The Mercy Papers
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The Mercy Papers

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3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  479 ratings  ·  123 reviews
From the critically acclaimed author of The Mother Garden comes a stirring and intimate memoir about the three weeks before her mother's death.
Hardcover, 213 pages
Published January 6th 2009 by Scribner Book Company (first published January 1st 2009)
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Cheryl Strayed
This is a beautiful book. Romm is a fabulous writer.
Kelli
Well written. Interesting but kind of heavy; not a pick-me-up kind of book. Then again, I never expected it to be...still it kind of weighs on my emotions. Gut-wrenching in parts. Very good at conveying what it feels like to lose a loved one. Was hard to read in parts--I relived my own experience in bits and pieces through this book. It was nothing if not accurate.
Kelley
Read this one in less than a night. Couldn't put it down. I think some people might think it masochistic, but there's something deeply comforting about reading a story that feels so much like my own story - different details, yet same confusing, wrenching struggle. And in the end, she gives good advice that most people are too afraid to give: 'it will never leave you.' And claims, rightfully so, that there's comfort in that, and there, oddly, is. Beautiful beautiful book. Made me thankful at tim...more
Corinne
I first learned of this book via an Entertainment Weekly "Best Books of 2009" list, which I perused while I was sitting in an ICU ward trying to distract myself from the fact that it was looking more and more certain that my reality would soon match up with Romm's. My own mom's passing was very sudden, so I can't say that I could identify with absolutely everything in here - the hospice care experience, for one, which makes up a sizable portion of the book - but I can say that, more than anythin...more
Adele Stratton
(2 and a half stars, I guess.) I was annoyed with Romm throughout this short memoir written primarily about the weeks-long period as her mother slowly succumbed to a 9-year battle with breast cancer. I kept reading because I expected Romm would somehow redeem herself. Although she presents her mother as fiercely intelligent, independent and brave, we can hardly say the same about her daughter. I found Romm’s denial, self-absorption and selfishness appalling, especially on the last day of her mot...more
Mary Kruft
This is a brutally honest account of a young woman's loss of her mother to cancer. Her mother suffered for about 8 years and Robin, the author, shares details many people are afraid to share. I had some issues with her dislike of the Hospice care her mom & family received. I work for an outstanding Hospice organization and our nurses & social workers are truly angels on earth. Perhaps Robin's care providers were just not what she needed at that time. It is never easy to lost a parent, es...more
Cristy
When I pick up a memoir, my intent is to open myself up to another person's experience, not to judge it. I wasn't driven 'The Mercy Papers' based on the subject matter, but because I was curious about her agent. Perhaps that changes my perspective.

Romm writes like the MFA she is, weaving word-pictures of environment and settings. Unfortunately, she's not quite so apt with her character depictions. While it's difficult, when one has written a memoir, to avoid labels like 'narcissist' or 'selfish...more
Laura M.
This was heartwrenching to read. While it would be easy to say that this writer was being selfish by examining the full range of her own emotions as her mother lay dying, I think the act of publishing the story of her raw feelings is the greatest, most self-less gift she could have given to any one of us losing a parent. As the mourners, we know that we are supposed to behave ourselves, and turn our minds only to the suffering we see before us. But this writer has reached deep within herself to...more
Leigh Hancock
My friend Mateo had a good point when he asked why I even read this book. I dunno. "Nothing better to do" doesn't really have the ring of truth. Maybe it was the popsicle sticks on the cover. Whatever the reason, I regreted it immensely--so much that I kept reading, hoping it would get bettr. It didn't. It's not so much that the writing is bad (although it's a bit MLA-stylized)...it's rather that the writer is so venomous toward almost everyone and especially toward the somewhat hapless hospice...more
Andy
I don't know, it's not that it was a bad book... I think I'm just mad because I'm never going to find someone who went through EXACTLY what I went through/am going through during and following the death of my own mother. There were parts I really identified with, but it just didn't grab me the way I thought it would. I guess it's different for everybody and nobody's going to write my story except for me.
Jodi
I have no idea if this book is as good as I deemed it to be, because it was, for me, essentially an autobiography. To a tee.
Heather Barbieri
a fearless, fierce portrait of the process of grief
Morrigan
Honest and raw. This book is an honest and uncompromising recount of the three weeks leading up to the death of Robin Romm's mother (from cancer). Romm details the daily occurrences: the pain medications, making sure her mother's oxygen mask was on correctly, the food that people kept bringing to their house, how the people in the house behaved, the people from the hospice trying to up her mother's pain medications, etc. And she also describes her own feelings and thoughts: the feelings of aband...more
Patricia
Robin Romm gets up close and very personal in this memoir that takes place during the last three weeks of her mother's life. It is gritty, gruesome, and anything but ordinary. I can't say I understand her relationship with her mother which is in turns tender, angry, frustrated and admiring, but I did understand that her feelings were not static and that's why the book is pretty darn good. This story may take place during the last 3 weeks of her mother's life, but her mother has been dying for 9...more
Diane
Losing Mom - 3.5/5 stars

