Mercy House

Mercy House

by Alena Dillon


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“Never underestimate the power of a group of women. Fierce, thoughtful and dramatic—this is a story of true courage." —Susan Wiggs, New York Times bestselling author

She would stop at nothing to protect the women under her care.

Inside a century-old row house in Brooklyn, renegade Sister Evelyn and her fellow nuns preside over a safe haven for the abused and abandoned. Gruff and indomitable on the surface, warm and wry underneath, little daunts Evelyn, until she receives word that Mercy House will be investigated by Bishop Hawkins, a man with whom she shares a dark history. In order to protect everything they’ve built, the nuns must conceal many of their methods, which are forbidden by the Catholic Church.

Evelyn will go to great lengths to defend all that she loves. She confronts a gang member, defies the church, challenges her own beliefs, and faces her past. She is bolstered by the other nuns and the vibrant, diverse residents of the shelter—Lucia, Mei-Li, Desiree, Esther, and Katrina—whose differences are outweighed by what unites them: they’ve all been broken by men but are determined to rebuild.

Amidst her fight, Evelyn discovers the extraordinary power of mercy and the grace it grants, not just to those who receive it, but to those strong enough to bestow it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062914804
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/11/2020
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 12,753
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Alena Dillon's work has appeared in Slice Magazine, The Rumpus, and Seventh Wave, among others. She earned her MFA from Fairfield University. Mercy House is her debut novel. She lives on the north shore of Boston with her husband, son, and their black labrador, Penny.

Customer Reviews

Mercy House: A Novel 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Robin Richgruber 3 months ago
I couldn't decide how to say how this story so drew me in. The characters so well formed. Their stories so intertwined and moving. I quite literally couldn't put the book down and read it straight through.
jeanette maness 27 days ago
Anonymous 29 days ago
Thank you to NetGalley and The Book Club Girls for the opportunity to review this ARC ebook! Mercy House is a touching story about 3 nuns who run a safe house/group home for abused women that is open to new arrivals anytime, day or night. It so was heartwarming to read about how they found and helped each of the women in their care, but as a warning, some of their stories are quite disturbing and told in graphic detail. Sister Evelyn is the main character and I admired her bravery so many times throughout the book. She was forced to make hard choices that sometimes went against what she had been taught as a nun, and against the rules of the Catholic church when she felt it best served the women she was called to help. I thought the author did a good job showing how people of faith have to sometimes put religion and rules aside to truly follow Christ and care for His people. When a Bishop comes to inspect the house, the sisters have to answer for the choices they have made. I don't want to say too much but there were many controversial issues brought up that will likely make some people uncomfortable, especially Catholic readers. I think these issues would make for some really great "what would you have done in that situation" book club discussions and I will definitely be recommending this to my book club friends!
Karen-M 29 days ago
I know of someone who started to read the same ebook and she chose not to continue to read because she said she could see where the book was going, bashing the Catholic Church. I don’t feel the same and I wish she had finished the book. I think this a book that each person who reads it will have a range of reactions and emotions because this is a story of tragedy and hope, secrets and how they damage those who hold them, how mistakes follow you through life and continue to affect you. It is also how adversity can make you stronger and smarter and give you a desire for a better future. Troubled young women and a nun who reaches out to help them in whatever way they need. Putting the needs of these girls before the Church’s beliefs is at the center of what occurs. I read this book in two days because I could not put it down. It is a powerful story with sharply defined characters. I congratulate the author on writing such an significant book. Thank you to HarperCollins Publishers for the ebook ARC you so kindly offered in exchange for an unbiased review.
