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Mercy Among the Children

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  5,149 ratings  ·  331 reviews
When twelve-year-old Sidney Henderson pushes his friend Connie off the roof of a local church in a moment of anger, he makes a silent vow: Let Connie live and I will never harm another soul. At that very moment, Connie stands, laughs, and walks away. Sidney keeps his promise through adulthood despite the fact that his insular, rural community uses his pacifism to exploit h ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published October 8th 2002 by Washington Square Press (first published 2000)
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Adrienne I got the ebook from overdrive and yes, there are many mistakes. I find it annoying and have hence decided to read another book first and then check…moreI got the ebook from overdrive and yes, there are many mistakes. I find it annoying and have hence decided to read another book first and then check if I can get back into this one. I find it really hard to enjoy a book if there are constant mistakes, but I'm not sure if that's the only reason why I don't like this book so much. Definitely adds to it and makes reading less pleasurable. (less)

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3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,149 ratings  ·  331 reviews

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Matthew Quann
Sep 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Matthew by: Grant Carson
Wait, please! Don’t scroll by!

I’m going to do my very best to get you to click that “Want-to-Read” button located somewhere in and around this review.

A relatively herculean task.

I know this isn’t a buzz book, or one that you may be familiar with, and maybe you’ve never even heard of it. And hey, you might not even like it! But I was pleasantly surprised with this novel and I think a lot of you will be too. Also, I found my copy at a used bookstore for only $2, so it isn't even a huge monetary i
Mar 25, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian-lit
I take great interest in any novel that explores violence, so David Adams Richards's Mercy Among the Children, with all its accolades and set as it is just across the bridge from the island where I live, was a must read.

I had high expectations because Mercy Among the Children tied Anil's Ghost (another book about violence) for Canada's Giller Prize, and because everyone I knew who'd read it adored it. By the time I was finished, though, the most I could muster for this book was an "It's okay."

Jun 20, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish

I found Sydney's character to be the most loathsome I have ever come across. And I do not say that lightly. For somebody to use the concept of high morals to justify allowing every member of his family to be battered and abused and to do absolutely nothing is completely unrealistic.

It is perfectly possible to be a good, moral human being and look after the people you love using these very parameters. Sydney just did not. He was utterly selfish in his supposed drive to be a good person, which I f
Dec 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
“Mercy Among the Children” is one of the most beautifully written novels I have read. This literary work has justifiably received Canada’s Giller Prize for literature. It’s a bleak story, a story so full of sadness and cruelty that it leaves the reader depressed. I am not one who favors such novels, yet the remarkable and the moving prose led me to continue to turn the pages.

The story is narrated by 20 something year old Lyle Henderson. Lyle is telling his story to a retired policeman who had an
Oct 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian-author
So many themes throughout this book: strength vs pacifism, poverty/lack of voice vs privilege/voice, good vs evil (of course), truth vs lies and choices.
There's alcoholism, abuse, destitution, vileness of people (the town's people are all basically selfish, mean, greedy), martyrs, rage and so much more. It's about facing your beliefs and living with them, the good & bad of this choice.....and who it may hurt or help. It's a story of family, father & sons and community.
It's not a happy s
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 16, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: canadian, fiction
Okay, I'm starting to think my boss doesn't like me - this is the second book that she has given me that I didn't like.

Again, I had high hopes for this book - it won the Giller in 2000 and the premise sounded promising. But that's where it ended. The characters frustrated me to no end. They seemed to either be too good to the point that they didn't want to stand up for themselves (ie. Sydney and Elly) or used and abused people all the way (Lyle, Mathew, Connie, Cynthia). The story wandered every
❀ Susan G
Jul 21, 2016 rated it really liked it

Book # 31 in my quest to read CBC’s 100 Novels that Make You Proud to be Canadian was Mercy Among the Children. While it is definitely not a feel good novel, it slowly draws the reader in and keeps them turning pages to find out what is next for the stigmatized, poor Henderson family. The New Brunswick author has been honoured to be a member of the Order of Canada and the Order of New Brunswick.

