Monday, January 31, 2011

Book Review: The Miracle of Mercy Land

The Miracle of Mercy Land by River Jordan.  


The author's name makes me giggle, just so you know.


Like the author, River Jordan, Mercy Land is a person, not a place.


Miracle sounded interesting when I chose it at booksforblogging.org, but once I got it, I had second thoughts.  I spent the first few chapters of this book wondering if I would be able to finish it.  The writing style is very talky, and not one I generally like in my reading material.  For most of the first half of the book, the story is told from the perspective of Mercy Land, a young woman from Alabama.  Alternating throughout the book are journal entries by her boss at the paper, Doc Philiips, with one or two as John (another character) thinking.  These alternating points of view are easily identifiable and are in no way confusing. A couple of them are used as venues for exposition, and I guess by now, you know I fail completely to be a fan of tell-not-show.  I did finish the book, though, and while I wasn't wowed by it like some others seem to be, I did enjoy the read.


Mercy Land is born on a riverbank (literally), during a freak thunderstorm in not-even small-town Alabama.  Though she relates some of her childhood, the story actually takes place during her adult life, after she has moved to Bay City, Alabama, which is big enough for a Woolworth's and a couple of restaurants, but definitely not Mobile or Atlanta, Georgia.  The sequence of events she relates occurs during her tenure at the Banner, the local newspaper, in the mid to late 1930s.  


While I don't generally enjoy talky books, Mercy is a unique enough individual that I got a kick out of her.  She was born to parents on the upper side of the riverbank, as opposed to the lower classes who lived on the other side of the Bittersweet River.  She talks to herself some in the book, and sometimes lapses into her country-speak while giving herself pep talks, and this is sort of entertaining.  Mercy is also unique in that her childhood, while not one of plenty, is a happy one.  She is a grown woman, and a smart one, not necessarily naive, and without an ugly bone in her body.  I'm talking about pretty-is-as-pretty-does, not physical beauty.


The heart of the story is that a few years into her work with Doc at the Banner, Doc magically (again, literally) comes into possession of a miraculous book of light that contains people's lives - the choices they made, the paths they did take and the ones they might have taken.  Doc entrusts Mercy with the safekeeping of the key to this book, and as a team they protect it from others who might use the information in the book for harm.   In reaction to the book, Doc pretends to plan for retirement and invites a strange man to town allegedly to take over the paper.  Mercy picks this man up at the train, and knows almost right away that he's not here for the newspaper, though she continues to be confused as to why he IS there.


The remainder of the book is the story of connections: to past, to present, to Bay City, to Bittersweet, and how those connections create and destroy trust between the characters, most notably between Mercy and her "family" of people.


In the end, I'm still not sure why the book came to Doc Phillips, what purpose it served other than to be the center of the story.  I enjoyed Miracle enough to finish reading it, and I will probably not be searching out another by River Jordan anytime soon.  


You can read the first chapter free by clicking on the image of the book and clicking on "read first chapter free" to the right of the page.




FTC Disclaimer: Thanks to WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, who shipped this book to me at no charge for the purpose of reviewing it for my blog and for their website.