Under the Mercy Trees: A Novel by Heather Newton | Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Under the Mercy Trees

Under the Mercy Trees

3.9 13
by Heather Newton
     
 

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Thirty years ago, Martin Owenby came to New York City with dreams of becoming a writer. Now his existence revolves around cheap Scotch and weekend flings with equally damaged men. When he learns that his older brother, Leon, has gone missing, he must return to the Owenby farm in Solace Fork, North Carolina, to assist in the search. But that means facing a past

Overview

Thirty years ago, Martin Owenby came to New York City with dreams of becoming a writer. Now his existence revolves around cheap Scotch and weekend flings with equally damaged men. When he learns that his older brother, Leon, has gone missing, he must return to the Owenby farm in Solace Fork, North Carolina, to assist in the search. But that means facing a past filled with regrets, the family that never understood him, the girl whose heart he broke, and the best friend who has faithfully kept the home fires burning. As the mystery surrounding Leon's disappearance deepens, so too does the weight of decades-long unresolved differences and unspoken feelings—forcing Martin to deal with the hardest lessons about home, duty, and love.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Newton delivers a stirring debut novel told from the perspectives of four central characters embroiled in a family drama that spans generations and is riddled with defensive secrecy and emotional penury in equal measure. After the disappearance of Leon Owenby, his younger brother and central narrator, Martin, returns to the family's Willoby County, N.C., mountain town from his life as a destitute writer in New York City to aid in the search for Leon and support his other siblings. The year is 1986; Martin leaves behind his ex-lover, Dennis, and their many friends sick and dying from AIDS. Back home, he must face his painful past, his extended family to whom he is closeted, and his high school girlfriend (who still carries a torch for him). Many months of searching reveal more about the searchers than about Leon; the secrets and resentments in the Owenby family run deep and bubble to the surface unexpectedly. It's problematic that with so many family issues coming to light, Martin's sexuality is ignored and remains a secret, but Newton's use of multiple viewpoints and distinct voices is adept and lively, and helps to fill in the thin premise of Leon's disappearance. With many novels of this construction, a reader tends to favor one voice over the rest. Not so here; Newton delivers across the board with these characters, who run the gamut from perky to depressive, desperate to schizophrenic. (Jan.)
Booklist (starred review)
“A melancholy mood suffuses Newton’s nimble debut.... [An] eloquent, sorrowful novel.... Readers of both Pat Conroy, on one hand, and Carson McCullers, on the other, will relish Newton’s flawed characters and piquant portrayal of small town life.”
Booklist
"A melancholy mood suffuses Newton’s nimble debut.... [An] eloquent, sorrowful novel.... Readers of both Pat Conroy, on one hand, and Carson McCullers, on the other, will relish Newton’s flawed characters and piquant portrayal of small town life."
Tom Franklin
“A novel that seamlessly, beautifully, twines past with present to show how we can never escape our histories or the deeds—good and bad—that create those histories. The powerful, swelling conclusion of this book raised gooseflesh on my arms and had me near tears. ”
Robin Antalek
Under The Mercy Trees will take your breath away.... A remarkable debut by a writer who captures with her words the beauty in the ugly and forgiveness in the unrepentant.”
Jill McCorkle
Under the Mercy Trees is an amazing novel, driven by mystery, and weaving past and present stories into an intricate and mesmerizing design.... An extraordinary piece of work.”
Sandra Dallas
“A brilliantly crafted novel of a complex family bound by love and hate, hope and regret, a family that must come to terms with each other and in the process, forgive themselves. You’ll find a bit of your own family there and perhaps something of yourself.”
Tommy Hays
Under the Mercy Trees offers eloquent evidence that nothing is or ever will be as dramatic as family.... [A] stunningly beautiful book…. Newton has rendered her characters’ world with clear-eyed compassion and in so doing delivered one sweet ache of a novel.”
Library Journal
Martin Ownby is a debt-ridden, gay alcoholic writer living in Manhattan who has always avoided going home to Willoby County, NC. But when his older brother, Leon, disappears from the old homestead, Martin accepts a community college teaching job and steps back into the family fray. His sister, Ivy, is a diagnosed schizophrenic who sees and converses with family ghosts. Bertie, his sister-in-law, holds onto an old secret about Leon and tiptoes around the obvious clues that her youngest son, Bobby, may have done Leon harm. For Martin, there is much unfinished business to settle with Liza, his best friend in high school who has never really gotten over her unrequited love for him. VERDICT Told from these four characters' points of view, this first novel builds nicely toward many revelations and resolutions. Newton is skilled at revealing a world of hurt, and fans of family dramas will appreciate it.—Keddy Ann Outlaw, formerly with Harris Cty. P.L., TX

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062001344
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
01/18/2011
Pages:
344
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

What People are saying about this

Tommy Hays
Under the Mercy Trees offers eloquent evidence that nothing is or ever will be as dramatic as family.... [A] stunningly beautiful book…. Newton has rendered her characters’ world with clear-eyed compassion and in so doing delivered one sweet ache of a novel.”
Robin Antalek
Under The Mercy Trees will take your breath away.... A remarkable debut by a writer who captures with her words the beauty in the ugly and forgiveness in the unrepentant.”
Sandra Dallas
“A brilliantly crafted novel of a complex family bound by love and hate, hope and regret, a family that must come to terms with each other and in the process, forgive themselves. You’ll find a bit of your own family there and perhaps something of yourself.”
Tom Franklin
“A novel that seamlessly, beautifully, twines past with present to show how we can never escape our histories or the deeds—good and bad—that create those histories. The powerful, swelling conclusion of this book raised gooseflesh on my arms and had me near tears. ”
Jill McCorkle
Under the Mercy Trees is an amazing novel, driven by mystery, and weaving past and present stories into an intricate and mesmerizing design.... An extraordinary piece of work.”

Meet the Author

Heather Newton's short stories have appeared in Crucible, Encore, Wellspring, and elsewhere She lives with her family in Asheville, North Carolina, where she is an attorney and mediator.

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