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Posted February 17, 2011
"We understand what we want to understand."
?The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner is classified as contemporary fiction, but I must report that it is much, much more. A mixture of history, romance, and mystery, The Shape of Mercy is a thrilling and inspiring tale of three women who realize the importance opinion and judgement play in every aspect of life. Lauren Durough is a young college student on her way to becoming CEO of her wealthy father's company, yet she longs for a life free of judgement and superficiality. Abigail Boyles is an eighty-three-year-old retired librarian with many secrets who employs Lauren to transcribe an ancient diary written by Mercy Hayworth, a young woman victimized by the infamous Salem witch trials.
I was not sure about this story at all when I received it from WaterBrook Multnomah, and the title did not even register with me. It wasn't until I finished the book that I realized what The Shape of Mercy really means. I can't say much about the story besides what is above because it would be so easy to give it all away. All I can say is that this book is on my Best of 2011 list already, and its only February.
Susan Meissner's writing style is spectacular; it is one of the best first-person tales I've read. Her descriptiveness is impeccable, and her characters are so well developed. I've never read any of her books before, but I can say that, after this one, I am a fan! She tastefully tackles history and romance in this book, something I can't say about all authors. At the end of the book Susan Meissner notes that Mercy Hayworth is a fictional character -- she was not actually part of the Salem witch trials -- but all other information in the book is accurate. Still, she did a wonderful job making me believe the diary, the girl, and the story were real.
The only thing that I didn't approve of was the lazy mentioning of God. Besides one character taking the Lord's name in vain twice (which shocked me in a book published by a Christian company), God and prayer are mentioned loosely and vaguely. I rather wish God had been removed altogether; putting Him in last place doesn't sit well with me. This aside, the book is a great one.
If you like mystery, historical fiction, romance, and great writing, you will love The Shape of Mercy.
I received this book for free from Water?Brook Multnomah
via Blogging for Books.
All opinions of this book are my own.
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Posted August 13, 2011
If a book makes me cry, I tend to think it's pretty good because it moved me in some way. And perhaps I identified with something in this book, which made it all the more comforting to read. This book was not predictable like a lot of Christian fiction was. I finished it in 1 day, and I wish it had been longer!
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Posted March 14, 2011
College sophomore Lauren Durough is trying to escape a life of privilege by attending a state school and living in the dorm like a "normal' person. She decides to take a part-time job in order to prove that she can make it on her own. She accepts a job transcribing a 300 year old diary into today's language. The diary is of a teenage girl who lived during the Salem witch trials. Mercy Hayworth, the diary's author, had been accused, tried and convicted of witchcraft and wrote about it all in her diary. The diary's owner, 83-year-old Abigail Boyles, has her own secret motives for wanting the diary transcribed. As the book progresses, Lauren is caught between the world of Salem in 1692 and today's world of social classes and preconceived notions.
This was an AWESOME read! I thoroughly loved it. This is the first book I have read by this author and it makes me want to read more. She makes the characters so deep, so real and complex that you feel the turmoil within Lauren as she struggles to mix what she has been taught about money and social status and what she is learning in the real world. You get caught up with Mercy and her plight to stop the witchcraft madness back in Salem, all the while knowing her fate is sealed and it can't be changed. You feel frustration as well as sympathy for Abigail as she regrets choices she made in the past, choices that can't be changed and haven't been forgiven. And through it all, God's hand is seen weaving the circumstances and changing these three woman's lives. In the end, you are left with a book you just can't put down until you are done.
I give it 5 out of 5 stars! Go buy it today!
