Mercy

Mercy

by Jodi Picoult

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101549537
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/08/1996
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 509
Sales rank: 1,182
File size: 540 KB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Jodi Picoult is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty novels, including Small Great Things, Leaving Time, The Storyteller, Lone Wolf, Sing You Home, House Rules, Handle with Care, Change of Heart, Nineteen Minutes, and My Sister’s Keeper. She is also the author, with daughter Samantha van Leer, of two young adult novels, Between the Lines and Off the Page. Picoult lives in New Hampshire.

Hometown:

Hanover, New Hampshire

Date of Birth:

May 19, 1966

Place of Birth:

Nesconset, Long Island, NY

Education:

A.B. in Creative Writing, Princeton University; M.A. in Education, Harvard University

Read an Excerpt

“Picoult writes with a fine touch, a sharp eye for detail, and a firm grasp of the delicacy and complexity of human relationships.”

The Boston Globe

Praise for Jodi Picoult and Mercy

“An inspired meditation on love. . . . Picoult pays loving attention to her central characters, fashioning a sensitive exploration of the balance of love.”

Publishers Weekly

Plain Truth

A People magazine “Page-Turner of the Week”

“[A] suspenseful, richly layered drama. . . . From the very start, Picoult draws readers in. . . . Impressive. . . . Picoult’s seventh novel never loses its grip. The research is convincing, the plotting taut, the scenes wonderfully vivid. . . . [An] absorbing, multidimensional portrait of an Amish clan. . . . A hummer of a tale.”

People (starred review)

“Absorbing and affecting.”

Entertainment Weekly

“Appealing, suspenseful. . . . Reads like a cross between the Harrison Ford movie Witness and Scott Turow’s novel Presumed Innocent, with a dose of television’s The Practice thrown in to spice up the legal dilemmas.”

The Arizona Republic

“A magnificently painted backdrop and distinctive characters.”

Publishers Weekly

“[Picoult’s] novels never disappoint the reader. Plain Truth is no exception. . . . The ending [is] extremely clever and delightfully surprising.”

—Ann Hood, The Providence Sunday Journal

“[A] well-paced story, which focuses on a unique way of life. . . . Her courtroom scenes are exciting and realistic.”

Library Journal

“Jodi Picoult is a gifted storyteller whose compelling works profoundly impact her audience. . . . [A] warm, insightful novel.”

The Midwest Book Review

Acclaim for the Previous Fiction of Jodi Picoult

“So good that we can’t put it down. It is suspenseful, intelligently written, topical.”

Detroit Free Press

“Addictively readable, raising valid questions about religion without getting maudlin. For a novel, that in itself is a miracle.”

Entertainment Weekly

“Picoult offers a perfectly pitched take on the great mysteries of the heart. Her best yet.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Makes you wonder about God. And that is a rare moment, indeed, in modern fiction.”

USA Today

“Caramel-smooth prose.”

The New York Times Book Review

“Picoult is a writer of high energy and conviction. . . . She forges a finely honed, commanding, and cathartic drama.”

Booklist

“Anyone who doubts that there is any more vivid, original fiction being written must read The Pact. Jodi Picoult has written a truly fine book.”

—Anne Rivers Siddons

“[Picoult has] a remarkable ability to make us share her characters’ feelings.”

People

ALSO BY JODI PICOULT

 

The Tenth Circle

Vanishing Acts

My Sister’s Keeper

Second Glance

Perfect Match

Salem Falls

Plain Truth

Keeping Faith

The Pact

Picture Perfect

Harvesting the Heart

Songs of the Humpback Whale

mercy

Jodi Picoult

G. P. Putnam's Sons
New York

G. P. Putnam's Sons

Publishers Since 1838

200 Madison Avenue

New York, NY 10016

 

Copyright © 1996 by Jodi Picoult

All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

Published simultaneously in Canada

 

This is a work of fiction. The events and characters portrayed are imaginary. Their resemblance, if any, to real-life counterparts is entirely coincidental.

 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

 

Picoult, Jodi, date.

Mercy / Jodi Picoult.

p. cm.

ISBN 9781101549537

I. Euthanasia-Massachusetts-Fiction. 2. Police-Massachusetts-Fiction. I. Title.

PS3566.I372M47 1996 95-26605 CIP

813'.54-dc20

I’m indebted—again—to Ina Gravitz and Dr. James Umlas. Thanks also to Fran Kaszuba, Christopher Gentile, Aaron Belz, Laura Gross, Laura Yorke, Jane Picoult, Jon Picoult, and Paul Constantino, chief of police in Sterling, Massachusetts. Hats off to Andrea Greene Goldman, legal guru, who didn’t mind consultations at midnight and who graciously waived her hourly fee. And special thanks to my husband, Tim van Leer, who gave me fly-fishing lessons on our perfectly dry back lawn, and all the time I needed to write.

For Hal and Bess Friend, my grandparents, with love.

I could write volumes about how much you both mean to me.

What power has love but forgiveness?

In other words

by its intervention

what has been done

can be undone.

What good is it otherwise?

—William Carlos Williams,
“Asphodel, That Greeny Flower”

When she had packed all the artifacts that made up their personal history into liquor store boxes, the house became strictly a feminine place. She stood with her hands on her hips, stoically accepting the absence of old Boston Celtics coasters and the tangle of fishing poles, the old dartboard from a Scots pub, the toolbox and downhill skis, the silky patterned ties which sat in the base of one box like a writhing mass of snakes. Without these things, one tended to notice the bright eyelet curtains, the vase filled with yawning crocuses, a needlepoint pillow. True, it looked more like a scene from a Martha Stewart magazine than a home, but that was to be expected.

She packed away the matching mugs hand-lettered with their names, and the video camera they’d bought for their last anniversary, and a framed sampler some relative had stitched to commemorate their wedding. She painstakingly dismantled the frame of the big brass bed, lugging the pieces into the living room until all that remained was a thick and silent mattress.

She thanked God, and in advance, the groundhog, for the unseasonably warm day. When it hit 50 degrees in the shallows of January, people came out of their houses, and the more people to venture outside, the more people there would be for the sale. She dragged the boxes outside and turned them over and arranged the items on top of them. She ran a line between the two elm trees in the front yard and neatly hung his clothes up, even his spare and dress uniforms, She emptied his bedroom drawers and organized the things she found in smaller cartons: socks, ten pairs, for fifty cents; sweatshirts, two for a dollar. She set the bed up behind her folding chair, where she wouldn’t have to see it.

She went back into the house for a final quick check, since curious neighbors were already milling on the front lawn. The walls were bare of his ancestral paraphernalia. The living room seemed empty, now that his old leather wing chair was sitting in front of the azaleas. Overall, the house looked much like her apartment had eight years ago, before she had met him.

There was only one thing left in the house that reminded her of him. It was the panel of stained-glass, the daffodils on a blue border, that he’d given her just a few months before. She stopped in the bedroom doorway, staring as the sun filtered through it and burned the colors and pattern onto the mattress. When he gave it to her that day, she’d held it up to the light, turning it back and forth, until his hands had come over hers, stilling. “Be careful,” he had said. “It’s fragile. See the soft lead? It bends. It can break.”

She wondered why she had not perceived that conversation then the same way she did now: as a shrill and distant warning. Instead she had only smiled at him, smiled and said that she knew this; that of course, she understood.

Glancing around her, she took a quick calculation of what had sold, what still remained. The strongbox in her lap held over seven hundred dollars at last count; she could easily believe that half of the people in the town had stopped by at some point to browse, if not to buy. The fishing tackle and his grandfather’s bamboo fly rod had been among the first things to go. All of his suits were gone. The head teacher at the nursery school had bought every last uniform, saying the four-year-olds loved to play policeman, and wouldn’t this be a wonderful addition to the dress-up corner?

The only things left were his boxer shorts—she supposed they would have to be sent to Goodwill—and a stack of travel magazines that she’d found quite by accident behind his band saw. Inspired, she stood up and took the stack, then walked to the edge of the driveway. She handed the one on top—blue ocean, white beach, “200 Top Caribbean Hotels”—to a man with a little girl in tow. “Thank you for stopping by,” she said, offering the magazine like a theater Playbill, or a parting gift.

At ten past five, she sat down on her folding chair. She remembered reading once about tribal Indian societies centuries earlier, in which women had the power to divorce a husband simply by stacking his shoes outside a tipi. She pressed her knees together and tried not to think about the sun that was blinding her eyes and giving her a headache.

Her husband drove up at 5:26. “Hi,” he said. “I made good time.”

She did not say anything.

He glanced at the overturned boxes, the pile of underwear to the left of her feet, the bare strung clothesline, the box on her lap. “Getting rid of some stuff? It was a good day for a garage sale.”

She did not turn to face him as he gave her a strange look and walked into the house. She counted how many breaths it took before he thundered down the stairs and out the door, to stand in front of her. His face was red with anger and he blocked out the low sun so that the edges of his hair and his shoulders seemed to be on fire.

“I’m sorry,” she said coolly, coming to her feet. She gestured gracefully around the lawn. “There’s nothing left.” Clutching the strongbox beneath her arm, she walked down the driveway and into the street. She put one foot mechanically in front of the other in the direction she knew would lead to the center of town, and she did not allow herself to look back.

Who will not mercy unto others show,

How can he mercy ever hope to have?

—Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene

A man gazing on the stars is proverbially

at the mercy of the puddles on the road.

—Alexander Smith, Men of Letters

After a while, I couldn’t remember whole pieces of you, as if part of the punishment was a recollection through a filter that grew hazier with time. On certain Sunday mornings when I dreamed you, I could not picture what your teeth had looked like, or the exact curve of your jaw where it fit in my hand.

I used to imagine us sitting down for a drink at a bright little restaurant, maybe one of those specialty coffee shops that have become so popular. I swear I could smell the blended beans and the starch of the white napkins, even the milled soap that you would have used that morning. I was able to see your easy smile, which always seemed to startle its way across your face—your smile, but not your teeth—and the way your fingers tapped a light tattoo against the mug. I did not give us conversation: no you look great, no What have you been up to? no It has been hell. Like your teeth and the line of your jaw, this part was unclear to me. I was not sure if there was a protocol to follow when I welcomed back from hiding my other half.

