Rachel's Reviews > The Shape of Mercy

The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner
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Sep 22, 10

bookshelves: 1600s, heroine, historical-fiction, library, mystery, read-2010, read-in-one-day, female-author, female-author-heroine, dual-timelines, bechdel-test-passed
Recommended to Rachel by: library
Read from September 21 to 22, 2010, read count: 1

This book could have been much better than it was. There were pretty interesting themes that the author tried to explore--of privilege, of parental expectations, of sacrifice, and others--and there was great potential in a diary written by a victim of the Salem witch trial, which could have been fascinating and tragic.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be very shallow. The diary was probably the worst; the writing was bad, uninteresting, unrealistic, and, worst of all, didn't touch me at all. I never cared about Mercy the way I would have liked to, the way Lauren and Abigail do, the way I would have if I'd read an actual diary (or a well written fake). It was predictable and a lot of what was written in it is not stuff that a girl would write about in her own personal diary; it was just there to further along the witch trial story. Then, when she was actually accused and arrested, the entries kept going, as if she could really write in her diary in jail. And even worse, the love story, which according to the characters is what the diary is about, was completely unmoving.

As for the modern day story, it was better written and more fleshed out, but not enough. Again, it was shallow. No growth or achievement that the characters accomplished was actually built, it just seemed to happen. Lauren's circumstances seem unlikely--she is a rich girl making a stand against her rich background by going to a state school and living in a dorm with the same roommate for two years...what kind of stand is that? All her relationships, with her roommate, her parents, her cousins, her employer, are awkward and hard to understand, and seem to change from day to day. The mistakes and assumptions that Lauren feels terrible about making are predictable and boring, and the mistakes and assumptions that she doesn't really address (or that the author tries to show she was right about) did a disservice to the character and to those around her, and left me with a bad taste. Her love story, like Mercy's was unmoving.

The problems in Abigail's life, including her own past love story, were more interesting than those of Mercy and Lauren, but the character was so unreachable and unlikeable that I didn't actually care. Moreover, the situation between Lauren and Abigail was bizarre and unlikely, so I found it hard to believe that any of this would be happening, or to care.

I could have done without the religious aspect of the book (there was an awful lot about religion in the modern day story that not only did I not care for but--more importantly--didn't ring true), but that was actually one of the least problematic areas of the book.

Another huge problem was the writing. I found nothing special or interesting about the prose, about any turn of phrase or any character's way of speaking. It was just uninteresting. Something that personally bothered me was how snippets that were supposed to be pieces of writing--the diary and e-mail messages--were written as if they were spoken. In the middle of an e-mail from Raul to Lauren is an uncapitalized and unpunctuated interruption from Cole, and then Raul continues his e-mail. What? It's not being transmitted instantaneously. In real life anyone would simply have deleted the interruption. Mercy, in her diary, explains why she has to stop writing, and then later wonders if she has enough ink. In writing. She wastes ink by writing down her worries about not having enough ink (which it's ridiculous for her to have brought with her in the first place). This really made it hard for me to take the story seriously.

Overall, I found this to be a big disappointment. It was a quick read and was somewhat entertaining, but it just wasn't deep or good.

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Reading Progress

09/21/2010 page 51
16.0% "I'm slightly uncomfortable with the amount of mentions G-d and prayer are getting by the modern characters, but that's my own issue. Other than that, the diary entries from the past are so far not written well or realistic or mature sounding, but it's early."
09/22/2010 page 307
96.0% "That's all there is, including the readers guide. And ugh."

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Dolores Will see how it goes for me. Thank You for your review.


message 2: by Ale (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ale Agree; I actually facepalmed with Cole's interruption on the email. It made me double check when was this book written, but I'm fairly sure we were all used to writing emails in 2008.


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