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Posted February 22, 2013
I have always been interested in the Salem Witch Trials afyer having learned that one of my ancestors, Samuel Wardwell, his wife, and his eldest daughter Mercy were accused of witchcraft. Of the three, Mercy plead guilty to witchcraft and lived, Samuel was hung in the last hanging Salem had before the governor put a stop to it, and Samuel's wife was released soon after the governors declaration, but only lived a few years after-- having contracted an illness in jail. Their family was tore apart-- the children being parceled out to various relatives and forced to work for their keep. It was all very sad. This book really brought the past to life for me-- how my ancestors would have lived, how the community reacted and perhaps how many people felt privately about the whole thing. It really touched my heart. Mercy was such a sweet girl and ahead of her time in many ways. She had her whole life ahead of her only to have it robbed from her because of a petty and selfish girl who was jealous of tje loveMercy and John Peter had for one another. These trials brought out both the worst and the best in people-- those accused could have taken the easy way out and admitted they were a witch. But most had the character, the strength, and the spiritual convictions to maintain their innocence and stand up for what they believed. While others used it to hurt those they found fault with and take advantage of the poor, the pious, and anyone unusual, and to settle old scores. It is a really dark period in our history. But I loved how the author wove it in with the present to show how reading about Mercy affected her life and the way she saw the world.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 8, 2012
Posted February 4, 2012
Posted August 1, 2011
Gripping story, poetically told
Meissner's beautifully written story about Mercy Hayworth, a victim of the Salem witch trials, feels so genuine, it will send you straight to Google to find out whether or not Mercy was a real person. But Mercy's isn't the only story here. We walk her path, chronicled in her diary, along with Lauren (Lars) Durough, the wealthy college student aching to stand on her own feet by working for the mysterious Abigail Boyles, Mercy's 83-year-old descendant. The intertwining lives of all three women will quickly capture the reader's curiosity, and questions about assumptions, choices, love, regret, and forgiveness will linger well after the story ends. Highly recommended.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 13, 2011
I Loved It!
This book is amazing. It takes place in two different time periods. Lauren lives in the present day, but you also get to read Mercy's diary entries from the Salem Witch Trials. If you've read this blog long enough, you know I'm a huge history nerd, and the Salem Witch Trials happened during one of my absolute favorite time periods.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Often I can't sympathize with rich characters that well because, well, I don't know what it's like to be rich, but I didn't have that problem with Lauren. She had so many aspects to her character that I could relate to. Throughout the book, Lauren's trying to figure out who she is, which is something I think all of us can understand. She also has a love for books (all three of the female characters do), and I love reading about other people who love books.
I felt the same way about Abigail. She was a very relatable character in spite of the fact that she has a lot of money and grew up in a different time period.
Mercy was probably the most fascinating character in the story even though she's been dead a long time when the book is actually taking place. Her diary entries are wonderful, and even though you know it's impossible, you keep hoping that she won't die. She was amazing to read about.
All of the other characters are amazing too. I loved all of them. I think the characters were by far the best part of the book although I also loved reading about the Salem Witch Trials in Mercy's diary. Susan Meissner used a lot of real facts about the trials in the story, and it was fascinating to read about. The diary entries are also extremely emotional (the later ones at least). I read the end of the book at work, and I had to force myself not to cry in case someone walked in and saw me.
I highly recommend this book to everyone. I think even people who don't care at all about history or the Salem Witch Trials would enjoy it. There's just enough history in the story for people like me to enjoy it, but not enough to turn people who hate historical fiction off.
Posted March 31, 2011
Hope and Heartache
I loved The Shape of Mercy through to the very end; in fact I couldn't put it down at the last. As Lauren transcribes the diary of Mercy Hayworth into readable language the character of Mercy comes alive both for Lauren and for the reader.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Toward the beginning of the book there is a hint of the paranormal that I assumed would be developed in the story. It wasn't, and I was slightly disappointed. If the reader knows going in that this angle won't be followed it will be a more comfortable read. Abigail, Lauren, Mercy and the supporting characters are well-crafted and multi-layered. Their thought processes, and characterizations of others show growth and deeper understanding as the story progresses. I admire an author that can show evolution in the characters, and author Susan Meissner earned my esteem.
The Shape of Mercy reminded me of reading a portion of my great, great, great grandmother's diary and finding her come alive in her first person account of her life. The women, both my grandmother and Mercy are not just sepia-toned images in the context of history, but women whose lives promised hope and heartache, just like any other woman in any other slice in history.
Posted March 13, 2011
I. Loved. This. Book. It was awesome. I'm a big fan of Meissner's book Blue Heart Blessed, but I didn't realize it was the same author until I got the book. I was hesitant to read this book. I usually stick with young adult and steer away from romances because I don't want to read about people making out (you'd be surprised at what's in some Christian fiction). But Meissner had just enough romance to make it sweet, no gagging. I immediately wanted to give this to my younger sister to read because she and I both adore The Witch of Blackbird Pond and this book reminded me of it sooooo much. But she's a little younger and I'd put the age range on this book teens to adults.
Lauren was an interesting character. I didn't like and yet I loved her all at the same time. She made some stupid choices, but her character still stayed real and likable. Mercy was awesome. I didn't think that I would like the diary entries but they were the best part! Especially when she wrote about John Peter. *swoon*
All-in-all, I really, really, really liked this book. The characters were awesome, the story was gripping, and I was close to tears several times. Y'all. I never cry when I read books. This one's a keeper.