In the moments before, she laid a hand on his arm. “No matter what,” she said, giving him a look, “you cannot stop.”

He turned away. “I’m not sure I can even start.”

She brought his hand to her lips, kissed each finger. “If you don’t do it,” she said simply, “who will?”

For a long while they sat side by side, staring out a streaked window at a town neither of them knew very well. He watched her breathing pattern in the reflection of the glass, and tried to slow his own heart until they were equally matched. The quiet dulled his senses, so that he became fixated on the clock beside the bed. He would not blink, he told himself, until the next minute bled into the last.

With a fury that surprised him, he turned his face into the bow of her neck, trying to commit to memory this softness and this smell. “I love you.”

She smiled, that crooked little curving of her mouth. “Now,” she said, “don’t you think I know that?”

In the end, she had struggled. He wore the scratches like a brand. But he had held the pillow to her face; calmed her by whispering in her ear. My love, he had said, I’ll be with you as soon as I can. At the words her arms had fallen away; then it was over. He had buried his face in her shirt, and started himself the very slow process of dying.

For the hundredth time that day, Cameron MacDonald, Chief of Police in Wheelock, Massachusetts, closed his eyes and dreamed of the Bay of Biscay. If he got it just right—the thrum of silence in the station, the afternoon light dancing over the corner of his scarred desk—he could make himself believe. There was no Smith and Wesson jabbing into his side; there was no mountain pass outside the window; hell, maybe he wasn’t even Cameron MacDonald anymore. He opened his mind as wide as he could, and let himself tumble into the beautiful blue of it.

He blinked his eyes, expecting the bobbing shoreline of Prest, or the sweet scent of the Loire Valley that you could carry in your pocket when you were within a reasonable distance, but he found himself staring at the pale, pasty face of Hannah, the secretary at the police station. “Here’s the file,” she said. “He was indicted.” She turned to leave, but stopped for a moment with her hand on the door. “You sure you’re not coming down with something, Chief?”

Cam shook his head, as much to clear it as to convince Hannah. He smiled at her, because if he didn’t, he knew she’d be on the phone with Allie and within a half hour, his wife would have him drinking a tea made of nettle roots and feverfew.

He put the file down, glancing longingly at Gall’s Buying Guide catalog for public safety equipment, inside which he’d stuffed a Travel magazine. Hannah was right—there was something wrong with him. It was the same thing that happened every year since he’d returned to Wheelock, as was expected, to become police chief after his father’s death. He was suffering from wanderlust, complicated by the tension of knowing that he was rooted to this town by something as simple as his name.

Wheelock looked like other small western Massachusetts towns: the center consisted of a simple white church and a lending library, a joint building for fire and police, the local coffee shop, and a dotting of old men who sat on stone benches and watched their lives slouch by. But what made Wheelock different from Hancock and Dalton and Williamstown was the fact that had it not been for a twist of fate, nearly every family in Wheelock would still be living in Scotland.

At first you wouldn’t notice. But then you’d see that the town restaurant served its specials on “ashets,” not plates; that its serviceable stocky white china was decorated with the fat square rose of Bonnie Prince Charlie. You’d attend a marriage at St. Margaret’s, and realize that the ceremony still ended with a blood vow. You’d drive through the winding side streets and see the name MACDONALD painted on an alarming number of mailboxes.

And if you happened to travel to the Scottish Highlands, you’d notice that a small town called Carrymuir on the banks of Loch Leven was an uncanny twin to Wheelock, Massachusetts.

In the 1700s, the Clan MacDonald was the largest and most powerful clan in Scotland, spread from the western isles through the main Highlands. One particular sect of the clan lived in Carrymuir, a small town north of Glencoe which was nestled between two jagged crags of mountains. In spite of the rampant clan warfare in Scotland, Carrymuir had never been defeated, built as it was in a natural, easily defended fortress.

Clann was the Scottish Gaelic word for children, and a clan was made up of relatives, some more distant than others, who happened to live on a given piece of land. The clan chief, or laird, had the power of life and death over his tenants and tacksmen, but the authority wasn’t quite as one-sided as a king’s. After all, the chief’s subjects were his brothers and nephews and cousins, and the trust and respect they offered up to him came at the price of his protection and his promise to care for them.

Cameron MacDonald of Wheelock, Massachusetts, had been named for his great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, a legendary soldier who had fought in the battle of Culloden, where the English routed the Highlanders. Cameron had heard the story over and over as a boy: When his namesake realized that Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Highland army didn’t stand a chance against the English soldiers, he tried to save his clansmen from being killed in battle. He secured their honorable discharges by promising, in exchange, his own remarkable skill in a fight to the death against the British. But he hadn’t died, as he had expected. And after Culloden, when the victorious English came through Scotland burning towns and slaughtering livestock and raping village women, the first Cameron MacDonald realized he had to again save his clan.

So while he went to jail as a Jacobite prisoner, he arranged for the families of Carrymuir to leave, one by one, on packets bound for the American colonies. Which explained why, when most Scots were being hanged or sold as indentured servants to the West Indies, this small sect of Clan MacDonald remained intact and resettled in the wilderness of Massachusetts.

They found a spot that looked like home, with a brace of rolling mountains and a narrow body of water that was more of a pond than a lake, and sent word back to Scotland about this place. Wee loch, they wrote. It’s set by a wee loch.

And eventually, the laird and his family came over too, leaving a trusted uncle to watch over the land in Scotland. They traded the comfortable kilt for trousers; they proudly flew the Stars and Stripes; they accepted the Americanized name of the town. And as a natural extension of inbred responsibility, the man who was the figurehead of the Clan MacDonald also became Wheelock’s police chief.

In 1995, that position belonged to Cameron MacDonald II, having been handed down from his great-grandfather to his grandfather to his father, passing along the same line of succession as the honorary title of clan chief. He’d be the first to tell you that things had changed. Obviously, although he was considered the chief of a clan and duly noted in the Scottish records, he was no longer directly responsible for the welfare of the townspeople. At least three-quarters of the town had never even seen the lands in Scotland that technically belonged to them. Hardly anyone spoke with a burr; fewer still knew more than a smattering of Gaelic.

On the other hand, old habits died hard. There was no tarnished silver bowl or royal edict that proved that Wheelock was MacDonald land, but it was theirs just the same, in the way that their ancestors had laid claim to that narrow pass in the Scottish Highlands. It was land, quite simply, they’d lived on forever.

At age thirty-five, Cameron MacDonald knew he would stay in Wheelock for the rest of his life; that he would be the police chief until he died and passed the office to his firstborn son. He knew these were things he did not have a choice about, no more than he had a choice about tossing off the choking obligation of being the current laird. Sometimes, in the very still parts of the night, he would tell himself that an honorary title did not mean today what it meant two hundred and fifty years ago. He’d reason that if he picked up his wife and moved to Phoenix for the climate, everyone would take it in stride.

Then he would remember how Darcy MacDonald, his third cousin’s daughter, had tripped right on Main Street when Cam was no more than three feet away, talking to the town barber. She’d had seventeen stitches in her knee because he hadn’t moved quite fast enough, or been in the right place at the right time. In fact, some days he felt that every arrest, every conviction, was a reflection of something he’d done wrong as a leader.

He’d press up against the soft, snoring curl of his wife, Allie, because she was as solid as any truth he could spin. And he’d try to push himself back into sleep, but his dreams were always of chains, link after link after link, which stretched across the vast Atlantic.

When Allie Gordon was in high school, she was not the most popular girl in her class. She was nowhere even close. That honor belonged to Verona MacBean, with her cotton-candy puff of hair and her Cover Girl mascara and her pink mohair sweater molded like skin to what the boys referred to as the Hoosac Ridge.

And today, fifteen years out of nowhere, Verona MacBean herself stepped into Glory in the Flower and ordered three large centerpieces for a library luncheon to be given in her name.

“Verona!” Allie had immediately recalled the name. There was something disconcerting about seeing her classmate dressed in a severe beige suit, her hair scraped into a knot at the back of her head, her cheeks flat beneath a sheer layer of foundation. “What brings you to town?”

Verona had made a little clicking noise with the back of her teeth. “Allie,” she said, her voice just as thin and breathy as it had been in high school, “don’t tell me you’re still here!”

It was not meant as an insult, it never was, so Allie simply shrugged. “Well,” she said, drawing out her words and savoring them like a fine French delicacy, “since Cam’s here to stay . . .” She let her voice trail off at the end, peeking up at Verona from the order form she was filling out. Then she stared her in the face. “You did hear about Cam and me, didn’t you?”

Verona had walked over to the refrigerated case, as if inspecting the quality of the flowers she had already commissioned. “Yes,” she said. “I seem to recall something about that.”

A few minutes later Verona had left, specifying the exact time for the centerpieces to arrive (it was an author’s luncheon; it wouldn’t do to have wilted roses for an author who, as she put it, was just coming into bloom). Allie had walked to the back room of the flower shop, where she kept her foam and moss and desiccants, her raffia and wire. She stood in front of the tiny mirror over the bathroom sink, assessing her complexion. Then, rummaging through a bookshelf, she found her high school yearbook—kept solely for putting together names and faces that walked into the shop. She let the book fall open to Verona’s page. It was much easier to believe that she, Allie, had grown older and wiser, while Verona MacBean, in glossy black and white, was trapped in time. It did not matter that Verona had gone on to Harvard and then to Yale, that her first book—philosophy—was the talk of the town. It only mattered that in the long run, Allie Gordon had married Cameron MacDonald, which no one in Wheelock would have guessed on a long shot.

On the other hand, it was no great surprise when Verona MacBean became Cameron MacDonald’s steady girlfriend in the fall of 1977, although Cameron was a high school senior and Verona was a freshman. They were both undeniably beautiful, Verona in a collectible doll sort of way, and Cam towering over nearly everyone else in the school, his wide, strong shoulders and bright shock of hair always easy to spot.

