This novel may be a hard one for some to read. It is very well written - it is the subject matter that is so disturbing.
Mercy was raised in a home with an angry father and an abused mother. Sproles does an excellent job of portraying Mercy's father, the Pastor, as a mean man. The abuse he heaped on his daughter and wife is painful to read. And the worst part is that he did it all in the name of the Lord. He was an angry and very mean man. The devil, Mercy said. He raped women in his Appalachian congregation to get their sin out of them. He whipped and burned his wife. He killed husbands when they stood in his way. Well, I think you get the idea.
And nobody will stand up to him. No man in the Tennessee community will protect the women. Finally, when an opportunity presents itself, Mercy takes matters in her own hands. Not yet twenty, Mercy is kicked out her home by her grieving mother. She travels to the other side of the mountain where she finds out the truth about God and love and mercy.
So this is a good story – it is just that for some, it may be very hard to read. Sproles has done such a good job of portraying Mercy's father, the Pastor, as an angry and mean abuser, it may be hard for some to read. Anyone raised in a household with an angry father may find their own memories stirred. Through flashbacks and memories, we encounter Mercy's abuse even as she grows in experience and understanding of what a loving man is really like.
Another aspect of the novel that may may it difficult for some is how the Pastor portrays God as harsh and unforgiving. Those who have grown up in a church portraying God as more vengeful than forgiving, as more judgmental than full of love and grace, may have difficulty reading this novel. Even though one may have a corrected view of God now, memories may come to the forefront. Like Mercy's own experience, it takes a long time to get those childhood memories put where they can no longer do harm.
My recommendation on this book is twofold. If you were raised by a loving father in a household that portrayed God as loving and merciful, I would highly recommend this novel. It is exceptionally well written, with characters and actions that draw emotion out of you. But, if you had an angry father and a vengeful God in your childhood, this may be a very difficult novel to read. Sproles has done such a good job of portraying that angry and mean father, right up to the very end (through flashbacks), the novel may be painful experience.
Cindy K. Sproles is an author and speaker, having her devotions published in newspapers in the eastern US. She is a teacher at Christian writers conferences and women's seminars nationwide and is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries. She and her family still live in the mountains of east Tennessee. Find out more at http://cindysproles.com/.
Kregel Publications, 265 pages.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.