The Shape of Mercy
by Susan Meissner
Waterbrook Press, Colorado 2008
Lauren is a 20 year old college student at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB for short) doing an english and literature degree. Lauren is an heiress. Her father's family has been very wealthy for several generations and Lauren is not short of ready cash.
But Lauren wants a job. So she answers a job advert to do some transcription. Being an only child Lauren is a rebel - choosing a state school rather than a private one, and choosing to English Lit instead of Business.
Lauren is also upset that she is not a boy because now her father has noone to pass the family business onto. But there are 4 male cousins - all of whom have done degrees related to business in some way. These cousins are the sons of Lauren's uncle.
Abigail Boyles is an wealthy elderly lady in her 80s living in a large house in Santa Barbara. She has a diary from a relative (8 times removed) which was written in Salem (formerly part of Boston) in the 1600s durung the Salem witch trials. The ink has faded from a number of these pages, and Abigail wants the diary transcribed before it is all lost for ever. The diary was written by 19 year old Mercy Hayworth.
The Shape of Mercy is about three very different women: Mercy Hayworth, a nineteen-year-old charged with the 17th century death penalty crime of being a witch; Lauren Durough, the young college student who more than three hundred years later is asked to transcribe the barely legible words from Mercy’s diary; and Abigail Boyles, the elderly ex-librarian in whose family the diary has been passed from generation-to-generation.
Lauren immediately identifies with Mercy Hayworth and the innocent love story recounted in Mercy’s diary while she reluctantly approaches the brutal truth of Mercy’s final days that she knows will be revealed in the diary’s last entries. But Lauren is surprised to find that Abigail, through her own life story, can teach her as much about love, critical choices, prejudice and regrets as Lauren can learn from the much shorter and more tragic life described in Mercy’s diary.
Again this was an excellent story and I could not put it down. I loved the contemporary setting and the ties to the historical past. I think I like these kinds of novels best of all.