JillMlibrarian 3 months ago
In a world seemingly full of predators, one brave nun of nearly 70, Sister Evelyn, protects her traumatized and diverse little flock of women with everything she’s got. Mercy House is a battered women’s shelter in Brooklyn, run by nuns, that is both being investigated by an arrogant bishop and threatened by a violent gang leader whose girlfriend has found shelter under its slightly shabby eaves. Between the bishop and the gang leader, Evelyn has far more reason to fear the bishop, who has returned from Evelyn’s days as a young novitiate like a dark shadow. Bishop Hawkins seems determined to close down Mercy House for being too “radically feminist.” Evelyn does come to face her own sins, but they are not the wrongs she’s accused of by the Catholic Church and sometimes by the public. I rarely find a character in a novel who makes me laugh, cry, and cheer out loud. Sister Evelyn is a rousing, radical literary hero of heart-stirring courage, brought to life on the page with great skill by Alena Dillon, and I couldn’t put “Mercy House” down. I received an advanced readers copy of this book from the publisher and Netgalley and was encouraged to submit an honest review.
AZJen81 3 months ago
As a lapsed Catholic, I really enjoyed this perspective on the inner workings of the Church. Evelyn was such a wonderful character and embodied what you would hope a Christian would be. I loved meeting all of the girls staying in Mercy House and enjoyed the plot. It was a well-paced and well-written book. I received a complimentary ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Honolulubelle 3 months ago
Favorite Quotes: Ever since Evelyn entered the convent fifty years ago and was required to rise with the sun, she worshipped sleep like it was a false god. She’d never been to Rome, she’d never met the current Pontiff, and she had virtually no desire to do so. Pope Benedict XVI wore red velvet capes with ermine fur trim. He commissioned his own cologne, which Evelyn called Pope-pourri. He was chauffeured around in a Mercedes… That lavish lifestyle bore little resemblance to her experience in Bedford-Stuyvesant… She spread her lips into a smile so artificial it insulted her cheeks. The evangelical minister Pat Robertson said Haitians are paying for their sins with that 7.0 magnitude quake. I am terrified that he is right. Sister Evelyn came downstairs in the middle of the night and found me in the living room rewatching clips of Pat Robertson,… “Don’t you listen to that giant-eared moron. He’s equal parts hate and insanity,” she said. Desiree’s current johns were low-income, most surviving on government subsidies. She aspired to move up the ranks and become a high-class call girl, a corporate lady of the night, from streetwalker to Wall Street. You couldn’t claim Desiree wasn’t ambitious. “I’m like a Cadillac. This ride is built for comfort.” Desiree swiveled her hips and then took a comically large bite of her sandwich. “More like a Lincoln Town Car. Room for the whole family,” Lucia said and slapped Desiree’s backside. My Review: My heart was seriously bruised and battered while reading this highly evocative and stunningly crafted tale of an elderly hard-working yet disillusioned nun. She had been repeatedly sexually abused by a priest as a novice and never told anyone, now fifty years later he was the bishop who was sent to investigate and interrogate with the singular purpose of closing down her abused women’s shelter. Oh, the irony. And I do loves me some clever irony. This was my first exposure to the brilliant wordcraft of Alena Dillon and I was quickly caught up in her mesmerizing and powerful word voodoo and sucked into a heart-squeezing vortex that transported me to a run-down dwelling with an angel knocker on Mercy Street in Brooklyn, New York. I inhabited that residence with an oddly and uniquely compelling hodgepodge of residents, each with a troubling and heartbreaking past as well as an equally challenging present. The storylines were gripping and taut with tension, frustration, disheartening circumstances, despair, and eye-opening revelations. I was continually struck by the quality and perceptiveness of the writing, which was staggeringly emotive, skillfully assembled, and laced with insightful observations and descriptions of the various types of pain – body, mental, emotional, and of the psyche. I grew to appreciate each of these complicated women, especially the mouthy ones. And going forward, I will never look at a can of Lysol the same way ever again.
Denice_L 3 months ago
This book has so many unique stories, it is hard to say which was more compelling. Centering around Mercy House, a shelter for women needing protection from their loved ones, Alena Dillon has given us a deeply moving cast of characters. From the nuns who keep Mercy House open and have their own personal lessons that drove them to join the Catholic Church, to the residents who have turned to the church sponsored home when they had no other choices plus church representatives whose motivations are suspect, these characters are real. Their back stories will break your heart and leave you thinking about this book for quite awhile after you finish.
