Mercy

Mercy

by Lara Santoro
     
 

A transcendent and powerful first novel about two women seeking justice and hope in Africa.

With a swift, compressed narrative style and compassionate vision that recalls the works of Graham Greene, Lara Santoro offers an indelible portrait of Africa in the throes of an epidemic that will ultimately constitute the largest loss of life, love, memory, and

Overview

A transcendent and powerful first novel about two women seeking justice and hope in Africa.

With a swift, compressed narrative style and compassionate vision that recalls the works of Graham Greene, Lara Santoro offers an indelible portrait of Africa in the throes of an epidemic that will ultimately constitute the largest loss of life, love, memory, and hope in modern history.

Anna is an Italian-born journalist based in Kenya. What began as an exploratory three-week tour of Africa has turned into two years of tough assignments and hard living that have provoked a personal crisis: "'We don't do massacres,' Warren, my editor, warned, but what else was there to do? 'Give us the ray of light in the dark,' but there was no light to speak of. The longer I stayed, the angrier I became . . . "

Mercy is the large, flamboyantly dressed African woman who ambushes Anna in the market one day and talks herself into a job as Anna's housemaid. Soon Mercy is organizing interviews for Anna in Nairobi's worst slum and establishing much-needed order in the journalist's disheveled life. While tension and misunderstanding punctuate Anna and Mercy's developing relationship, the two women establish a genuine connection that gives each the courage to battle injustice, greed, and cynicism.

Smart, suspenseful, and ultimately heart-wrenching, Mercy is a powerful tale of moral outrage and personal transformation.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Publishers Weekly

Santoro, who has covered the African AIDS epidemic, evokes the continent's everyday horrors and uncommon moments of grace in decidedly unsentimental prose, and her depiction of international journalists' lifestyles is similarly powerful. ...[T]he characters and their complicated relationships remain stirring until the end.

Booklist, Leah Strauss

"Santoro’s experience as a journalist is evident in her straightforward prose…this debut is a notable tale of contemporary forms of suffering and relationships.”

O Magazine

Africa—anguished, impoverished, monstrously beautiful—takes the measure of every novelist daring enough to confront its mysteries. Lara Santoro's Mercy (Other Press) swirls around a self-immolating Italian-born journalist named Anna, the two wildly attractive men she attracts and deflects, and her self-appointed housekeeper, aforce of nature named Mercy. The urgent message of this gorgeously written novel, which deals head-on with the ravages of AIDS on a continent of grief: Open your eyes and look hard.

Critical Mass (NBCC Blog)

What to Read this Fall: Mercy by Lara Santoro
Santoro has been covering the AIDS pandemic, wars, genocide, famines... Now she's out with a novel about a hard drinking journalist working in Africa. It has some of the obvious Graham Greene echoes, but that's never been a bad thing.

Tampa Tribune Online

[Santoro] pens a tightly written first novel with complex characters and a gripping storyline. While a work of fiction, Santoro's authority comes from personal experience in Africa and her first-hand knowledge of international journalism.

Cleveland Plain Dealer

There's a great tradition of memorable servants in the world's literature, from Jeeves in P.G. Wodehouse's novels to Toundi in "Houseboy" by Ferdinand Oyono. One is tempted to add Lara Santoro's Mercy to that list....Santoro's portrayal of her title character is vivid. Along with Father Anselmo, a cantankerous, rather grubby old priest who works in the slums and celebrates as many as three dozen funeral Masses in a week, Mercy powers the novel and keeps the reader reading.

The Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA)

Mercy is clearly a metaphor for Africa itself. She’s big, colorful, full of life and can’t be ignored. Yet she is vulnerable. When she gets sick, her illness becomes a soapbox for Santoro to use to open larger issues...some of the most thought-provoking and moving writing you’ll ever read.

Taos Daily News

A tough and touching novel...Santoro has a gift for language, description, and honesty...Not only does Santoro write well, but she has the guts and commitment to turn the foul effects of disaster capitalism—pharmaceutical piracy—into a story of Mercy. Lara Santoro is the real thing.