Allie fell in love with his hair first. She used to sit in the school library bent over a slim volume of Plath’s poetry, waiting for him to come through the double glass doors that blocked off the bustle of the hall. He came in every day during the period she worked at the counter checking out books for the grateful, understaffed librarian. She’d straighten the shelves behind the spot where he sat down, imagining her fingers weaving through that hair, separating it so the strands that looked like fire prismed off into reds and rangy yellows. At the end of the class period, she would pick up the books he’d left behind and tuck them back in their Dewey decimal places, trying to hold on to the heat Cam’s hands had placed on the protective plastic covers.

The truth was that Cameron MacDonald did not know Allie Gordon existed for most of the time they had lived in the same town. She was far too quiet, too plain to attract his attention. There was only one incident in high school where Cam had ever truly come in contact with her: during a blood drive, they had been lying beside each other on the donor tables, and when she sat up and hopped from the stretcher to get her promised juice and cookies, the world spun and went black. She awakened in Cam’s arms; he’d jumped off his own table to catch her as she fell, unintentionally ripping the intravenous from the crook of his elbow so that when Allie went home that afternoon, she realized that Cam’s blood spotted the back of her blouse.

Allie had trouble convincing herself that the reason they had gotten married years later did not have to do with the fact that after college, they were two of the few who had come back to Wheelock. Cam had returned because it was expected of him, Allie because there was nowhere else she really wanted to be.

If she stood on the bottom ledge of the refrigeration unit for the fresh flowers and craned her neck in a certain way out the window, she could see Cam’s office at the police station, even make out his shadowy form hunched over his desk. It was the reason she’d chosen this particular real estate space when she opened the flower shop eight years ago.

She saw that he was in, not out on patrol, and decided now was as good a time as any to bring him his arrangement and tell him about Verona. She crawled down from the ledge, rubbing her hands against her knees to warm them up, and closed the sliding glass door of the cooler. Absently, she ran her fingers over the sweet chestnut and barberry foliage that made up the greens in the piece she would bring over to Cam.

Allie knew the language of flowers—the idea that every bloom stands for some quality of human nature. Bouquets sent from the shop for the arrival of a baby were stuffed with daisies, for innocence, and moss, for maternal love. Valentine’s arrangements had roses, of course, but also lilies for purity, heliotrope for devotion, and forget-me-nots for true love. To Cam, she often sent designs that were full of messages she knew he could not understand. She eyed her latest work critically, nodding over the tulips which made up the bulk of the piece. In Persia, a man would give a tulip to his betrothed to show that as red as the flower was, he was on fire with love; as black as its center, his heart was smoldering like a coal.

She filled out the vase with Michaelmas daisies, China asters, and fire thorn. And then, as she always did for Cam’s arrangements, she added as many sprigs of purple clover as she could without making the lines of the flowers seem overblown. Clover, which simply meant, Think of me.

When she walked out the door to take the flowers to Cam, she did not bother to lock it. Very few people would try to rob the wife of the Wheelock police chief.

Hannah was on the telephone when she walked through the door of the police station, but waved her toward Cam’s closed office door to tell her he wasn’t in a meeting. “No,” she was saying firmly. “We don’t use psychics, but thank you.”

Allie set the tall vase in the center of the main desk, where bookings were done, and then walked to Cameron’s office. She gave a quick knock and pushed the door open with her shoulder before Cam could tell her to come in. He was asleep, his head pillowed on his arms on top of his desk.

Smiling, Allie crept around behind his chair, running her fingers through the hair at the back of his neck. She bent close to his ear to whisper. “While justice sleeps,” she teased.

Cameron came awake with a start, snapping his head up so abruptly he clipped Allie’s chin. Allie staggered back, seeing black for a moment, until Cam grabbed her and pulled her down onto his lap. “Jesus, Allie,” he said. “You scared the hell out of me.” Allie rubbed her jaw, testing it gingerly by setting her teeth. Cam’s fingers came up to brush her throat. “You okay?”

Allie smiled. “I brought you your flowers.”

Cam rubbed his hand down his face. “I told you you don’t have to do that.”

“I like to.”

Cam snorted. “This is a police station, not a hotel lobby,” he pointed out. “People who are arrested aren’t much interested in interior design. They don’t even notice.”

“But you do,” Allie pressed.

Cam looked up at her wide brown eyes; her hands, gripping each other. “Sure,” he said softly. “Sure I do.”

He glanced out the open doorway to the front desk where Allie’s latest arrangement stood. She was an artist; he told her that often. The mixtures of reds and blues, of stark lines and soft curves, and the overall whimsy of her floral designs gave her creations a comfort and an ease that did not exist in Allie herself. Once he had peeked at her personal journal when she was at work, hoping to find a layer to his wife that she didn’t have the courage to reveal. But there had been no racy thoughts or dreamy recollections, just a review of how she had acted and what she had said to Cam, and then notes on what she might have done differently.

Sometimes he woke up in the middle of the night, sweating, worried that after years of marriage to Allie he, too, would wind up editing his life, instead of simply living it.

“Guess who came into the store today.” Allie moved off his lap to sit on the corner of the desk, swinging one leg.

“Am I supposed to go through everyone in the town?” Cam asked.

“Verona MacBean.” Allie frowned. “Well, I don’t know if it’s MacBean anymore, but she’s here, all the same. She’s a famous writer now. They’re doing some hotshot lunch for her at the library.”

“Verona MacBean,” Cam said, grinning. He tipped his chair onto its two rear legs. “Good old Verona MacBean.”

“Oh, cut it out,” Allie said, lightly kicking him in the leg. “She’s pinched and pruny and her boobs don’t look nearly as big now as they did when she was sixteen.”

“Probably grew into them.”

Allie picked up a catalog and whipped it at Cam’s head. A glossy travel magazine fell onto the desk between them. Her eyes widened at the white spray of beach and the weaving red sloop splayed across the front cover. She picked it up and curiously thumbed through it. “Well, at least it’s not Playboy,” she said. She skimmed a list of all-inclusive resorts, and peered closer at an advertisement depicting a tastefully nude sunbather.

Cam reached across the desk and plucked the magazine out of Allie’s hand. His face felt hot, his collar too tight; he didn’t want Allie to know what he spent his time daydreaming about.

Allie raised her eyebrows as a blush crept across Cameron’s face. “I’ll be damned,” she said. “You’re trying to keep a secret.” She leaned close to Cam. “Not that it’s up to me or anything, but I’d rather go sailing than skiing.” She hesitantly moved forward an inch, keeping her eyes open, and touched her lips to Cam’s.

For a moment, Cam let her breath brush his mouth and then he kissed her quickly and pushed her back. “Not here,” he murmured.

“Then where?” Allie whispered, before she could stop herself.

They both looked away, remembering the previous night. Allie’s hands had stolen across the bed, slipping under the blue T-shirt he was wearing, moving in quiet circles. That was her invitation. And Cam had simply turned toward her, his eyes setting a distance, his fingers staying her own.

“Oh,” she had said, her hand dropping away.

“It’s not you,” he’d explained. “I’m just exhausted.”

Allie wondered where the myth that men wanted to make love more than women came from, since in her experience it was always the other way around. She did not like being less beautiful than her husband, or being the one who always made an advance. Sometimes Cam did not even bother to tell her he was tired. Sometimes he simply pretended to be asleep.

She questioned if it might have been different if she were a classic beauty, or if she were sexy. She told herself that she’d lose ten pounds and cut her hair and mold herself into someone irresistible, and then when Cam came grabbing for her she’d simply turn away.

Maybe she’d find someone else.

And then she’d laugh at the very thought of letting anyone touch her the way Cameron MacDonald had.

As if she had conjured it, Cam reached for her wrist and began to stroke it with his thumb. He did not know what else to do. There were some things he just could not tell Allie, not even after five years. There were some times he needed to be alone with thoughts of what he might have otherwise done with his life, and unfortunately that was often in the hollow of the night when Allie needed more from him. But in spite of what she thought when he rolled away from her, there was never any question in his mind about his feelings for Allie. Loving her was a little like taking the same seat day after day on a commuter train—you couldn’t imagine how it might feel to be in the row behind, you could swear that the dimensions and hollows of the seat were made just for you, you came back to it repeatedly with a whoosh of comfort and relief that it was still available.

Allie was staring at him. If only she’d stop looking at him like that, her eyes catching his excuses and throwing them to the wind. He wished he could make her happy, or even spend as much time trying to as she did for him. Cam dug his thumbs under the loops of his heavy ammunition belt; out of the corner of his eye he saw a two-page spread of Acadia National Park. “I’m sorry,” he said.

No, Allie thought, I am.

The woman stood behind the counter of the flower shop with her hands flying over a mix of fan palm, angel wings, bells of Ireland, gaultheria, oats, and milkweed. Cuttings carpeted the Formica and the black and white tiles of the floor. For a moment, Allie stood shocked in the doorway of her own store, watching a stranger do her job. Then she focused on the arrangement to the right of the cash register.

It was bell-shaped and quiet, a delicate arch of every shade of greenery that Allie had stored in the refrigerated case. At two spots, a splash of bright red caladium peeked from behind feathers of grass, shocking as blood.

Allie took a step forward, and the woman jumped, her hand at her throat. “You’re in my place,” Allie said.

The woman smiled hesitantly. “Well, then . . . I’ll move.” She hastily gathered up the tools she’d filched from the back room, and in her hurry dropped a pair of shears on the floor. “Sorry,” she murmured, dipping below the line of the counter to pick them up. She stepped around the counter and handed them to Allie like a peace offering.

It was the most presumptuous thing Allie had ever seen—some stranger walking into the store and making her own flower arrangement—and yet this woman seemed to blend into the shadows, like this had all been a mistake and out of her range of control. Allie glanced at the plum beret on the woman’s hair, the nails bitten to the quick, the heavy knapsack slung against her right foot. She was about the same age as Allie, but certainly not from Wheelock or anywhere nearby; Allie would have remembered someone with eyes the wet violet color of prairie gentians.