I was thrilled to receive this memoir even though the subject is a tough one: Robin Romm's mother’s 9 year battle with cancer. I felt I might be able to relate to this one, especially since I cared for my own mom who died when I was in my 30’s from a short battle (just 11 weeks) with pancreatic cancer.

I suspected that the title had something to do with forgiveness, or mercy in the traditional sense, but I was wrong, “Mercy” was the name of the author’s cattle dog. The mem...more
David
memoir of final weeks of the author's mother's life, end of a 9-year process of dying of breast cancer, at which point author was in her mid-20's. Well-written, and she does a great job of evoking scenes. Some telling observations, e.g., the great sense of relief people tend to feel when there is something to do, as opposed to just hanging around the dying person and being together as family and friends looking for something meaningful or comforting to say.

hard to separate my sense of the book f...more
Kaylen
From my blog review:

The Mercy Papers: A Memoir of Three Weeks (Robin Romm) was sad--but it wasn't a shocking sad, because you know right from the start that it is about a woman's life during the time when her mom was dying. Nothing upbeat about that...

Robin was really close with her mom, who had been sick for many years. Cancer. I hate cancer.

So Robin lived most of her adult life with her mom as a sick mom, fighting off lumps and trying different extreme treatments.

This was really sweet and so...more
Mme. Bookling ~
I feel an odd need to defend this book because I made the grave mistake of reading other people's reviews here on Goodreads. One in particular censured Romm for her selfishness and heavily criticized her choices about medicating her mother in her mom's last days. I need to say that writers do not write memoir because they are
1-100% sure of every single choice they have ever made
2-willing themselves as an example for every human
3-asking for approval

As the reader, it is not for us to JUDGE her ac...more
Mark
Robin Romm has been dealing with her mother's breast cancer for about a third of her life. Her mother, who was a successful attorney until she became too sick to work, has entered the end stage of the disease and this book is the author's account of mother's final weeks. The memoir is in turns angry and sad. The sadness of course is the grief she feels regarding her mother's death, but most of the anger is directed toward the hospice program that is caring for her mother. Since hospice care is g...more
Jan
Do not read this book if you have a propensity for feeling maudlin or if you don't feel like contemplating your mortality any time soon.

The Mercy Papers is Romm's memoir of the last 3 weeks of her mother's life. Romm does not pull any punches. The descriptions of what her mother went through in her decline and ultimate death from cancer are absolutely brutal. So are descriptions of her own feelings - the anguish, the anger, the despair. This book is gut-wrenching.

But it's also very good. I like...more
Tammy
Author Robin Romm takes us on a painful and poignant autobiographical journey through the last three weeks of her mothers’ life.

It is an intimate story of grief, loss, and anger. Day by numbing day marches towards almost incomprehensible loss – the loss of another person to whom we are seemingly inextricably bound. It is a loss many of us have suffered or dread suffering.

Strangely the mother as the central character of this story seems gray and distant. Dying slowly is a grim process. Cruel. The...more
Shelley
I finished The Mercy Papers in a day, but this 200 page book packs a mighty punch. A memoir written by Robin Romm during the last three weeks of her mother’s 9 year battle with cancer, it left me with what felt like an 80 pound brick on my chest. I couldn’t help but cry with Romm as she described the process of her grief – which, during this book, stayed mostly in the anger stage. Desperate to keep her mother with her at any cost, she makes pacts with God, tells her mother she can’t die because...more
Dindy
“If this book does land in the hands of those in the midst of a tragedy, I can tell you this: It
will never leave you. And I think in the complex way of truth, that that is the most comforting thing.”

