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The Crooked Heart of Mercy

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  403 ratings  ·  99 reviews
From acclaimed Canadian novelist Billie Livingston comes this powerful U.S. debut that unfolds over a riveting dual narrative—an unforgettable story of ordinary lives rocked by hardship and scandal that follows in the tradition of Jennifer Haigh, A. Manette Ansay, and Jennifer Egan.

Ben wakes up in a hospital with a hole in his head he can't explain. What he can remember he
Paperback, 272 pages
Published March 8th 2016 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published January 5th 2016)
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Average rating 3.50  · 
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Mar 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
“Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.”

----John Green

Billie Livingston, a Canadian author, pens an emotional and stirring family drama in her new book, The Crooked Heart of Mercy that unfolds the story of a couple coping with a sad tragedy and how it tears them apart and how their families try to contribute towards their hearts' reunion, whereas on the other hand, this couple separately tries to help their family from their troubles in their own way. The story is all about forgiv
Reader's Hollow
Mar 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
**We received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**

This novel had a lot of things going for it. It was rhythmic, and almost poetic as the author uses several words to encompass how Ben is trying to cope. They almost all seem insane as Maggie and Ben are forced to analyze everything around the terrible accident that killed their only son, Frankie.

Even though they're two different people who've grown up in two different households, there are a few things that mirror each other in
Nov 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian, first-reads
Won in the First Reads giveaway.

It was a really good book, sometimes really sad, sometimes funny. I'm glad the characters were not suburbanites, I wouldn't have been able to care. But saying Angela Lansburys' face is like a bag of porridge? How dare!
Natashya KitchenPuppies
Billie Livingston is now on my watch list for future reads. A truly great read.

See my full review here - http://livinginthekitchenwithpuppies....
Janet Berkman
Jan 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was absolutely absorbed by this novel. No glancing at my phone, no reaching for the trashy mags at the salon. It is rich and beautiful in so many ways. Told from alternating points of view of a husband and wife, whose marriage has been broken by tragedy, it considers other sources of pain including their difficult childhoods, money issues, sibling relationships, mental illness, and religious hypocrisy.

Livingston's writing is gorgeous and at times playful. It reminds me of Dorothy Ellen Palmer
Reading Fool
Jun 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways, 2016
I received an Advance Reader's Copy of this book.

This book took my breath away. It is the story of Maggie and Ben, grieving parents whose 2-year-old son has just died. The story is told in alternating chapters from Maggie's and Ben's perspectives, and the writing is clever, darkly witty, and poetic. As the two work through their grief, we learn about their troubled childhoods and what led them to each other. I was completely immersed in the story and didn't want the book to end. As tragic as the
Rouge Golden
May 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Amazing, wonderfully compelling characters. Strength comes from embracing the truth, but that's easier said than done for Maggie and Ben.

It's sad in the rereading-the-sentence-over-and-over-just-to-torture-yourself sad; you're almost forced to empathize with their loss.

I love it for its particular sort of sadness, the humour that exists in sadness. It's realistic and wholly original.
This novel completely sucked me in and I was unable to put it down. The Crooked Heart of Mercy is a beautifully written story about forgiveness and grief, brokenness and second chances. Billie Livingston's use of multiple points of view is brilliant; her characters all deeply flawed but loveable and authentic. I devoured every page of this and can't wait to read more of her work!
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
Mar 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Crooked Heart of Mercy by Billie Livingston is a very highly recommended novel about broken, disenfranchised people trying to recover. I'm not saying this gem is an easy book to read. It's not. The characters are heartbroken, suffering, grieving, depressed, and fragile working class people who must find a way back from an unthinkable accident. The Crooked Heart of Mercy is a great title for an unforgettable book.

Ben and Maggie were happily married, toiling away at their jobs to make ends mee
Lynsey S.
Jul 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book was beautiful.

Yes, it was achingly sad and some parts were gritty and just made my heart ache but my lands it was written beautifully.