Allie walked up to the counter, letting the softer greenery graze her palms. “I thought you might be looking for an assistant,” the woman said. She held out her hand, which was callused at the fingers from florist’s wire, and shaking slightly. “My name is Mia Townsend.”

Allie could not tear her eyes away from Mia’s arrangement, which brought to mind rolling fields and nickering horses and the hot, heavy press of a summer afternoon. She knew it had nothing to do with the actual flowers and ferns Mia had chosen, but rather the skill of the placement and the thoughts that had gone into it.

Allie had not been looking for anybody; in fact in a town the size of Wheelock most of her business came from the shop’s association with FTD. But then again, Christmas was coming, and Valentine’s Day, and she’d kick herself if she let someone with Mia’s talent walk out the door before she could learn a thing or two from her.

As if she knew that Allie was equivocating, Mia suddenly reached down for her knapsack and pulled out a carefully wrapped package, which she began to unwind. Allie found herself looking at an exquisitely twisted bonsai tree; miniature, gnarled, ancient.

“Lovely,” Allie breathed.

Mia shrugged, but her eyes were shining. “This is my specialty. They remind me of those babies you see sometimes, the ones with tiny little faces that look like they know all the wisdom of the world.”

The wisdom of the world. Allie looked up. “I think,” she said, “we can work something out.”

Hannah, who had a talent for eavesdropping, told Cameron that Verona MacBean had written a book on the image of hell.

“It’s not like it used to be,” she said, tracing the top edge of her coffee cup. “You know, fire and brimstone and all.”

Cam laughed. “Don’t tell Father Gillivray; he’s looking forward to that stuff.”

Hannah smiled at Cameron. “Verona says that instead of physical pain, it’s more mental. Like, you know, if you marry this gorgeous guy only to find out in hell that he really married you for your money.”

“I wouldn’t worry,” Cam said. “I don’t pay you nearly enough.”

She smirked. “And suppose that in order to marry this hunk, you gave up someone who was really in love with you. The pain you’d feel knowing you picked the wrong guy is supposedly what hell is like.” Hannah wrinkled her nose. “Not that I can see where Verona MacBean, Wheelock Queen, would know what hell is like at all.”

Camerona’s full-time sergeant, Zandy Monroe, stuck his head out from the locker room. “You forget, Hannah, that Verona used to date the chief.”

Cam threw a stack of mail at him. “Don’t you have anything better to do?”

“That depends,” Zandy said, grinning. “You taking me out to lunch?”

“No,” Cam said. “I’m taking Allie out.” He surprised himself; this wasn’t something they’d planned when she stopped by earlier, but he knew she’d jump at the offer to spend an hour with him. He pulled on his heavy blue coat and locked his office door behind him. “If the town comes under siege,” he said to Hannah, “you know where I’ll be.”

Walking down the half block to Allie’s flower shop, he started to smile. He’d step into the store and tell her he was looking for a bouquet, dahlias and lilies in colors that called back August. He’d say it was for someone special and he’d make her play along and give him a gift card and then he’d write, What are you doing for the rest of your life?

Humming, Cam threw open the door of the flower shop and came face-to-face with a woman he had never seen before. Allie’s name died on his lips as he stared at the tangle of hair that bobbed just to her shoulders, the soft swollen curve of her lip, the pulse at the base of her throat. She was not beautiful; she was not familiar; and still all the breath left Cam’s body. As he grasped the hand she extended in greeting, he realized that her eyes were blue-violet, the shade that he’d dreamed as the Bay of Biscay.

Oh,” Allie said, coming out from the back room. “This is Mia.” And that was all she had time to tell Cam before Zandy Monroe burst through the door of the shop, throwing it back against its hinges hard enough to crack one pane of glass.

“Chief,” he said, “you’d better come.”

Years of instinct had Cameron flying out the door behind his sergeant, left hand trained and ready on his gun. He saw a growing crowd of people in front of the police station; from the corner of his eye he noticed Allie and Mia shivering their way closer to the commotion.

With adrenaline pulsing through his limbs, Cam stepped into the center of the group, where a red Ford pickup truck was parked. Zandy walked up to the driver’s-side window. “Okay,” he said, “this is the chief of police.” With a shrug at Cam, he murmured, “Wouldn’t talk to anyone but you.”

“Cameron MacDonald?”

The man’s voice was strong but strained; an officer with less experience than Cam might not have noticed the pain that ran ragged over the syllables. “Yes,” he said. “What can I do for you?”

The man stepped out of the car. He did not live in Wheelock, but Cam thought he’d seen him around town this past week. At the post office, maybe the tavern at the Inn. He was every bit as tall as Cam, but thinner, as if being alive had simply taken its toll. “I’m James MacDonald,” the man said, loud enough for everyone to hear his last name. “I’m your cousin.” He took a step back toward his truck, gesturing toward the passenger seat, in which a woman was slumped over, sleeping. “My wife here, Maggie, is dead.” He looked up at Cameron MacDonald. “And I’m the one who killed her.”

Notwithstanding Verona MacBean’s standards, all hell broke loose. Two women fainted, one striking her forehead on the sidewalk so that a thick red pool of blood puddled under her cheek. In a pointless act of chivalry Art MacInnes, the local barber, walked up to James MacDonald and punched him in the nose. Two children on bright neon bikes wove around the pickup truck and through the festering crowd.

“All right!” Cam yelled. He gestured to Zandy, who started to walk around to the other side of the pickup. For all Cam knew, this guy could be some nut; the lady in the front seat could be napping or in a diabetic coma or playing along. Cam turned around to face the crowd. “You all go home,” he said. “I can’t take care of this if you don’t leave.”

No one moved.

Cam sighed and took a tentative step toward James MacDonald, his arms stretched out in front of him. James was slightly hunched over, holding his hands up to a face streaming with blood. Cam reached into his pocket for a handkerchief. “Here,” he said, waving the small white square in front of James’s face, in a gesture that looked much like a surrender.

James MacDonald hadn’t done anything threatening; there was no reason to bring him into the station in handcuffs. Cam would sit him down, offer him coffee, try to get him talking. He wouldn’t arrest him just yet.

“Chief,” Zandy Monroe said, “the door’s stuck.”

At the sergeant’s voice, James MacDonald whirled around to see Zandy tugging at the passenger door of the pickup truck. When it wouldn’t budge, Zandy slipped two fingers into the partially unrolled window and tried to reach the woman’s neck to get a pulse.

With a feral cry, James MacDonald ripped out of Cam’s grasp and ran to the other side of the truck. He pulled the sergeant away from the door, throwing him backward with the bodily force that a tall, strong man learns to keep in check. “Don’t you touch her,” he screamed at Zandy, his fists clenched, his teeth obscenely white against mottled skin. He turned back to the door and wrenched it open, and that was when Cam saw the door hadn’t been stuck, but locked; that James MacDonald had ripped it from its bearings. He caught the body of his wife as it slumped up against him; pressed his cheek against hers. He spoke against the white curve of her neck. “Don’t you touch her,” he whispered.

Cam’s eyes met Zandy’s over the hood of the truck. He started to walk around to the passenger side as Zandy moved closer to James MacDonald. But James did not resist as Cam pulled him out of the cab of the truck. “Mr. MacDonald, I’m going to have to put you under arrest.” He snapped handcuffs over the man’s wrists. “Uh, Sergeant,” he said, nodding at the body in the truck, “you want to take care of this?”

James began to strain against the handcuffs. “No,” he whispered to Cam. “You can’t.”

Cam had to lean close to hear him. “We’ve got to go inside, Mr. MacDonald.”

“Please don’t leave her alone with him.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Cam saw Allie step out of the crowd. She was shivering as she walked up to them, and she did not look Cam in the eye. “I’m Allie MacDonald,” she said. “I’m Cam’s wife.” She laid her hand on James’s arm. “I can stay with Maggie, if you’d like.”

James looked her over, and then nodded his head. Cam let his breath out in a long sigh, and motioned for Zandy to hold James’s arm. Then Cam steered Allie away from the truck. “You don’t really want to do this,” he said. “You could be implicated as a witness when he goes to trial.”

“Oh, Cam,” Allie whispered. “You’re not really going to arrest him, are you?”

Cam grabbed her upper arms. “He killed a woman, Allie.”

“But he came to you for protection.”

Cam snorted. “That’s a little like locking the barn after the horse has run out.”

Allie squared her shoulders. “I’d just listen to his story, if I were you. It’s obvious that he loved her.”

Cam bowed his head. “Still,” he said, “that isn’t going to bring her back to life.”

James MacDonald glanced one last time at the still and lovely body of his wife in the front seat of his truck and remembered his wedding day eleven years earlier, during which everything had gone wrong.

Maggie had picked Memorial Day weekend, hoping to stand outside for the ceremony, but the balmy weather that was forecast had dissolved into torrential rain. Wanting privacy, they’d opted for a justice of the peace, and had made an appointment. But they showed up at the man’s door only to be told by his wife that he’d come down with the stomach flu, and so Jamie had driven from Cummington to the next town to the next, trying to find someone who hadn’t gone away for the holiday and who would be willing to marry them.

By the time Jamie and Maggie were standing in the front parlor of a justice of the peace in Great Barrington, the cuffs of Jamie’s trousers were soaked from puddles and Maggie’s bouquet of violets was limp over her fist. In the background, they could hear the splintered laughter of the justice’s guests, who were having a free-for-all Memorial Day cookout in the warm, dry confines of his garage. “We are gathered here,” the justice of the peace said, “to . . . Oh, shit.”

Maggie’s head had snapped up. Her hand, tucked inside Jamie’s, shook a little.

Jamie realized then that she was waiting for him to ask, on her behalf, if there was a problem. Chauvinistic and old-world as it might have been, nothing more clearly drove home to Jamie what it was going to mean to be a husband. He would be Maggie’s mouthpiece. And at other times, she might speak for him.