Brilliant! Reached the deep ache in my heart, the hole where my mother used to be. Stirred it up. Made me weep for Romm's loss and mine. We are not alone in our grief we are among a tribe of women who have lost so much.

Excerpt From: Romm, Robin. “The Mercy Papers.” Simon and Schuster, 2009. iBooks.
T...more
Shawna
This book hit WAY too close to home for me . .

I read the description and knew I shouldn't go anywhere near this book. But some strange fascination about how someone else experienced the death of her mother made me start reading it.

Ten years after the loss of my own mother to the same disease, reading this book brought back a lot of memories for me. But I'm so glad that I did read it . . .to know that someone else went through the same periods of disconnectedness (is that a word?), estrangement...more
Carrie O'Maley Voliva
She completely captured the horrible period of hospice when you live in a bubble and long to climb out into another world in which your loved one is healthy and happy and all is well. This was hard to read, but only because It put me back in that place. It is beautiful to feel validated in my feelings and experience and I am grateful to the friend who recommend it.
Jennifer
If you are a woman who has lost your mother before she was old, read this. It is the rare, brave tale not of the healing that happens later, but of the anguish that you feel while you watch your mother--whom you cannot breathe without--ripped from life, hers and yours. I found Romm's somewhat sarcastic, bitter, baleful, and ultimately authentic take on the experience immensely comforting. Books about the silver lining of mother loss can have an isolating impact - if you don't see the upside to l...more
Christy
Wow. This book was fantastic. Being the same age as Robin and then her coming from Eugene, a city I was about to move to, and now living in New Mexico and Berkeley, the other two places I was about to move to, I was captured not only by the story of loss but also by the sheer interest in her life. I looked at her picture on the back cover a lot and wondered about her. While I read this book, I thought about my own mom and how it will feel when she dies. It was awful, and I cried for Robin when h...more
Tiffany
May 07, 2009 Tiffany rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Tiffany by: EW Grade A
Shelves: ew-picks
I just finished this heartwrenching story and the tears are still drying on my cheeks. I cannot imagine what life would be like without my Mom, and this author had 9 years to imagine it througout her mother's struggles with cancer. Even by the end, to no suprise, she is not ready. This is a beautiful tribute and a beautifully book about grief and loss.

In one of many great sections about mothers, she says:
"Women stop their lives; they're programmed that way. A child comes into the world and sudde...more
Jackie
Jan 10, 2009 Jackie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jackie by: Feb 2009 IndieNext Noteable
This is a brutally honest book about living through the last few weeks of a terminally ill parent's life. Fierce love, fierce loneliness, self-centeredness, frustration, fury, exhaustion, bitterness, memories, too harsh realities--they are all here. Robin Romm is intensely brave and puts herself, and her family and friends, under the brightest of spotlights during one of the most difficult things a family can ever go through. It isn't pretty, but it is achingly true. There are no heroes in this...more
Kitty O'Steen
This is a tough and mostly satisfying look at death up close, as writer Robin Romm chronicles her mother's death from breast cancer. The book focuses primarily on the last few weeks and days, with Romm wanting to understandably keep her mother around for as long as possible. She battles the hospice worker who is trying to "build the boat"(which consists of upping narcotic dosages) to transport her beloved mother to another place (i.e., death) that is serene and without pain. Anyone in Romm's pla...more
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Robin Romm is the author of two books, The Mother Garden (stories) and The Mercy Papers (a memoir). The Mercy Papers received the cover review of the New York Times Book Review ("a furious blaze of a book") in January 2009. The Mother Garden was a finalist for the PEN USA prize and the Northern California Independent Bookseller Book of the Year Award. She teaches in the MFA program at New Mexico S...more
More about Robin Romm...
The Mother Garden The Tilt Antioch Review:  Fall 2012

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“The ticking of the clock has gotten so loud." - 74” 5 likes
“And then I feel guilty, because I know all these offers are made in vain. I know I cannot get my mother back healthy for a day. ... My mom is sick, sick and dying, and no bargaining will change that. And it's in all the books, bargaining, which makes me embarrassed. Look at me grieving my textbook grief. - 150” 4 likes
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