Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Shape of Mercy: A Review by Kathy Porter

“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?

The Shape of Mercy, another novel from acclaimed author Susan Meissner is a Christian historical cautionary tale of the dangers that can happen when humanity abandons the grace of God. As Meissner does with the story she creates, the historical significance of the tragic events which occurred during one of our nation’s darkest periods, the Salem Witch Trials, brings together the lives of three generations of women who learn the very definition of love first-hand.

The significance the Salem Witch Trials can still play in today’s society boils down to the dreaded fear that, once someone says something untrue about another, as long as other people are ready and willing to believe the same misconceptions, that person is whatever believed to be. Once something is taken away, however, such as credibility and a respectable reputation, it can never be returned.

The story flows together very nicely, enticing all who pick it up until the last page is turned. Although a work of contemporary Christian fiction, the novel has all of the qualities of great secular pieces of literature—mystery, suspense, heartache, and lovable characters. There are a number of twists and turns which lead up to an unpredictable ending. The fingerprints of God are evident. God, Himself, set beside Meissner and breathed inspiration into her ear.

Expectations are a dangerous thing, as The Shape of Mercy’s readers will discover for themselves through the tales of each woman. Yet, one will not be disappointed by holding high expectations that the journey experienced throughout the 305 pages will be life-changing and present new perspectives on life.  May I be so bold as to suggest that this novel will haunt you—in a positive way—and challenge you to avoid presuming individuals are a certain way before you get to know the essence of their God-created souls?

Pick up The Shape of Mercy. It is living proof that God can—and will—use whatever He desires to inspire us all to make a difference in this world, regardless of what the world expects of us.

Forgive. Live. Love.

On a personal level, of all the great literary works I have read in my twenty-two years on this earth, I have never been so spiritually connected, involved, heartbroken, and changed by one solid title. It is further proof to me that things aren’t always as they seem. As challenging, difficult, and unfair as life can be, God always has a greater purpose in mind, even when it seems impossible to find a reason for needless, senseless, cruelties. As my heart broke for all Mercy Hayworth had to endure as the result of several young girls with a craving for evil—and furthermore, because lives were lost in reality—the beauty of God’s grace shone even brighter. When the world breaks us down, God lifts us up. Just as Meissner places the character of Lauren in the middle of Mercy and Abigail, He leads us to those we need most.

*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.*

No comments:

Post a Comment