“Is something wrong?” he had asked.

The justice of the peace squinted over James’s shoulder. “Witness,” he said. “Can’t do it without one.” He cupped his hands and yelled in the general direction of the garage, until a sweaty, wild-eyed man appeared in the doorway holding a Coors. “Jesus,” the man said. “You don’t have to shout.” He thrust the can into the justice’s hand.

“Not now, Tom,” the justice said.

Tom frowned. “I thought you yelled for a beer.”

“I yelled Come here.”

“Excuse me,” Jamie interrupted. “Could we get going again?”

Tom was wearing a Chicago Bulls tank top and Lycra biking shorts that outlined his belly. A loose, wet smile splayed across his face. “Hey,” he said, looking from Jamie to Maggie. “You getting hitched?”

The justice asked him to just sit down in the corner and be quiet, and he’d put his name on the marriage license in a few minutes.

“No way,” Tom said. He grabbed Maggie’s free hand, scattering her violets, and yanked her away from Jamie. “You got to do a wedding right, or you don’t do it at all.” With a quick jerk he anchored Maggie to his side. “I’ll give you away, honey,” he said. “We’ll do a whole grand entrance.”

At that point Jamie did not want the man’s name on his marriage license, much less his hands on his fiancée. But before he could object, Maggie smiled easily. “That would be lovely,” she said to Tom, although she was looking at Jamie. Let’s just get it over with, her eyes seemed to be saying, so that we can laugh about it later.

Jamie thought of the women he had dated, their images shifting like smoke. Some had told him their plans for an elaborate marriage on the second or third date; one had even drawn him a sketch on a cocktail napkin of a wedding gown she’d had made up and stored in the back of her closet, just in case. Not one of the women he’d known in his past would have made it through this fiasco of a wedding without being reduced to tears. Not one of the women he’d known in his past could hold a candle to Maggie.

He had never really asked her to marry him, he realized. They had simply both assumed that it was going to happen.

“Under the Boardwalk” was blaring from the garage as Maggie, on Tom’s arm, began to walk across the small parlor. Her heels crushed the violets she’d dropped on the way out. Her perfume was overshadowed by the alcoholic cloud surrounding the man beside her. Next to Jamie, the justice of the peace began to flip through his book, having lost his place.

Maggie reached Jamie’s side and slipped her arm through his. He could feel her shaking, so he patted her hand gently. He would apologize to her for this. He would spend the rest of his life making it up to her.

“We are gathered here . . .” the justice of the peace said.

“For the free beer,” Tom finished.

Maggie covered her mouth with her hand, and then burst into laughter. Her head tipped back so that Jamie could see the long, smooth line of her throat, and the spill of russet hair over her shoulders. There were tears in her eyes; Jamie thought it made them seem like jewels.

“Marriage,” the justice recited sternly, “is not something to be entered into lightly and unadvisedly.”

“I’m sorry,” Maggie said, trying to compose herself. She tightened her hand on Jamie’s and looked down at her shoes and snorted, then bit down on her lip.

The justice began to speak, but Jamie didn’t listen. He had turned to face Maggie. Beyond her was not a glittering ballroom or the hallowed glass panel of a church, but a weaving line of people doing the bunny hop and a barbecue that belched out large drafts of smoke.

He realized that there was nowhere else on earth he would have rather been.

Suddenly Jamie went cold. Maggie must have sensed it, because she dropped his hand and placed her palm against his cheek, whispering, “What is it?”

He shook his head. He, who could have told Maggie anything, did not know how to put into words this feeling: Did you ever look down at yourself and realize that finally you had it all? Did you ever feel that everything was so right in your life you’d have nowhere to go but downhill?

Misunderstanding, Maggie touched her fingers to his mouth. “I’m fine,” she assured him. “This is fine.”

He nodded once, a jerk of his head. He pushed away his thoughts and concentrated on the hope he’d been fed from his own wife’s hand.

As soon as Cam began to lead James MacDonald into the Wheelock Police Department, the crowd outside began to disperse. At the front desk, he unlocked the handcuffs and asked James to empty his pockets. He watched a handful of pennies, a packet of gum, and some lint fall onto the Formica, but nothing that would incriminate the man as a murderer.

Hannah was out to lunch, so the station was empty, silent except for the intermittent static and calls of the dispatcher on the radio. “Mr. MacDonald,” Cam said, “why don’t you come on in here?”

He led the prisoner into the booking room and gestured to a chair. Then Cam sat down and pulled a custody report out of a file in the drawer, laying it facedown on the desk in front of him. He’d listen to what the guy had to say, but he’d bet his gun this was going to end in an arrest.

He looked up to find the man staring at him with a grin turning up the corner of his mouth. “They say you look like him, you know,” James said.

“Look like who?”

“Cameron MacDonald. The first one. The famous one.”

Cam made a big production of arranging the spill of pens and pencils on the desk. “I wouldn’t know,” he said. He took a deep breath. “Look, right now I’m just the chief of police, and you’ve confessed to murder. So let’s forget the other crap.”

“I can’t. I came to Wheelock on purpose, because you were here.”

Cam narrowed his eyes. “How exactly are you related to me?”

“Your grandfather is my great-uncle. Ask Angus, if you don’t believe me. What is he now, eighty? Eighty-two?”

“What he is is senile, at least most of the time,” Cam admitted. His great-uncle Angus had been the keeper at Carrymuir during the years that Cam and his father had prospered in Wheelock. When Ian MacDonald died, Cam had flown to Scotland, brought his uncle Angus home with him, and signed Carrymuir over to the Scottish National Trust.

“Mr. MacDonald—”

“Jamie.” He leaned forward, as if he was about to confide a secret. “I was named for our own uncle Jamie,” he said. “The one who was killed in the war.”

Cam’s mouth fell open. No one talked about his uncle Jamie, the hero, because it used to make his grandmother weep. Jamie had been the firstborn son, the one who would have been clan chief if he hadn’t been shot down over the Pacific in 1944. Cam’s father, the second son, had taken the title by default.

Cam swallowed, recovering. “Well, Jamie,” he said. “Tell me what brought you to Wheelock.”

He hesitated only a second. “I came here to kill my wife.”

Cam stared right into Jamie’s eyes, almost the same color as his own—sea green, a MacDonald trait. He looked for a swift check of rage, a curl of remorse, or God willing, the blaze of insanity. He saw none of those things. “Jamie,” he said, rolling the custody report into the typewriter, “you have the right to remain silent.”

Jamie MacDonald had made a career of creating alternative worlds. He let young couples designing their first home walk through houses that had not yet been built; he gave paraplegic men a chance to walk again; he let medical students do surgery on patients that did not suffer or bleed. As the president and founder of Techcellence, a conceptual-design computer company specializing in virtual reality, he had joined the cutting edge of a radical technological movement and had become a symbol for the entire field. Maggie, whose computer skills extended to booting up WordPerfect, used to say it was much simpler than that. “You’re the Wizard of Oz,” she would tell him. “You make people’s wishes come true.”

He’d sort of liked that image. It was true—people tended to seek out Techcellence to do things no other conceptual-design firm would do. Because Jamie wasn’t afraid to take a challenge and shape it with his mind and his hands until it fit on a seven-by-nine screen, his company often produced the systems and models for virtual worlds that became prototypes for other firms to copy.

Jamie had a high-end computer system at his house in Cummington, complete with a bodysuit and glove and head-mounted device, but most of the design work was done in his lab. Located downtown, it had computers with more technological expertise, as well as the big equipment—the SGI Onyxs, graphics machines which could generate the real time in the virtual world. There were about ten people who worked full-time for Jamie, and when Techcellence secured a contract with Nintendo or the Defense Department or a teaching hospital, there were two hundred more people he could hire on as subcontractors—digital sound mixers, artists, story writers, texture mappers, producers, directors, programmers. In many ways, Jamie was like a chef—finding cooks who had already made dishes that he could combine into something even more flavorful, in spite of the fact that he’d grown none of the ingredients himself.

He often came into work on weekends, when it was quietest; and he’d bring Maggie with him. One Saturday, a few years after they were married, Jamie had come in to fiddle with a program for a private client, a formerly seeded millionaire tennis player who had become quadriplegic after a heli-skiing accident. Maggie, who openly admitted to being terrified of so many computers, sat curled with a book on a Salvation Army wing chair where some of the best brainstorming was done.

Jamie was stuck. It wasn’t creating the virtual world—any savvy hacker could jump on the Internet and download to do that. This client had a specific request: he wanted to play tennis again.

Had Jamie wanted to milk him for his money, he could have simply set the program up like some of the other virtual reality systems developed for handicapped people. A sweatband around a quadriplegic’s head could measure the magnetic field given off by the optic nerve, so that the guy would be able to move a cursor—or a virtual tennis racket—simply by shifting his eyes. But Jamie, who had always been something of a perfectionist, wanted to give his client more. It would not be enough to see a racket swing on a computer screen and know you had connected with a ball, like those archaic Pong games on the old Atari video game systems. He wanted his client to believe he was on his own feet again.

Ordinarily, this wasn’t a problem when creating a virtual world. A good HMD tracked your head movements and isolated your views to computer-generated images, in a 190-degree field. With the addition of a glove, a bodysuit, and a motion platform, there were three kinds of feedback a designer could generate. Tactile feedback produced vibrations at specific parts of your body, which your brain would interpret along with visual and auditory clues—if you see and hear oozing slime, you’ll feel it. Auditory and visual feedback employed subtleties, such as subfrequencies outside the hearing range, to give the sensation of motion, or flight, or vertigo. And force feedback—actual shoves applied to the body—could make you feel like you were in microgravity, or blasting off in a rocket.

The problem was, on someone who couldn’t sense anything beneath his neck, these types of feedback would be lost.

Jamie pulled the HMD off his head and rubbed his hands over his face. He wasn’t even aware he’d sighed in frustration until Maggie put down her book and came to stand beside him. “Tough day at the office?” she said, rubbing his shoulders.