Using first person narration, David Adams Richards tells a dra
Shirley Schwartz
This book is filled with overwhelming sadness which somehow does not descend into hopelessness or melodrama. It is a difficult book to read. David Richards does not spare his prose when describing the everlasting poverty of the Henderson family. There is greatness in this family. The father Sydney is a truly honourable and brave man who will never show his anger to any other person, including his family. There is the mother Elly, who is a beautiful simple soul and one that unscrupulous people fe ...more
Jul 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-books
It's bleak. Relentless. Dark. Frustrating. You won't like any of the characters. They're almost all self serving, grasping and just awful. The ones that aren't are mostly martyrs. It's told in the first person, Lyle, whose father, as a child, pushed another child off a roof and vowed if the child lived, he would never hurt another person. And he didn't. He never hurt anyone, he told the truth, he never stood up for himself, either physically or emotionally. As a result, his family suffered. They ...more
John-Paul Teti
Aug 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: for-school, meh
This is a pretty good book, and I found it moving in some ways...but I also have a large problem with it, which is that Richards asks the reader to accept a very large number of coincidences. People who seem totally unrelated turn out to be siblings or cousins, misinterpreted phone calls turn into murder plots, etc. On the other hand, Richards’s writing is excellent; I’ve never been to the Maritimes, but I was easily able to imagine the scenes as he describes them, and the book does not drag. Bu ...more
Glen Stott
Mar 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion, fiction
Suppose a man existed in the last half of the twentieth century who lived a nearly perfect life according the principals Jesus taught in the New Testament and followed the example He set. What would the man’s life look like? He would live in poverty – so would his wife and children. He would have a great deal of knowledge about the world and people. Not being Jesus, he would have to learn that knowledge; he would have to be a voracious reader of all types of books. He would forgive everybody of ...more
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
Mar 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards was originally published in 2000. Richards won the Giller Prize (Canada's most prestigious literary award), and the Canadian Booksellers Association Libris Award for Author of the Year and Fiction Book of the Year for Mercy Among the Children.

Oh. My. Goodness. This is an incredible, heart breaking novel that will haunt me for years to come. The story of Sydney Henderson's family, as told by grown son Lyle, is about the price they all pay for Sydn
Jun 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
This was a depressing book, and I fail to see the point of all that misery, unless the message is the trite and obvious (and, unfortunately, false) one that goodness prevails in the end. It resembles a Shakespearean tragedy, in that the tragic flaws of the characters lead to much death and destruction.

Like the movie, "The Pursuit of Happyness," the poverty, misfortune, and cruelty in this novel is so overwhelming, for such a long period of time, that when the tides finally turn, it is far too li
Dec 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
I wasn't really planning to read another David Adams Richards book, after not really enjoying The Friends of Meager Fortune. I don't know, maybe I just didn't "get" it at the time. I picked this one up only because of Canada Reads, where it's being defended by the wonderful and talented Sarah Slean.

A most excellent passage:
"Men can grow up on my river, or in my province or anywhere and see nothing of violence or anger. There is as much rich or middle class here as anywhere - I have dealt with t
Sharon Jackson
Jan 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: all-time-best
This novel begins with two boys shoveling the snow off the roof of a church. They argue and one boy pushes the other and he falls to the ground. As he watches the boy motionless on the ground, the pusher sends a prayer to God. If he lets he pushed boy be OK, he will never strike out in anger again. The boy on the ground gets up and walks away unharmed. The other boy keeps his promise, and its impact on him and his children is the story of the novel. The idea of turning the other cheek is one tha ...more
Ien van Houten
Dec 12, 2012 rated it did not like it
I truly hated this book. I read it because a member of the book club was so moved by it. The writing is good, I will grant him that. But the basic premise, of a family destroyed because the father harbours an unreal guilt for something he did in childhood, did not speak to me at all. Relentless gloom, a book without summer.
Allison ༻hikes the bookwoods༺
This story is bleak, following the Henderson family and their most unfair lot in life. Through their plight, we are shown reactions in the extreme, wrath and mercy, and how neither in absolute allows for healing and moving on.
How much can one family endure? Do your sins really find you out? This is a heart wrenching story of a family in extreme poverty who are the victims of all the nasty aspects of society from the bullies next door to the bullies in government.
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: leta
This is a complex, fascinating story about an impoverished family in small town New Brunswick, whose father is falsely accused by the local townspeople of act after act. Uneducated, yet a voracious reader of classics, Sydney develops a passivist persona. He does not fight back to clear his name, and the family suffers for this and remains poor, living in a little shack; unprotected.