Nursebookie 3 months ago
Mercy House by Alena Dillon What an amazing story and an amazing debut by Alena Dillon. Jumping into this book, I was not sure I would be interested in reading about the Catholic Church and the religious cover up as part of its dark history. However, I was completely wrong. I loved the story of a renegade and badass nun unlike those I have had in my parochial school. Sister Evelyn, our protagonist and once a nurse, runs the Mercy House, located in Brooklyn, a safe haven for the abused and mistreated women with nowhere to go. Along with Sister Maria and Sister Josephine, they will go to lengths to protect those under their care. Sister Evelyn’s father placed her in the convent as a promise to God for sparing his son from death. Though this was not Evelyn’s choice, she accepted being a nun to please and gain her father’s good graces. The Mercy House is under scrutiny and is set to be visited by Bishop Hawkins who shares a dark history with Evelyn. The sisters’ unconventional methods were put into question by the church and leads to Sister Evelyn’s position within the Catholic Church. Dillon’s gift is writing these formidable characters that were amazing - from the sisters and the residents of Mercy House, you will find an attachment for them and grow to love them. The story moved fast and the plot grips you so much that you have to know what will happen next. Sister Evelyn truly is an unlikely heroine you will love! She does not conform, is lead by her heart and common sense, not outdated rules created by men in one of the largest institutions in the world, and she is loving, forgiving and for the lack of a better word, a Badass Nun! I highly recommend this book for its amazing storyline, easy to read, great dialogue, strong women, and puts face front the history of abuse and sexism in the Catholic Church in a way that is not preachy but thoughtful and heart warming.
Vicki Saia 3 months ago
I really loved this book and was unable to to put it down.
KerryACroucier 3 months ago
MERCY HOUSE by Alena Dillon is an intense, well-written novel that is sure to cause a bit of controversy, especially for those raised in the Catholic Church and still believe that the Church can do no wrong. Mercy House is a home run by three nuns to give a safe haven to women who have suffered abuse and have no place to turn. Sister Evelyn and her two fellow nuns do what they think is best for these women, even if it conflicts with the Catholic Church and its teachings. Things are going well until the Church decides to take a closer look at Mercy House. Told mainly from Sister Evelyn’s point-of-view, the story is interspersed with chapters told by the current residents, giving a glimpse of the women and how they ended up needing Mercy House. Sister Evelyn is strong and has come up with some unconventional ways to keep Mercy House When the Church sends a Bishop to look into Mercy House and make recommendations, it’s clear he has his own agenda and history with Sister Evelyn and others in the neighborhood safe. When Bishop Robert Hawkins arrives for his investigation into Mercy House and to make his recommendations, it’s clear he has his own agenda and a history with Sister Evelyn. Sister Evelyn is a complex character shaped by her family from the beginning, when her father makes his bargain with God, and continuing through her life as she trains and ultimately becomes a nun. She has her secrets, buried deep, and her feelings toward her family colored by her own perceptions and feelings. It was interesting to watch how the events unfolded and how Sister Evelyn came to understand that her thoughts and feelings of the past and her family may have been skewed by her perceptions and how she dealt with the revelations. MERCY HOUSE is a well-written and engrossing novel that delves into the changes, difficulties, and abuses Nuns faced as they navigated changes in the Church and their place in it and society. It’s an intense read and it surprised me how quickly and thoroughly I became engrossed. If you are sensitive to descriptions of sexual abuse, both of adult women and children, you may have a hard time reading it. This was a serious read, so it seems frivolous to say I enjoyed it, but the writing was excellent and the characters well-drawn. I highly recommend this to anyone who is looking for something just a little different and unexpected. Thank you to NetGalley for my advanced review copy. All opinions and thoughts are my own. #MercyHouse #AlenaDillon #WilliamMorrow#NetGalley #TheBookClubGirls
Anonymous 4 months ago
SilversReviews 4 months ago