“Impossible,” Jamie admitted. “How do I go about making someone feel something they’re not physically capable of feeling?”

Maggie frowned. “I’m not following you.”

“VR for the handicapped,” Jamie explained, passing her the HMD. “Quadriplegic wants to play tennis.”

He knew, by the smile that curved Maggie’s lips beneath the high-tech helmet, that she was delighted with the visual images of the tennis center in Flushing Meadow—the lined courts, the perspiring crowds, the smoggy blue of the sky. He watched on the flat screen as Maggie flickered her eyes, making a tennis racket appear at the edge of her virtual vision and swing in a forehand. “He wants other friends to be able to connect into the virtual space. And he wants a neural network thrown in, a ‘smart enemy,’ in case no one else is around to play against him.”

“Why are you stuck?”

Jamie shrugged. “Because I can’t make him feel the sweat on the grip of his racket. Because I won’t be able to make his legs tired from running.”

“That’s hardly your fault,” Maggie said. “Couldn’t you over-compensate somewhere else? You know, like a scent—suntan lotion waving in from the stands, or that rubbery smell you get when you open a can of tennis balls?”

“He can already smell,” Jamie said. “He wants to walk.”

Maggie sank down on his lap. She pulled off the HMD and touched her hand to the Screen, shaking her head. “It always amazes me how much better it looks with the helmet on.”

“That’s the idea.” Jamie smiled.

“Imagine,” Maggie said. “To be so active, and to have that taken away from you. If I ever get into an accident and become a quadriplegic, you have my permission to shoot me.”

Reflexively, Jamie’s arms tightened around her. “You shouldn’t even joke about that,” he said. “And you don’t really mean it.”

Maggie raised her eyebrows. “You’d want to live as a vegetable?”

“You’re not a vegetable. You still have your mind.”

“And you’re stuck in it,” Maggie added. “No thank you.”

“You have all five of your senses,” Jamie argued. “You can still see, you can feel with the skin on your face, you can smell, you can taste, and you can hear.”

“Taste is a stupid sense,” Maggie muttered absently. “No one would miss it.”

“You would if you didn’t have it,” Jamie said.

“I’d rather be blind, deaf, and dumb than quadriplegic.”

Even with the whir of the computers in the back of the lab, the room was too silent for Jamie’s liking. He kept thinking that if they continued to talk like this, they’d be tempting fate. “I hope you never have to make that choice,” Jamie murmured.

Maggie took her hand and pressed it to his cheek. “You could stand not feeling me touch you here,” she said, moving her fingers to his forehead and over his lips. “And here, or here.” Then she slid her hand down his chest, between his thighs, to cup him. “But to forget what this feels like?”

He felt himself growing into her palm. He could not believe that the sensations Maggie could create by touching him were something he would ever have trouble remembering. Maybe that was the clue for his program, too—evoke a memory of what used to be, so that the mind made up the parameters the body physically couldn’t. He would use the sounds and smells of a game of tennis, and mount a small fan in the HMD to give the sensation of wind caused by movement. If there were enough bombarding stimuli to elicit a recollection of running, of serving a tennis ball, why couldn’t your head make you think it was really happening again?

Maggie squeezed him gently.

Jamie swallowed. The problem was, the same mind that could suspend its disbelief had the capacity to be rational. A man who had walked for forty-two years before surviving an accident wouldn’t be fooled by bells, and whistles. A man who had touched his wife and moved within her body and felt her sweat drying on his own skin would not remain satisfied with a resurrected memory. When you came down to it, no matter how good Jamie was at what he did, a virtual world could never be the real thing.

Jamie cupped his hands over Maggie’s breasts and grazed his teeth along her neck. “You have a point,” he said.

If you aren’t spooked about that kind of thing,” Zandy Monroe said, “I can go find Hugo.”

Allie shrugged. Sitting in the driver’s seat of the pickup truck beside the body of Maggie MacDonald, she wasn’t frightened, and surely Cam would have wanted his sergeant to dispose of the body with the local undertaker, even if he hadn’t explicitly said so. “We’re not going anywhere,” she said, smiling at Zandy.

She had sent Mia back to the flower shop and told her to make as many funeral decorations as she could until Allie herself returned. Roses, she had said. Use as many as we’ve got. She also told her to find bluebells, which stood for constancy, and gillyflowers, for the bonds of affection. Now, she glanced at Maggie’s smooth, pale skin. Rue, she thought, for sorrow. I should have told her about rue.

With Zandy gone, Allie leaned closer to the dead woman. She glanced out the window up and down the street, then laid her palm against Maggie’s cheek. It was cold and firm to the touch. Allie drew back her fingers and tucked her hand inside her pocket.

Hugo Huntley came back with Zandy a few minutes later. He was the local mortician, and like everyone else on Main Street, had been in the crowd when James MacDonald had driven up to the police station. “Allie,” he said, by way of greeting. He peered at the body through thick-lensed glasses that made his eyes look very tiny and sunken in his face.

“She’s dead,” Zandy said flatly.

“Well yes.” Hugo nodded. “I can see that.”

Zandy carried Maggie MacDonald across the street to Huntley’s Funeral Parlor, downstairs to the embalming rooms. To Allie’s shock, Maggie’s body had already begun to freeze into the rigid position of sitting upright, so that even slung over Zandy’s shoulder, her knees bent stiff and jutted into his abdomen instead of hanging slack.

Zandy laid the body on its side and turned to Allie. “You can probably go now, Mrs. Mac,” he said.

Allie shook her head. “I made that man a promise. If you stay, so do I.”

They both turned to look at Hugo, who had donned a white lab coat and rolled Maggie MacDonald’s body onto her back, so that her knees peaked in the air. For a horrible moment, Allie remembered how funerals were done centuries ago, and she had a brief vision of the laying out on a scarred kitchen table, where strong arms broke bones knotted by rigor mortis until the body lay flat enough for a coffin. She turned away, the sweet mix of disinfectant and embalming fluid making her feel sicker.

“I don’t think you should really do anything yet,” Zandy said to Hugo. “Least, not till Cam says so.” Hugo doubled as the town’s forensic expert, although his police experience was limited to an autopsy some ten years back that had turned out to be much less of a mystery than originally thought: the deceased, believed to be poisoned, had died of cirrhosis of the liver.

Hugo peered closer at the body. “I won’t do anything, but I’m going to get her out of these things and take some Polaroids. No matter what, that’s the first step.”

Allie swiftly glanced at the door before crossing her arms over her chest and steeling herself to bear witness. Zandy leaned against a tray of medical instruments, scratching at a brass button on his heavy coat and pretending not to watch as Hugo wrestled with the stiff body to remove the clothing. In the end, both Allie and Zandy simply turned away.

“Not a scratch,” Hugo called cheerfully. “No bruises at the neck. Not even a hangnail.” Allie could hear the whip of a sheet being snapped open and laid over the body. “My educated guess is death by asphyxiation. Smothering.”

Allie shook her head, trying to erase the image of James MacDonald lunging for his wife before Zandy could touch her. “Why would you do that to someone you love?” she murmured.

Hugo touched her arm. “Maybe because they wanted you to.” He gently led Allie to the embalming table, pointing to several tiny tattoos that looked like the marks of a pen on Maggie’s face. “They’re for radiation therapy,” he said. “The eye’s a secondary site for cancer.” And then he pulled down a corner of the sheet, to reveal an angry red zag of weals and scars where Maggie MacDonald’s breast had been.

You ready?”

Jamie turned around at the sound of Cam’s voice. He had already signed the top half of the voluntary statement that acknowledged his right to wait until a lawyer had been provided, but that was not his intent. He knew he was going to be punished; he just wanted to get it over with. Cam had taken the handcuffs off an hour ago when the secretary offered him a cup of coffee. He had been waiting for Cam to set up the booking room with a tape recorder. Now he stood in front of the most beautiful array of fall flowers he had ever seen.

They were red and purple and musty yellow, and the different fronds all seemed to swoop low, like the trajectory of a leaf from a tree. He kept staring at the arrangement, thinking how rich and warm the colors seemed to be; and then, in the next blink, it seemed their own beauty was dragging them down.

Jamie turned to Cam. “I’ve never seen a police station with flowers in it.”

Cam looked at the arrangement. “It’s my wife. She owns a shop here. She does one every week.” He watched Jamie finger the fragile petals of a lily, rubbing it gently so that Cam could smell the light rain scent all the way across the room.

“You love her?”

Cam took a step backward. “My wife? Of course.”

“How much?”

Cam smiled a little. “Is there a limit?”

Jamie shrugged. “You tell me. What would you do for her? Would you lie for her? Steal? Would you kill for her?”

“No,” Cam said shortly. He turned Jamie away from the flowers abruptly, so that the lily fell to the floor and was crushed beneath the heel of his own boot. “Let’s go.”

It started almost two years ago, when we were ice-skating. Maggie was good at it; she’d do little axels and toe loops and impress the hell out of the kids who came to play pickup hockey on the pond. I was goalie, and feeling every bit of my thirty-four years as I blocked the shots of these high school guys. When the action was down at the opposite goal, I’d turn to my right to catch what Maggie was doing.

It was only chance that I happened to see her fall down. Something stupid, she said when I raced across the ice to her side. A twig sticking out of the surface that caught on the pick of her skate. But she couldn’t stand up; thought maybe she’d heard something pop when she fell. I pulled her up the hill on a Flexible Flyer we borrowed from a little girl, and even though she was crying with the pain, she managed to make a joke about us trying out for the Iditarod next year.

They showed me her X-rays, not just the clean break of her ankle, but the little holes in the white spaces, like bone that had been eaten out. Lesions, they said. Bone cancer was a secondary site.

When they found the original tumor, they removed her breast and the lymph nodes. They did CT scans, bone scans, sent for estrogen receptors.

It stayed dormant for a while, and then it came back in her brain. She would hold my hand and try to describe the flashing red lights, the soft edges of her fading vision as this tumor ate away at her optic nerve.

