The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner is a very unique novel. It tells the story of Lauren Durough, a modern college student, Mercy Hayworth, a victim of the Salem witch trials in the 17th century, and Abigail Boyles, a descendant of Mercy.
Lauren is from a wealthy, privileged family and is determined to prove that she doesn’t act or think like it. She insists on attending a state school and living in a dorm, and looks for a job rather than depending solely on her father’s money. She’s offered a job by eighty-three-year-old retired librarian Abigail Boyles to transcribe the journal of her ancestor, Mercy Hayworth, who died during the Salem witch trials. Abigail is eccentric and the job has odd requirements, but Lauren is intrigued and accepts. From this point on, the book alternates between Mercy’s journal entries and the present day.
From the beginning, Mercy’s journal powerfully draws Lauren in as it recounts the atmosphere and events surrounding that particular time period. She strongly identifies with Mercy. At the same time, Lauren begins to realize that she makes more assumptions and judgments about others than she’d like to think. This causes her to do some soul-searching and self-examination about her own motives and conduct. Her employer, Abigail, is eccentric, lonely, and bitter, but as the book progresses it becomes clear that she and Lauren have quite a bit in common. The lives of these three women from three very different times are woven together skillfully to create a beautiful, compelling tale of mercy and love.
I had a hard time putting the book down. It’s not fast-paced or action-packed, although there is an element of mystery about Abigail’s past. It’s just, well…compelling. Ms. Meissner’s writing is poignant, especially in Mercy’s journal entries. I don’t always care for books that jump back and forth between two time periods and storylines, but here it’s incredibly well done. The storylines are intertwined in a way that makes the transitions back and forth seem almost seamless. The conclusion brings all the different threads of Lauren, Abigail, and Mercy’s journeys together beautifully.
Simply captivating. I look forward to reading more by Ms. Meissner.
Thank you to Waterbrook Publishing for providing a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.