With an ailing mother, an albino sister and a little brother, the 16 year old son Lyle, takes on enormous responsi
Sep 02, 2018 rated it liked it
A rough story about what happens in rural communities where horrible behavior gets normalized, where no one takes responsibility for their actions because their pride and shame are too strong. I kept wondering if I would believe this story had I not experienced being in certain communities of isolated rural Canada, myself, or if I had not driven up and down Highway 11 in New Brunswick several times hyper-vigilant because of crazy, irresponsible drivers trying to run me off the road in the day ti ...more
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature, cbc-list
What does it mean to show love? How do we show love in a broken world? In what ways do our sins follow us? The only thing truly missing from this fiercely contemplative novel is grace.
Mar 14, 2010 rated it liked it
Set in a rural, poor, backwoods community in northern New Brunswick, Syndey Henderson makes a pact with God to never harm another soul in his life, after he pushes his friends off the top of a roof, in a tussle. His friend doesn't die and Sydney then lives his life as he had promised God.
Sydney has a wife and 2 children. He is the butt of nasty pranks and the scape goat in this community for everything bad that happens. Even his children are abused in school and around town. A kid at school, sta
Candice Holt
Jul 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
At the age of twelve, Sidney Henderson, in a moment of anger, pushes his friend Connie Devlin off the roof of a local church. Looking down on Connie’s motionless body, Sidney believes he is dead. Let Connie live and I will never harm another soul, Sidney vows. At that moment, Connie stands up and, laughing, walks away. In the years that follow, the brilliant, self-educated, ever-gentle Sidney keeps his promise, even in the face of the hatred and persecution of his insular, rural community, which ...more
Jan 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian-author
This remarkable novel is one of the most profoundly sad and difficult fiction reads I've encountered in a long time. I would remind myself that it was a work of fiction, and feel grateful. Richards creates characters that evoke empathy in ways that were completely unexpected. Yes, I felt empathy with the unfortunate Hendersons -- Sydney the father who made a pact never to knowingly "hurt" only to scar his young son Lyle in ways he never truly understood. And Lyle, the boy so determined to become ...more
Dec 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It was thoughtful, beautifully written and heartbreaking. It made it in to my top five books of all time.

The novel depicts the family of Sydney Henderson, a man who vowed in childhood never to express himself in anger or violence after accidentally pushing a playmate off the roof of a building. As a result of his vow, residents of the community exploit Henderson, framing him for a crime and tormenting his children. The injustices are just staggering! The novel closely focuses
Apr 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own-it, canadian
This book feels almost epic in the sense that it does span three generations, though it is focussed mainly on the third. Lyle tells his story to Mr. Terrieux who saved 16 yr old Matthew Pit from drowning. The events of Lyle's life happened because Mat Pit survived and his actions subsequently impacted Lyle's family.

It's the story of poverty, comparing poverty of money and poverty of love. It is utterly tragic in so many ways, even though there's always the glimmer of hope, the belief that the h
Vicki McEwan
Feb 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I read For Those Who Hunted the Wounded Down to ensure my teenage son read it for his English class. Lucky for me I did. It introduced me to a new (new to me) author who I plan to read lots more of. Mercy Among the Children...a heartwrenching, spiritual novel that demands us to have a close look at ourselves...if if doesn't do that for you...I think you've missed something. I rarely read a book twice but in this case I will because it was so deep, I'm sure I didn't catch every little detail. I h ...more
Beyonce Pad Thai
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I had to read this book for my English ISU and at first, I was greatly disappointed. This book is extremely depressing and very heart-wrenching. Then, as I continued to read, I fell in love with the characters and the struggles that each one of them had to face. This book is very well written. The author writes using beautiful metaphors and in a very timeless manner. This book is a life lesson trapped in 300 pages. I learned so much about society and how the way people act can affect them in lif ...more
Feb 03, 2010 rated it liked it
While I've really liked Richards' other novels, this one left me a little confused. It's the story of an extremely poor family in New Brunswick told by the eldest son. The father is an eccentric but brilliant character who believes that one must never utter a remark against anyone, even when accused of wrongdoing. This leads to all sorts of horrific ramifications for his family who are much the worse for it. Maybe people can be this unseeing and unforgiving, but it's a stretch.
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David Adams Richards (born 17 October 1950) is a Canadian novelist, essayist, screenwriter and poet.

Born in Newcastle, New Brunswick, Richards left St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick, one course shy of completing a B.A. Richards has been a writer-in-residence at various universities and colleges across Canada, including the University of New Brunswick.

Richards has received numerou
“There is no worse flaw in man's character than that of wanting to belong.” 28 likes
“[...]no one can do an injury to you without doing an injury to themselves.” 19 likes
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