Susan Meissner has quickly become one of my favorite authors. She is more than an excellent author of historical fiction; she is a weaver of words, seamlessly tangling the lives of three women, one of whom lived more than 300 years ago.
In The Shape of Mercy, Meissner guides us as we explore the themes of wealth, prejudice, and the power of love for another.
Lauren Durough is a wealthy young woman desperately trying to prove that she does not need her family's legacy or wealth. When she accepts a part-time job transcribing a diary from the Salem Witch Trials, her eyes are opened to the tragedy of the historical hysteria. The diary's owner, Abigail, is saddened by her distant cousin's story, and burdened that it live on beyond the family legend it has become.
"I should have realized then that this wasn't about Mercy alone." Lauren herself quickly realizes that she has a lot to learn from the choices that Abigail and Mercy, the diary's author, have made. The diary becomes a catalyst for redemption for the two women, as each comes to terms with their own prejudices and relationships.
Because Lauren's perspective is revealed most often, we learn quickly that she is frequently unaware of her own prejudices and shallowness. At first, I found that I didn't like her; but although I was disappointed in my lack of adoration for the protagonist, Meissner gives her room to change and grow, and makes her teachable, without fixing all of her flaws by the novel's end. All in all, I came to appreciate Lauren, a woman willing to admit her faults and push through to do what is right.
Mercy's diary, the story within the story, was written into the novel beautifully, and was so well written that I had to remind myself that it was not a primary source document being translated into story form by Lauren.
Mercy challenged me to check my own opinions and caused me to ponder what I would truly be willing to do for one my heart loves. Meissner has created a story that will long stay with me, and will certainly be found on my list of favorites.
I highly recommend The Shape of Mercy for fans of historical and contemporary fiction, as it is a perfect blend of both.
*Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing provided a free copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. I have not been compensated in any other way.