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
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Posted March 13, 2011
If You Love Diaries Check This One Out!
Lauren Durough is a young woman of privilege who yearns to break out of the wealthy bubble she was born into. In order to prove her worthiness to her dad she decides to attend UC Santa Barbara rather than the usual choice of Stanford where her four male cousins attend. Rather than accepting her dad's money for school Lauren decides to accept a job from old Abigail Boyles. This particular job posting stood out in its personalization of being on pretty stationary and its handwritten words. This wasn't just some job at a coffee shop, but a job to transcribe a three hundred year old diary. The diary of Mercy Hayworth. A victim of the Salem Witch Trials. Lauren's dad is surprised at her choice of a job, but no amount of being deterred is going to stop Lauren from her transcription task. Abigail is an eighty-three year old recluse who takes solace in her mansion. Her favorite room is her large library stuffed in every possible corner with books. The first time Lauren enters Abigail's library she feels claustrophobic. Abigail is excited to share Mercy's diary with Lauren. She makes Lauren promise to not do any outside research until after the diary transcription is complete. Lauren is swept up into Mercy's diary the moment that Abigail takes it out if its protective box and hands Lauren her own pair of white gloves to wear. Mercy's world is full of being a dutiful daughter, ignoring the Salem gossip and taking time to write stories to help ease the pain of loosing her mother and brother years ago to sickness. Lauren is taken with Mercy's story and can't wait to keep coming back to Abigail's to transcribe. When Lauren nears the end of transcribing Abigail disappears. Is there more to the diary than merely Mercy's words? This lovely novel deals with the challenge to be true to yourself when what your family tells you may be different. Both Abigail and Lauren are women of privilege who discover that just because you can buy anything doesn't mean you are happy or that your world is perfect. Both these women are tested to see that whether someone looks rich or poor on the outside it is not who they are on the inside. This book I almost finished in one day. If you have an interest in the Salem Witch Trials I would highly recommend this novel. It is a mixture of mystery, a love story and family drama. It was beautifully penned. It was worth reading every word. I received my free copy of The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner from Waterbrook/Multnomah Press for the strict purposes of posting a review. This is via their Blogging for Books Program and my review is solely mine.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 12, 2011
I have found a new favorite author!
Susan Meissner takes a college student and an eighty-year-old lady in the present, adds the diary of a victim of the Salem witch trials four centuries ago and then builds a connection between them. The themes of choices, stigma, and preconceived notions are developed as these three women "interact" around this special diary.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
The characters are real and complex. I connected with them; I even felt like I knew them. The story is strong and deep and stayed with me after I finished the book. I thought about I how I would have handled things and about what could have happened next. I wished this well crafted tale could have continued. I have found a new favorite author in Susan Meissner!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through Blogging for Books, Waterbrook Multnomah Publisher's book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.
Posted March 3, 2011
This is the second Susan Meissner book that I've read and I absolutely loved it. Her style of writing kept my attention and kept the plot moving along. This is a story that spans two very different time frames and three very similar women. In "The Shape of Mercy," a wealthy college student named Lauren is commissioned to transcribe the diary of a girl who was accused of being a witch in the famous trials of Salem. Lauren is attempting to gain perspective on life and break free of the mold that has been cast for her. As she transcribes, Lauren learns about the woman who has hired her, Abigail, and a relationship that neither expected is formed. In this story, Lauren learns about love, loss, and how to truly live. Meissner artfully wove themes of societal stigmas, mercy and forgiveness together into a wonderful story.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 18, 2011
The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner
This book has brought me to the brink of what it was like through the Salem Witch Trials. This story was so compelling that it resonated long after the last page. It was a haunting story that was full of layers and textures that pulled me out of my world into the forgotten past. Susan Meissner is a well sought out author who has a knack for descriptive theories and what can become of a young woman in the present day.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 16, 2011
Talk about a great novel! I like the fact that its based on 80% true American history, and 20% fiction. Its about a girl who lived in the Puritian times in America, when it was "new", and kept up a diary of her daily happenings, when the Salem witch trials started, & in time it was passed down in the family, & the current owner has a college student transcribe it since its in old text, & the way Susan words the entire book, lays it out, and has play-by-play, is just great! Its a great book for novel lovers, and history buffs to read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 13, 2009
Susan Meissner was a virtual unknown author to me until I picked up her book at the library on a whim. Assuming the book was going to be like all other historical Christian books, I read the first chapter with some hesitancy. I read the first chapter, then the second chapter, then the third chapter. Before I realized it two and a half hours had passed and I was well into the 25th chapter of "Shape of Mercy."Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Ms. Meissner has a great talent of intertwining the lives of three women from different backgrounds and circumstances. Through the eyes and emotions of Lauren Durough, I too began to care a lot for Mercy Hayworth and Abigail Boyles. It wasn't difficult to relate with Lauren and to make the same prejudices of the other characters. Sad as it may be, everyone judges everyone, whether it's by appearance, income, familial background, education, etc. We are blinded by these first impressions and sometimes fail to see the person within.