Evelyn was never wanted. Her father even bargained with God to bring his son home from the war, and he would put Evelyn in a convent. Evelyn's brother did come home, and she did go to the convent. Her time in the convent wasn't pleasant. Evelyn saw and endured unpleasant things. After a few years, she and a few of her fellow nuns opened a shelter in Brooklyn that housed girls suffering from domestic abuse and abandonment. The red door with the angel knocker was a welcome refuge. This refuge is threatened when one of the bishops from Evelyn's past who holds a grudge against her arrives to see exactly what they do at the women's shelter and threatens to shut it down. We follow Evelyn as she worries about the fate of the house and about the girls inside....what if they say the wrong thing while Father Hawkins is interviewing them? How will she keep them safe and keep Mercy House open if he finds damning evidence whether real or made up? Evelyn was a very strong, feisty, but sad woman who would do or say anything to protect the girls she was helping. I really liked her. Sister Maria and Sister Josephine were very likeable. The girls at the home were rough but likeable. Bishop Hawkins was despicable. Be aware that there are some upsetting and coarse situations addressed in MERCY HOUSE, but it was an educational read and one that will be enjoyed by women's fiction fans. Historical fiction fans will also enjoy this book. Well written with authentic characters. 5/5 This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
brf1948 4 months ago
I received a free electronic ARC copy of this modern novel from Netgalley, Alena Dillon, and William Morrow Paperbacks. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me. I have read this novel of my own volition, and this review reflects my honest opinion of this work. I am pleased to recommend Alena Dillon to friends and family. She writes a warm, positive tale peopled with complex but enjoyable protagonists and shines a light on empathy and sensitivity. Set in 2010, Mercy House follows three Catholic nuns who have made a place for themselves in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn for 26 years, from Vatican I when they wore traditional black woolen 'nun' layers of uniform and were completely silenced in the workplace and lifestyle of women, through Vatican II when they wore an abbreviated veil and calf-length clothing and into the present day where they wear conservative street clothing - and are still stifled when policies and regulations and freedoms of women in general and Catholic women, in particular, are in question. We enter the world of not only these ladies of the church but those of their focus for Mercy House - women escaping from abusive relationships and domestic violence who need a safe haven, of which there have been hundreds over the 26 years of the presence of Mercy House at 284 Chauncey Street, Brooklyn. The Angel doorknocker is the only indication that good works take place in this five-bedroom, 100-year-old rowhouse. Of the Order of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Mercy, we have Sister Evelyn, 'Evie', now 69 and hobbling with widespread gouty arthritis. She achieved a Masters in Nursing and worked for many years for the church in that capacity. Evelyn was pledged at four years old to the sisterhood by her hooligan father. When her health began to slow her down, she was the driving force in opening and keeping the doors open at Mercy House. Sister Maria was responsible for most of the cooking, which included healthy snacks to be passed out around the neighborhood, and a daily ritual of Reiki on a pad atop the kitchen table for the Sisters and residents as well. Sister Maria joined the sisterhood after a childhood that included the repeated viewing of The Sound of Music and The Flying Nun, but she always had a smile and made the best of every day. Sister Josephine entered the Order in the years before Vatican II and found comfort in the rituals and pageantry of the Church and its devotion to knowledge. She was able to use the Sisterhood as a bridge to higher education, and in her lifetime she earned a doctorate in theology and two master's degrees, one in nursing and one in philosophy. These ladies offered compassion, health care, and a bolthole to women, usually young, who are in danger from their life partner. Occasionally hard-drawn religious 'laws' have to be softened or erased, and each person helped at Mercy House has a unique need for the type of help and understanding that will get their lives back on track. The Vatican didn't always see it, that way. And Bishop Robert Hawkins comes into the picture, wanting nothing so much as to stifle Sister Evelyn, for good. She has personal knowledge of his lechery back in the day and is not ashamed to expose him. He has threatened to expose Father John, the priest at the local church who is a childhood friend of Evelyns. John will be labeled a homosexual if Evelyn shares anything of Hawkins misdeeds of long ago. Will he be able to shut
