The Shape of Mercy Review

TITLE: The Shape of Mercy
AUTHOR: Susan Meissner
GENRE: Historical Fiction


Leaving a life of privilege to strike out on her own, Lauren Durough breaks with convention and her family’s expectations by choosing a state college over Stanford and earning her own income over accepting her ample monthly allowance. She takes a part-time job from 83-year-old librarian Abigail Boyles, who asks Lauren to transcribe the journal entries of her ancestor Mercy Hayworth, a victim of the Salem witch trials. 

Almost immediately, Lauren finds herself drawn to this girl who lived and died four centuries ago. As the fervor around the witch accusations increases, Mercy becomes trapped in the worldview of the day, unable to fight the overwhelming influence of snap judgments and superstition, and Lauren realizes that the secrets of Mercy’s story extend beyond the pages of her diary, living on in the mysterious, embittered Abigail. 

The strength of her affinity with Mercy forces Lauren to take a startling new look at her own life, including her relationships with Abigail, her college roommate, and a young man named Raul. But on the way to the truth, will Lauren find herself playing the helpless defendant or the misguided judge? Can she break free from her own perceptions and see who she really is? ~

A must read if you’re wandering to Salem

When I was a young girl, I was obsessed with the Salem witch trials. I guess deep down I knew that had I lived during this time, I would have been one of the first ones to burn—because I’m different and that makes me stand out. (I also speak my mind, which wouldn’t have gone over so well with the Puritans lol.) 

Now, almost four decades later, I decided to venture back to this time again. I’m so glad I did.

Susan Meissner nailed it. Not only does she take you back in time inside the mind and heart of a young girl that’s appalled at the events going on around her, eventually being accused of witchcraft herself, but she weaves the core lesson of this senseless tragedy into modern day life.

The characters are real and imperfect—and I fell in love with every one of them. I was totally pulled in by this book…finally. The Shape of Mercy ended a serious fictional book slump that began more than a year ago when I was busy traveling back and forth to Germany.

If you’re wandering to Salem, this is a must read. Read it on the journey there, so when you arrive, you’ll have a deeper sense of the tragedies that befell this part of our country so many years ago. I’m certain some of the energy still lingers.

Now, I’m off to put the book on my teenage daughter’s bed in the hopes that she’ll enjoy it as much as I did. I wonder if she’ll see herself in this story as I did in the ones I read at her age—and I wonder if she’ll ever find it amidst the piles of clothes.

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