A worthy book to have in any collection, "Shape of Mercy" will not disappoint and will have you craving for more of Ms. Meissner's works.
Posted August 30, 2009
Salem Witch Trials brought to life
A young woman in college answers an ad for a job that leads her to transcribing an old diary for a very old lady. The diary... from a young woman (Mercy) in the Salem Witch Trials in the 1690s. The old lady (Abigail)... a direct descendant of the diary writer. The young woman (Lauren)... drawn into this job and not willing to stop until it is finished.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
An amazing story which I just loved, I have always been fascinated by the Salem Witch Trials and so I enjoyed digging deeper into that part of history. Just what would make a God-fearing group of people start believing that those that worked with, lived among and were friends of theirs were all of a sudden possessed by the devil? Shape of Mercy goes back and forth from the past to the present yet is easy to follow unlike some books that I have seen employ this technique before. In addition to a great story, Susan throws in some twists and turns that make it impossible to know what exactly will happen or just how it will all end. We see parts of the lives of all 3 women and I just cried and smiled and at the end I was gasping for breath. It was a bittersweet ending (I knew Mercy would die, her life happened hundreds of years before, but I still wasn't really prepared for it) but the journey to get there was so worth it. A beautiful story, expertly told by Susan Meissner - I loved it!
Posted July 22, 2009
Three Histories in One Compelling Novel
I don't often read books that touch my heart so deeply and keep me thinking about them for days afterwards. Shape of Mercy is one. I was touched by both of the stories and all of the characters. I had to keep reminding myself this was a work of fiction. However, Susan Meissner wove historical fact together so well with fiction that it was hard to tell the difference.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
This book is like getting three stories for the price of one. Lauren Durough goes against her life of privilege, family traditions, and her parents' expectations when she takes a job transcribing journals for an aged librarian, Abigail Boyles. The journals belonged to an ancestor of Abigail's, Mercy Hayworth, a victim of the Salem witch trials. As Lauren transcribes the fragile pages and spends hours with Abigail learning tidbits of family information, she is drawn into Mercy's life and tragedy. And, within the pages of a young woman's life story, Lauren finds herself and helps Abigail regain a little bit of who she was.
Susan Meissner did a creative work of art in this novel. She wove history, tragedy, three generations of women's lives into a story with depth that will leave readers touched and searching their own hearts for hidden prejudices, wrong perceptions, and snap judgments. And, when the last page is turned, the book is closed, readers will know they have been entertained, challenged and changed by Susan's words. I highly recommend Shape of Mercy.
Posted June 1, 2009
Captivated me from the beginning
I borrowed this book from the library after reading the positive reviews on this novel and boy do I wish I bought it. This book is great. I was truly into the book from the very beginning and didnt want to put it down. I finished the book in a day in a half and stayed up until almost three in the morning to get it finished. I truly recommend this book to anyone looking for a good read. You will not be disappointed!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 27, 2009
I just read this book in a day. Not something I normally do, but I couldn't put it down. This is the story of two young women, one 18 year old girl living in a Puritan village near Salem town in the 17th century and a 20 year old college student who is transcribing a 300 year old diary. Each girl is dealing with the issue of how society perceives people, whether good or evil, or rich or poor. Both girls love to write.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Mercy is a young woman who is a believer living through a difficult time in American history, the Salem witch trials. She has already lost half her family and her father is ill. She loves to write stories that are constantly flying through her head, but the puritan society frowns upon this. Mercy does not quite fit in the the Puritan society, but there is a young man who cannot keep his eyes off her.
Lauren is a college student from a privileged family who wants to make her own way in life. She answers an add as a literary assistant and is hired to transcribe Mercy's diary. She has no idea how much Mercy's life will affect her own and challenge her own views of how she herself views people.
Susan's writing is just magical. Even though you know from the beginning that Mercy will die in the witch trials, it is still filled with suspense and things turned out in a very surprising way.