AliciaSplendeur 4 months ago
In the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn stands a century-old row house presided over by renegade, silver-haired Sister Evelyn. Gruff and indomitable on the surface, warm and wry underneath, Evelyn and her fellow sisters makes Mercy House a safe haven for the abused and abandoned. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn of how Sister Evelyn become a nun, what lead her to open Mercy House and her secret efforts to help the women who land on her doorstep even if it is forbidden by the church. We also meet the current women residing in the home and the circumstances that lead them there. The villain is Bishop Hawk. He's there to investigate Mercy House and the nuns. He's looking for any reason to shut them down. The beginning of the book starts off with a new girl showing up in the middle of the night. As Sister Evelyn moves through the next day to figure out how serious the situation is with the newest arrival you get a first-hand look at how she gets information around the neighborhood. She's a staple of her community. She's a feminist looking out for other women even if it might not be approved by the church. That appealed to my Catholic raised rebellious nature. I also loved seeing the sisters as regular women who smoked, drank and practiced other methods of healing, like reiki. The women they helped were colorful and realistic. Their stories made me feel sad and angry for them. One assault, in particular, left me feeling nauseous. As I neared the end of the book I wasn't sure where it would end. But overall this was a very good read. #MercyHouse #NetGalley
LoriKB 4 months ago
As with all big corporations, it starts out with an idea that needs to be taken to the next level but those that believe in this passion. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way greed, power and ego rear its ugly head and man takes over. In view of the recent troubles within the Catholic Church, I found this book compelling, well researched and extremely sad. Years ago, boys and girls entered the convent before they could figure out who they were or to squelch who they were, or put in the church due to too family obligations. Mercy House is a safe house for battered and abandoned women, run by 3 nuns, headed by Sister Evelyn, a kick-ass renegade, who understands that the role is not back or white, but many shades of grey. I fell in love with these forward-thinking older women, so unlike the nuns I remember from my parochial school days. This debut novel is not for the faint-of-heart, or for those looking for a light read. It will evoke many emotions...anger, sadness, disgust, redemption. It held my attention from start to finish. Please read with an open mind! Born and raised Catholic, this story ripped my heart out. I am happy to say that I have not know anyone like the hierarchy in this book, but believe wholeheartedly these problems exist and are just now coming to light. I thought the Mother Superior was to point. I am a ambivalent about the ending, but you can decide for yourself. Thanks to Harper Collins Publishing, William Morrow Paperbacks, Alena Dillon and NetGalley for this ARC. Opinion is mine alone.
PhyllisJonesPisanelli 4 months ago
Awe inspiring. That is exactly what I think of Mercy House by Anna Dillon. I not only fell in love with the nuns in her book, I was in awe of their caring and understanding of the work they were doing to help other women who needed shelter and healing.  I was raised in the catholic church but left as an adult. I had an aunt that was sent to the convent by her father when she was 16 years old. She was older than Sister Evelyn but, also, experienced the transition from Vatican I to Vatican ll. She chose to leave during that transition. I learned a lot from this book about the suppression of the nuns by the men who run the Catholic church from the Pope down. It spoke of sexual abuse, rape and homosexuality within the church. We have all heard of the priests that were protected by the church.  This book made me sad, mad and happy. I cried and I laughed and even found myself praying for the church and its people. I don't think I have ever read a book that has hit me as hard in the heart as this book did. It is written with so much compassion and love. I can't say enough about Mercy House. Anna Dillon wrote a remarkable, historical debut novel.  I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for Fair and honesty review.
