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The Mercy Papers

3.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  584 Ratings  ·  132 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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New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2009
63rd out of 100 books — 119 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,950)
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Cheryl Strayed
Dec 14, 2011 Cheryl Strayed rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book. Romm is a fabulous writer.
Jan 25, 2009 Kelley rated it it was amazing
Shelves: grief, biography
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
Feb 01, 2009 Kelli rated it really liked it
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.
Pierced Librarian
Nov 01, 2015 Pierced Librarian rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Recommended to Pierced Librarian by: ME!
Shelves: grief, memoir
When my brother was dying, one way I had to tether myself was to pretend to be someone watching from the ceiling. What would that person say about what was unfolding in the moment in the house where my brother was struggling for independence when half his body had left the building, where my mom was politely trying to ignore that we needed help- which involved allowing in hospice. Strangers, mind you! And I was driving 7 hours one way to roll joints for my brother while sitting on pickle buckets ...more
Adele Stratton
Oct 15, 2014 Adele Stratton rated it it was ok
(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
Feb 04, 2011 Cristy rated it it was ok
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
Feb 13, 2014 Corinne rated it it was amazing
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
Mary Kruft
May 23, 2009 Mary Kruft rated it liked it
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
Laura M.
Aug 11, 2009 Laura M. rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 08, 2010 Leigh Hancock rated it it was ok
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)'s rather that the writer is so venomous toward almost everyone and especially toward the somewhat hapless hospice ...more
Oct 18, 2014 Kelly rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs
I am conflicted about everything I felt while reading this book, having lost many loved ones but none so traumatic as my brother. So in some respects, I can relate to her anger and helplessness, harsh judgments of others at times, and loneliness. But I also was turned off by her immaturity and selfishness in expecting her mother to drag out her illness, suffering beyond imagination, just to be "there" for her only child. I try to imagine what I would've been like at 28 dealing with my brother's ...more
Oct 16, 2009 Rae rated it it was ok
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.
Jan 26, 2009 Jodi rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 10, 2009 Heather Barbieri rated it really liked it
a fearless, fierce portrait of the process of grief
Jul 13, 2011 Morrigan rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009-read
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
Jul 11, 2013 Patricia rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
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
Mar 15, 2009 Diane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 25, 2009 David rated it it was ok
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
Mar 24, 2010 Kaylen rated it really liked it
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
Mme. Bookling ~
Jul 09, 2013 Mme. Bookling ~ rated it liked it
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
Feb 28, 2009 Mark rated it liked it
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
Oct 03, 2010 Jan rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Mar 27, 2011 Tammy rated it liked it
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
Mar 29, 2012 Shelley rated it really liked it
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
Jan 25, 2015 Meg rated it liked it
Shelves: relationships, memoir
This small book is unflinchingly honest about how un-heroic the process of dying can be. It can be selfish, petty, funny and tragic and the author captures it all. She does not paint herself as the heroic daughter, nor her mother as the perfect parent (ok maybe a little). It is not a light read, but if you want to "get real", and gain some understanding of cancer and its impact, it is a authentic heartfelt telling.
May 24, 2014 Dindy rated it it was amazing
“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.
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
Carrie O'Maley Voliva
Jul 27, 2014 Carrie O'Maley Voliva rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 06, 2010 Jennifer rated it really liked it
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
Mar 07, 2009 Christy rated it it was amazing
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
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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...

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“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” 5 likes
“The ticking of the clock has gotten so loud." - 74” 5 likes
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