The doctor said that it was a guessing game. It was only a matter of time but there was no way to determine where the cancer would show up next. Another lobe of the brain, possibly, which would mean seizures. Maybe it would depress respirations. Maybe she would go to sleep one night and never wake up.

A few months before our eleventh wedding anniversary, we went to Canada. The Winter Carnival, in Quebec. We danced and sang in the streets and in the thinnest hours before morning we sat on benches in front of the ice sculptures with only each other to keep ourselves warm. Maggie unzipped my coat and unbuttoned my shirt and placed her cold hands on the flat of my chest. “Jamie,” she said, “this thing is taking me from the inside out. My bones, my breast, my brain. I think I’m going to look down one day and realize that nothing is left.

I hadn’t wanted to talk about it; I tried to look away. But directly in front of us was the ice sculpture of a woman, all curves and lines and grace, her arms stretching over her head toward the limbs of a tree she would never be able to reach. I stared at the sculpture’s dead eyes, at the lifelike form that was a lieit was only a shell; you could see right through to the other side.

Maggie tightened her fingers, pulling at the hair on my chest until I stared at her, called back by the pain. “Jamie,” she said, “I know you love me. The question is, how much?

By the time Jamie MacDonald finished telling Cameron how he had killed Maggie, he was kneeling on the floor, his hands clasped together, tears running down his face.

“Hey,” Cam said, his own voice thick and unfamiliar. “Hey, Jamie, it’s all right.” He reached down awkwardly to touch Jamie’s shoulder, and instead Jamie reached up and grasped his hand. Instinctively, Cam put his other hand down, too, cupping Jamie’s clasped hands in a silent show of support.

It was also a gesture of obeisance, Cam realized with a start, the one a Scots clansman had used two hundred years back to accept the protection of his chief.

According to the sworn voluntary statement of James MacDonald, his wife had been suffering from the advanced stages of cancer, and had asked him to kill her. Which did not account for the raw scratches on his face, or the fact that he’d traveled to a town he’d never set foot in to commit the murder. Maggie had not videotaped her wishes, or even written them down and had them notarized to prove she was of sound mind—Jamie said she hadn’t wanted it to be a production, but a simple gift.

What it boiled down to, really, was Jamie’s word. Cam’s only witness was dead. He was supposed to believe the confession of James MacDonald solely because he was a MacDonald, a member of his clan.

Except for the time he had come back to Wheelock against his own wishes to succeed his father as police chief, Cam hadn’t given much thought to being chief of the Clan MacDonald of Carrymuir. It was an honor, a mark of respect. It meant that when he married Allie, he did so in full Highland dress regalia, kilt instead of tuxedo, snowy lace jabot instead of bow tie. It was an anachronism, a cute link to history, and it might have made him a little more protective of his town’s inhabitants than other police chiefs, but it did not override his other responsibilities.

He certainly wasn’t about to let a murderer off the hook because the man was his cousin. And bending the laws would be unethical. If there was any principle Cameron MacDonald lived by, it was doing things the way they were supposed to be done. After all, as both police chief and clan chief, it had been the pattern of his entire life.

But Jamie MacDonald had specifically come to Wheelock, Massachusetts, to kill his wife because he wanted to commit a murder in a place that was under the jurisdiction of the chief of Clan MacDonald. He was not expecting special treatment, but he knew he could count on being listened to, understood, judged fairly.

Cameron suddenly remembered a story about Old MacDonald of Keppoch, who centuries ago had punished a woman for stealing gold from his castle. He’d chained her to the rocks on the islands, so that when the tide came in she drowned. None of the clan had helped her; none had protested their chief’s judgment. After all, the woman who had stolen from the chief had indirectly stolen from them as well.

It was premeditated murder; Murder One.

It was done out of mercy and love.

He knew the town would take sides on a case like this. He also knew that, like three hundred years ago, whether he chose to let Jamie MacDonald go free or whether he recommended life in prison, no one in Wheelock would contradict his decision.

But that didn’t make it any easier.

It was after four-thirty when Allie returned to the flower shop. She pushed past Mia, slipping on cuttings that were strewn across the floor, and locked herself in the bathroom in the back. She vomited until there was nothing left in her stomach.

When she stepped out of the bathroom, Mia was standing nearby with a bowl of water and a Handi-Wipe. “You should sit down,” she said. “The smell of all those roses is going to make it worse.”

“It’s a little overwhelming,” Allie agreed. She sank into her desk chair and leaned her head back, letting Mia’s cool hands position the towelette across her brow. “Oh, God,” she sighed.

When Allie closed her eyes, Mia started for the door. She paused with her hand on the frame. “Is it true? Did he kill her because she was dying?”

Allie’s head snapped up. “Where did you hear that?”

“A woman named Hannah called. I told her you weren’t here.” Mia paused. “I made the cemetery baskets and the wreaths,” she said. “You can take a look.”

With her head throbbing, Allie pulled herself to her feet. She’d glance over Mia’s work, although she was sure they were fine, put them into the cooler, and close up a half hour early.

Mia’s arrangements were lined up at the bottom of the cooler, three simple conical shapes that did not look much like cemetery baskets at all. They were very traditional arrangements of carnations, fennel, barberry, larkspur, yellow roses, and Michaelmas daisies, colorful but standard. Allie’s eyes swept their lines, a little disappointed. After what she had seen of Mia’s green, grassy setting this morning, she had hoped for something original,

“Oh,” Mia said, wiping her hands on an apron Allie had forgotten she owned. “Those aren’t for the funeral. I saw the purchase order for that MacBean woman, and I didn’t know whether you’d be back in time to fill it for tomorrow’s luncheon.” She lifted a thin shoulder. “I figured a library wouldn’t want something that goes against the grain, so I tried to remember what the centerpieces looked like at my cousin Louise’s wedding.” Allie lifted her eyebrows, and Mia blushed, filling in her nervousness by tumbling her words one after another. “You know, the kind that’s done at a VFW hall, with some tacky band in blue tuxedos that sings ‘Daddy’s Little Girl.’”

Allie laughed. “Let me guess. The flower girl carried a little ball made of miniature pink carnations.”

Mia smirked. “You were invited?” She helped Allie lift the centerpieces into the cooler, and then gestured to the far corner of the store where a string of cemetery baskets and wreaths were taking shape beneath the dried flower rings Allie hung on the walls for browsing customers.

Allie sucked in her breath. Mia had found the rue, all right, but had steered clear of the bluebells and the other suggestions Allie had offered. And she had been absolutely correct to do so. Instead of the traditionally shaped baskets, she had placed side by side six trailing bouquets more fashioned to a wedding than a funeral. Snowy lilies of the valley, orchids, and stephanotis nestled between heather sprigs, rue, rosemary, ivy, and ferns. And at the heart of each pale, creamy arrangement was one spiraled rose as red as blood.

“Oh, Mia,” Allie said. “These are perfect.”

“You really like them?” She twisted her hands in the hem of her shirt. “It isn’t what you asked for.”

“It’s more than I asked for.” She looked up at Mia, taking in the florist’s moss trapped beneath her nails, the leaves clinging to the soles of her shoes. “Mr. MacDonald will love them.”

Reading Group Guide

Mercy
Readers Guide
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. To what degree is the title a metaphor for this novel?
2. Are Jamie's actions justified? What about Cam's? Allie's?
3. Who is the author of the "notes" between the chapters? Whom are these snippets addressing? Did you believe this throughout the book?
4. Jamie says, "You know it's never fifty-fifty in a marriage. It's always seventy-thirty, or sixty-forty. Someone falls in love first. Someone puts someone else up on a pedestal. Someone works very hard to keep things rolling smoothly; someone else sails along for the ride." Do you agree?
5. In what ways does Mia's memory of her parents' love influence her relationship with Cam?
6. Who is the most selfish character? The most selfless?
7. In what ways are Cam and Jamie similar?
8. How is Cameron MacDonald like his namesake ancestor? How is he different? To what extent does the Scottish history of this clan affect his decisions?
9. What is the significance of the moments in Mercy that are magical or somewhat unreal?
10. There is a catch-22 in Mia and Cam's relationship: They have each fallen in love with a person who would no longer exist if they were to run off together. Do you agree or disagree with this statement, and why?
11. Is there a hero in this book?
12. What attracts Allie to Jamie? To Cam? What attracts Mia to Cam, and Cam to Mia? Do you believe that we try to find in the people we love parts of our personalities that are lacking?
13. At the end of chapter 17, Cam "wondered how he had so quickly gone from holding everything he wanted in the palm of his hand to having absolutely nothing at all. He wondered how he could have been so blinded by something shiny and new and elusive that he couldn't at least give equal credit for the strength of something stable, and strong, and his." Do you think his feelings are heartfelt? Do you agree?
14. Why did Picoult choose to make Jamie a pioneer in virtual reality?
15. How has Jamie changed by the end of the book?
16. What will happen to Cam and Allie? To Mia? To Jamie?
17. Is this novel about love, or loyalty? Are they the same thing?

Introduction

Mercy

Readers Guide

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. To what degree is the title a metaphor for this novel?

2. Are Jamie's actions justified? What about Cam's? Allie's?

3. Who is the author of the "notes" between the chapters? Whom are these snippets addressing? Did you believe this throughout the book?

4. Jamie says, "You know it's never fifty-fifty in a marriage. It's always seventy-thirty, or sixty-forty. Someone falls in love first. Someone puts someone else up on a pedestal. Someone works very hard to keep things rolling smoothly; someone else sails along for the ride." Do you agree?

5. In what ways does Mia's memory of her parents' love influence her relationship with Cam?

6. Who is the most selfish character? The most selfless?

7. In what ways are Cam and Jamie similar?

8. How is Cameron MacDonald like his namesake ancestor? How is he different? To what extent does the Scottish history of this clan affect his decisions?

9. What is the significance of the moments in Mercy that are magical or somewhat unreal?

10. There is a catch-22 in Mia and Cam's relationship: They have each fallen in love with a person who would no longer exist if they were to run off together. Do you agree or disagree with this statement, and why?