Susanlibgirl 4 months ago
This was a great book! Sister Evelyn is a brave, amazing character! It is very well written with many interesting characters and great character development. A book about the plight of women, a great book club selection. Thank toy to NetGalley and the publisher for this book
marongm8 4 months ago
This book was received as an ARC from HarperCollins Publishers - William Morrow Paperbacks in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. I am all about women standing up for their rights even if it means going against the law of the church in doing what's right in their heart. Mercy House was such an awe-inspiring, jaw dropping novel filled with controversial topics turned interesting and exciting. I also love it when you learn new concepts and topics and the struggles Evelyn had to go through the and fight she took to defend her rights was motivational and inspiring to read with some meaningful life lessons to pass on and teach through and through. We will consider adding this title to our Fiction collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
Anonymous 4 months ago
I did enjoy this book by Alena Dillon, but the topic in “Mercy House” was a little troublesome for me to read in the beginning. The author really used her words perfectly, though, to make you want to see what happens next. It is so heartbreaking to know that society “turns the other way” and allows men to be so controlling over women. The women in the story had to endure so much abuse it sometimes just had my emotions going unhinged from being sad to getting angry at “why” is this happening? The novel also details a lot of the Catholic religion controversies. Mercy House is a safe-haven for young women needing to escape from being victims of violence and emotional abuse. I loved the three nuns that took these young women in; each nun having their own unique personality. The young women are welcomed with open arms, and are loved and protected by the nuns as if they were their own. As Evelyn says, “...if a child was taken out to sea, would a mother not swim after her because she wasn't a lifeguard?” Evelyn is the main character that leads the operation of Mercy House, but has a dark past herself. She knows what these girls need to survive. Her character shows some unconventional ways of being a nun, though, which eases the reader's emotions; giving a little comic relief. Alena is an outstanding, powerful writer. I appreciate her courage in sharing this story for all to read. If you are a strong Catholic, this book may be difficult to read for some, though. I recommend this book for anyone wanting a story of what courageous, strong, and persistent women can do. Thank you, Alena and Goodreads for giving me the opportunity to read an ARC of this book. It is incredible that it is a debut book and I hope we see more of Alena's work!
GayleT00000 4 months ago
This book reads like a series of short stories about Sister Evelyn and the other nuns, and the inhabitants of Mercy House, a home for women who, for numerous reasons, have nowhere else to go, but it isn't a book of short stories. Rather, it is more of a diary of the events of the lives of the people who populate this book. Sister Evelyn has carried a burden with her for decades and it dictates that she take in young women who have nowhere to go, young women who have been sexually used and abused. And now, Mercy House is about to receive someone from Sister Evelyn's past who could take away everything that the nuns at Mercy House have worked so hard to accomplish. Sister Evelyn also carries a secret that we don't learn about until the end of the book. But "Mercy House" is not without humor, provided mainly by Sister Evelyn herself, who looks at life in and out of the convent with a rather jaundiced eye. She's not particularly impressed with the rules and regulations put upon her and her sister Sisters. She humorously bends and breaks rules with regularity. This is one of the better books I've read lately and I highly recommend it!
Kwpat 4 months ago
I was totally engrossed in the first fifty percent of Mercy House. I thought Sister Evelyn was a strong character. Dillon did a good job showing the changes for nuns in the Catholic Church from the 1960s to the 1990’s. The nuns of Mercy House were truly caring and believed in their mission to help women who were abused. I felt the second half went in too many directions and felt the ending was weak. Thank you NetGalley and William Morrow Paperbacks for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
lauriesophee 4 months ago
Ever wonder what Nuns think or do? Are they human or above? A wonderful novel! Mercy House is a women's home of safety, love and trust in NYC. Sister Evelyn runs this home for women and does it with gusto! She is 69 and has built the wall to forget her own hurt through the years, but advocates for her residents with the heart of a lion. She is well aware of the embarrassment of the girls. There are many, who have knocked on the door here and have been cared for and assisted on the path to independence. When the Bishop makes a visit to inspect the records, he elects to close the doors of the dwelling and to excommunicate Sr. Evelyn for going against Catholic jurisdiction. Why? This is only the beginning! What will happen when the truth comes forth? I worked in a convent and the stories I have been told from years ago, truly are similar to this plot setting and these nuns. I loved Sr. Evelyn and I am quite sure you will too! excellent!