With a mix of nineteenth century tradition, customs, and superstition, a young woman’s fears and flashbacks of the ugliness of her past, the sordidness of her present, and the uncertainties of her future, this tale mesmerizes the reader from beginning to end. If you are looking for a book with a touch of edginess, a poignant back story, and a painful journey toward the light, this book is for you.
Her name is Mercy, but she hates the word. She has heard it used and abused all too often, but experienced it seldom. The book’s first two chapters sets the tone for the reader. The storyline begins in the middle at the cusp of Mercy Roller’s 19 years, the turning point that thrust her forward into the uncertainties of a future while relentlessly reviewing her painful past until the baffled reader sees the pattern and begins rooting for her to heal and move on in life.
Not all of Mercy’s flashbacks are painful. Some of them reveal to us the depth of her relationship with her best friend, Maddie. Maddie understood Mercy’s troubling family life, nor was she blind to the Pastor’s double standards and shifting image. She stood as a pillar of sanity for Mercy, silently supportive, always there to pick up the broken pieces of her friend’s shattered self-worth, tirelessly easing Mercy back to normal. These flashbacks also revealed simultaneously the strength of Mercy’s mother’s protection as well as the weakness of a woman who stands by her man even during the torridness of his sick mind. The flashbacks showcased a cohesive community that maintained an unspoken code of honor, protecting each other from abuse, helping each other in the aftermath of violence. In essence, the author’s authentic voice rips the bandage off the scabs to open our eyes to both the sordidness and the blossom of life as it truly existed. That makes this book a unique piece of historical fiction.
What I liked best about Cindy Sprole’s novel is the honesty with which she portrays Appalachian life. She doesn’t paint a fanciful picture of this segment of history. There ‘s no room for idealistic fantasies or perfection. Sometimes we readers tend to gloss over the past and call our version of it “simpler times.” The truth is that there are no simple times. When people are involved, life becomes complex and usually delivers up starkness along side the beauty. When an author can tell a story with all its honest parts and yet instill hope and triumph into the message, we have a good story. Mercy’s Rain is a good story.
The second element I like about Mercy’s Rain is the balance the author incorporates. Once Mercy leaves the familiarity of her home, it becomes obvious she has trust issues. Eventually her travels lead her to a river where she rests a bit. She has gone beyond the place where she knows the landmarks. She meets young Samuel Stone there and he offers to accompany her to his friends’ homestead, where they need some help. The young father lost his arm recently in an accident; Samuel was on his way to help the couple with their harvest. On the way, Mercy learns that Samuel is a pastor. Her first reaction is distrust because the only pastor she had ever known was her father. The remainder of the tale is like a study in contrasts as Mercy embarks on a healing journey. While settling into life on Terrance and Isabella Johnson’s homestead, Samuel stays on to help her adjust to her new life. The author excels in writing gut-wrenching tension, anguish, triumphs and hope. Mercy’s process of recovery balances her painful history very well.
While the book is beautifully written, I have to admit that I was a little uncomfortable with the content of some of the back story and flashbacks. Some were graphic and reminded me that if these scenes were made into a movie, they would be rated PG-13 to R for the violence. For that reason, I advise caution for those readers with young children around. This book contains many gritty, unpleasant details. It’s fine for young adults, but I don’t recommend it for young teens. Overall, however, I give this book an enthusiastic thumbs up.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from LibraryThing.com on behalf of Kregel Publications. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”