11. Is there a hero in this book?

12. What attracts Allie to Jamie? To Cam? What attracts Mia to Cam, and Cam to Mia? Do you believe that we try to find in the people we love parts of our personalities that are lacking?

13. At the end of chapter 17, Cam "wondered how he had so quickly gone from holding everything he wanted in the palm of his hand to having absolutely nothing at all. He wondered how hecould have been so blinded by something shiny and new and elusive that he couldn't at least give equal credit for the strength of something stable, and strong, and his." Do you think his feelings are heartfelt? Do you agree?

14. Why did Picoult choose to make Jamie a pioneer in virtual reality?

15. How has Jamie changed by the end of the book?

16. What will happen to Cam and Allie? To Mia? To Jamie?

17. Is this novel about love, or loyalty? Are they the same thing?

Customer Reviews

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Mercy 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 193 reviews.
KasWolf More than 1 year ago
I've read a lot of Picoult, and I never grow tired of her stories. Mercy, however, was especially well written. I really enjoyed the characters, their interactions and developments, the twists and turns of the story and especially the way she ties it all up at the end. I recommend this bood to anyone who has ever loved.
AshleyLC More than 1 year ago
This is the second of Jodi Picoult's books that I had to force myself through. (The Tenth Circle being the first) Most of her books are wonderful stories that you can't put down because you come to love the characters and feel as if you know them. Mercy, however, was a completely different story. The book is supposed to be about Maggie and Jamie, but instead over half of the book is dedicated to Cam's philandering with Mia...I wanted to slap Cam and Mia and tell them to get it together. I also wanted to slap Allie for being so naive. The concept of a mercy killing should have made for a great novel, but I think Picoult's ambitions got in her way with this book. I wouldn't recommend wasting your time on this one...
Marlene8888 More than 1 year ago
Jodi Picoult never disappoints.....her storylines are timely and thought-provoking. I usually go into her books with a set opinion on the topic, and always end up either changing my mind or at least admitting that life in rarely black and white. I love the way she tackles her subjects and characters. From Page 1, I am involved and I care. In my opinion, she is one of our best current authors. I am in the process of reading ALL of her books.
BookLoverLC More than 1 year ago
This book was interesting enough at first but then when i started to get into it i just became so disgusted with Cam and Mia that I almost didn't finish it.I was soo upset that he knew it was wrong and he just kept doing what he was doing, and Mia was so incredibly fake that I just wanted to slap her. I don't care if they were "soulmates" as some people implied, they could've handled the situation differently instead of hurting Allie when all she tried to do was be the perfect wife for Cam. I really loved Allie and Jamie, I was kind of hoping that Allie would leave Cam and find someone just like Jamie because she deserves better than the lying cheating excuse for a man Cam is.
I've read 6 of Jodi's books and consider her one of my favorite authors, I always recommend her books to people but not this one. Although I liked the mercy killing plot I wouldnt really recommend it because the affair made me so upset with the characters that the whole book was ruined for me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love Jodi Picoult! But this book was not one of her best. I hated Cam, was irritated with Alli, and annoyed with Mia. The only characters I liked, Jamie and Maggie, weren't in it enough. This book wasn't what I expected. The end was slightly redeeming but still left way too much unsolved and up in the air.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is deffinitly Picoult's worst book. it was boring at the beggining and didnt catch my attention. Don't be discouraged try reading The Pact, or Salem Falls
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is so riveting that I could not put it down. It is down to earth with a lot of feelings. The author has portrayed the characters in a way that it seems like neibhors down the way. This book has my highest rating. You must read if you like stories that are realistic and down to earth.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read several of her books and this one was not what I expected. The book focused a lot on Cam's affair with that sorry excuse of an assistant. I only finished reading because I wanted to know how it all turned out. I agree with some of the other readers that Jodi usually has a really great twist at the end. I was left dumbfounded and completely upset with the characters in this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was propelled through this 'different' Picoult book because I was sure things would somehow tie together at the end and come together. When I realized that this wasn't going to happen, it was a bit of a struggle to finish. I kept waiting for it to become clear that Cam and the woman he was having an affair with were reincarnated loves from hundreds of years ago, as I thought was implied in some of the things the uncle and other characters were saying. That was one of the many stories that ended up going nowhere. Because of this assumption I had that they were meant to be together, I was OK with their affair, but then I felt bad when I realized that that wasn't it at all. I still love her books, though! Looking forward to the next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading the reviews I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I was was able to relate to, and feel sympathy for all of the characters in this book. Jodi Picoult often takes her characters through extreme situations. Love can be difficult or come at times and places that are not ideal. All of us felt bad for Allie, but I don't think that she was the only one that deserved sympathy. Cam had gone through his marriage to that point knowing that the life he really wanted to live was something he wouldn't be able to have, then found deep understanding and happiness with Mia. He can only have a future with her if he hurts everyone else that he cares for and loves. He has no ideal options. Mia has finally found true love after after neglect as a child and all her wandering and searching. It's tragic that in order to reach for her own happiness she would need to hurt both her friend (Allie) and Cam (while he loses so much of his life from pursuing her). Jamie and Maggie's story is beautiful and well done. I thought that this story was as much about their love and whether they had wronged each (by Jamie honoring Maggie's request), then it was about the trial, and whether Mercy Killing should be legal. The intellectual discussion on Mercy killing was interesting and well explored - especially by Jamie's lawyer as he thinks through the implications. The heart of mercy in all its forms is love. I thought this book was wonderful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing author, cant go wrong with any of jp books
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautiful words, intiguing premise, brave perspective; however, not the most uplifting read--not really my typical read but i also couldnt put it down. I needed to know how it ends--even though there really could be no happy ending.
JP31CS7 More than 1 year ago
I picked this up one day not knowing much about the plot. It was the most amazing and touching love story I've read by her! The characters were so well developed and you keep asking yourself, what would I have done? The twists and turns keep you turning the pages! This is an absolute MUST READ!!
Aimee60 More than 1 year ago
Jodi Picoult has written many novels over the years, but "Mercy" leaves you questioning right versus wrong. She writes about real-life issues that are dealt with every day in our society. "Mercy" is a page turning novel about a man (Jamie) who has killed his wife (Maggie) out of mercy and goes to his police chief cousin (Cam) for help. He is facing a trial and during that time Cam starts an affair with his wife Allie's assistant Mia while Allie is away gathering witness testimonials for Jamie's trial. This novel not only has you questioning whether euthanasia is right or wrong, but also whether or not it is right or wrong to forgive the spouse who betrayed your trust.
RZAZ31210 More than 1 year ago
"Mercy" was also an interesting book by Picoult. There were kind of two stories being intertwined throughout the book. One half was about a love so pure a man would do anything for his wife. The other was about a very proud loving wife, but an unfaithful husband. I like the plot a lot of this book and it kept me reading. It did make me uncomfortable reading about the affair though because it made me think a lot about how awful that would be. Picoult once again does such a great job of making these characters seem so real. She really gets me thinking about so many different situations that could end up being very real ones.
SB-fan1 More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down! I fell in love with Cam McDonald and his life with Allie & Mia. I also fell in love with Jamie and his love for Maggie. Picoult kept my attention with the complex lives of these characters instead of focusing on the life of only one. I could not wait to find out what the verdict would be as much as I was excited to find out where Cam's heart would take him. If you understand the struggles of life, love and harship you will appriciate Picoult's thought in this book.
PiccoultFan More than 1 year ago
Interesting plot for a story, one I was anxious to read, but it seemed that the outcome of the book was revealed on page 20! I kept wondering why I was reading the book because it was so predictable and I knew what was going to happen at the end. I also found some sections of the book just plain boring, not filled with character insights and action like her other novels. Piccoult is a great author, but I would definately choose one of her others: Salmen Falls, My Sister's Keeper, Nineteen Minutes, or The Pact.
Anonymous 8 days ago
I couldn’t put it down!
lgillingham on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Not as well written or riveting as some of her other books.
jrepman on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Mercy killing and marriage-more great characters.
CatieN on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Camerone McDonald is the police chief in a small town in Massachusetts. He is also clan chief due to the fact that the townspeople's ancestors all came from the same clan in Scotland. The two story arcs are about euthanasia and a cheating spouse. Neither is done very well. Normally, I enjoy a Picoult book because she is great at character development , it is a quick read, and she usually has a great twist at the end. Not so in this case. This book was awful, and I hated the ending having to do with Cameron & his wife Allie. Very disappointing. I gave it 2 stars only because I was able to finish it.
jacketscoversread on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Jodi Picoult is probably one of my favorite authors, excluding Jane Austen, of course. I love the way her books grab a hold of you and don¿t let you go until the very end. But probably my favorite thing is that she tackles tough moral issues in her novels.Throughout the novel, I got the distinct suspicion that I had already read Mercy but never finished it. Maybe that was a sign of things to come.I liked the story in Mercy and there certainly where some parts when Picoult grabbed at my heartstrings and tugged with all of her might. However, I don¿t believe this is one of Picoult¿s best works. The ending was abrupt, almost like she was rushing to finish the novel and that was very detrimental to how I felt after reading this novel.But she question she posed it a tough one: Is it okay to kill a loved one out of mercy? This really hit home for me, seeing how my mom had breast cancer, which one of the characters, Maggie, did too, and the fact that my dad makes me promise that if he¿s ever a ¿vegetable,¿ I¿ll take care of it.
Gary10 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I picked the author before the book. This one begins a bit slowly and I had difficulty following and understanding the characters. But Picoult is skilled at posing difficult moral and ethical questions. In this case, euthanasia and marital infidelity.
jlouise77 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Jodi Picoult is one of the best writer I have ever read. This book captures the internal struggle that most everyone with a terminally ill loved one must go through. I love the way she can show both sides of the coin without showing bias towards one side or the other.
booksandjava on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I really enjoyed the first Picoult book I read:My Sister's Keeper. I liked the second Picoult book I read: Plain Truth. I hated this book. It seemed all over the place and I couldn't identify with any of the characters. I'm not sure why I wasted my time.