Publishers Weekly

Anna, the Italian-born, Nairobi-based war correspondent and narrator of veteran journalist Santoro's affecting debut novel, is fast succumbing to "the pain and riot" of "burned, bloodied Africa." Excessively drinking, keeping two lovers-one, a fellow journalist; the other, the owner of a coffee plantation-and delaying assignments while pleading with her editor for a bureau transfer, she seems hell-bent on self-annihilation when Mercy, a local "giantess miraculously squeezed into a pink halter-top and fake patent-leather pants," persuades Anna to give her a job as house girl. Mercy becomes indispensable to Anna, pushing her to give up alcohol and meet her deadlines and introducing Anna to Father Anselmo, an Italian priest who lives in and administers to the AIDS-wracked slum of Korogocho. But it is only after Anna learns that Mercy has AIDS that the full measure of the women's connection to and effect upon each other comes full circle. Santoro, who has covered the African AIDS epidemic, evokes the continent's everyday horrors and uncommon moments of grace in decidedly unsentimental prose, and her depiction of international journalists' lifestyles is similarly powerful. Though the subtleties that make the first half of the book sublime become heavy-handed later on, the characters and their complicated relationships remain stirring until the end. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Anna, an Italian journalist based in Kenya, is struggling to find her way. Although she is supposed to be writing articles about Africa, she spends most of her time drinking too much, juggling two men, and avoiding her housekeeper, Mercy, who knows what's best for Anna and tells her frequently. Anna lives life as an observer; drinking becomes a way to avoid coping with men, writing, and human misery (which is epidemic in Africa). When circumstances finally force her to address these issues, she finds that she's lost Mercy-both the person she grew to love and the state of grace she desperately needs-and her struggle to find both is when the true story begins. The story is hard to get into; Anna is prickly, and we can't sympathize with her until the second half of the novel, when the plot becomes more focused and she is faced with a real challenge. This debut is a book of almosts: half of a plot and a shadow of a character nearly make a complete book, but not quite.
—Kellie Gillespie

Kirkus Reviews
The life of a burnt-out, boozy, under-performing journalist in Africa is turned around via her involvement with an AIDS campaigner. In Santoro's erratic debut, the central character, Anna, is stuck in a self-destructive tailspin, although she can still manage bursts of outrage at the tribulations of the African continent. Transferred from Rome to Nairobi by her Boston-based editor, Anna drinks hard and plays off her angry boyfriend Michael against a smooth lover named Nick, under the disapproving eye of her larger-than-life African housekeeper Mercy. A mood of threat and misery hangs over the pages as Anna goes on assignments which offer the reader vignettes of bribery, disease, poverty, violence and plenty of suffering. After Michael is killed in Sierra Leone, Mercy leaves and Anna goes to New York for the funeral, then on to an assignment in Belgrade, to interview a Serbian war criminal. On her return to Nairobi, she resumes the affair with Nick but also discovers that Mercy has AIDS. Now Anna's rage can be applied more effectively, by paying and pressuring for Mercy's treatment which comes-via anti-retroviral drugs-at the eleventh hour. Mercy's return to health transforms her into an impassioned campaigner for cheaper drugs. Anna, reformed, is full of admiration. The campaign peaks with a one-million-woman march, which forces the health minister to act. But his decision to ban imported drugs and start manufacturing cheap copies means there will be a gap in availability, which condemns Mercy to death. She accepts this and so must Anna, who will take care of her children. More persuasive as polemic than as fiction. Agent: Elaine Markson/Elaine Markson Literary Agency

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590512715
Publisher:
Other Press, LLC
Publication date:
09/04/2007
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
5.85(w) x 8.85(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Lara Santoro

Lara Santoro was born in Rome and educated in the U.S. and France. A veteran journalist who has worked for the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek, Santoro has traveled extensively covering wars, famines, and every major aspect of the AIDS epidemic. Mercy is her first novel. She lives in Ranchos de Taos, NM.

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