delightful
book giveaway drawing.
Many thanks.....Cindi