What would you do if your child died? It was an accident, nobody's fault, small children are curious and have no fear and don't understand the world and things just happen and that's what happened to poor Frankie in this story.

Maggie and Ben are young parents, a lower working class couple who are torn apart by his death. Ben's father is terrible. Ben and
Dec 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just finished this book and it's my favorite of the 3 I've read by Billie Livingston. Every one of these people felt incredibly real -- from the lead characters right down to the most minor. Their world is emotionally in-your-face honest and yet buoyant and hopeful. The dialog is sharp and funny -- some of the conversations between Maggie and her brother, Francis , the drunk, gay not-very-celibate priest are especially hilarious. I loved the old lady, Lucy, who Maggie takes care of. The scenes ...more
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Billie Livingstone writes beautifully, capturing the vulnerability and fragility of her characters, and finding the possibility of hope beneath sometimes broken lives. I met her while I was volunteering at the Sandwich Project, a feeding program for street people in downtown Vancouver; she was doing research for her first book, and we worked side-by-side that day. I found her own life story compelling, and read her first book with interest, and empathy, and admiration for how she was able to bri ...more
Gila Gila
Jun 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016
Poor Ben wakes up in a hospital with a hole in his head. Maybe he was reading this book. It certainly left a cavity in what passes for my brain. Ben's wife is too distraught to function, but wait, what's this? Oh no! Her closeted gay alcoholic priest brother has been caught propositioning cops! (no, the brother's not also transgender, albino and deaf, the author dropped the ball there). I can't call any of the above spoiler material, because it's right there on the back of the book jacket, along ...more
Nov 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2015
I know it's a cliche, but Billie Livingston has such a way with words. Her poetry background shines through. A vivid portrayal of life gone way, way off the rails. I had an inescapable, sad pressure in my chest as Billie brought to hauntingly clear light the sadness in Maggie and Ben's hearts. I felt like a ghost in the room in every scene. I was truly lost in the times and places Ben and Maggie were inhabiting - they felt so real I could touch them. Remarkable.
Peter A
Nov 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was a startling book from beginning to end. Livingston has created characters who live and breathe and bleed — they are us. The book is told in alternating perspectives, Ben chapters and Maggie chapters. And Maggie's brother, Francis the priest — I've never read a fictional priest anywhere so well-drawn, so real and human. The love between these people is palpable which is what makes the the dialog so great and so very funny! The ending was one of the most beautiful things I've read.
GinaRose Cristello
Oct 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
I was completely surprised by this entire book. Anyone with a little one in their life will feel the anguish.. without saying too much, the description of feeling a child in your lap was so vivid it brought tears to my eyes.

This is extremely different. and very touching. and you will carry it with you well after you have finished!

Rubin Cory
Oct 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Livingston's deeply humane treatment of living, breathing, loving, swearing,scared, flawed characters in extreme situations is remarkable. To be human is to be flawed, to question, to fall, to get up if you can. Compassion is at beating heart of this novel. How do we forgive each other--and ourselves?
If you have ever pondered this question, Crooked Heart is a must read!
Nov 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
I won this book on Goodreads!
Beautifully told tale of love, loss, hope and redemption.
I don't like to say too much about the story in reviews. It's much more fun for the reader to discover that for themselves.
I will say that all the characters in this novel and the story itself feel REAL.
And that's good...really good.
Will read more from this author.
Jennifer Eagle
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What I loved about this novel is that many chapters read like poetry to me. I allowed myself to be drawn into the images presented, rather than just the linear logic of plot. This occurred in the hospital scenes with the character Ben and created the perfect effect. A powerful, deftly written book. At once heartbreaking and ultimately joyful.
Rhea Tregebov
Feb 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I love Billie Livingston's writing, but I have to say this may well be my favourite of her books. Tough material initially to deal with, but she moves through the story with her usual black humour, tough insight, and grace. Exceptionally beautifully written, moving and important. Thank you, Ms Livingston for this gift!
Jan 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, self-help
This was a book that I couldn't seem to put down. She has such a way with words and it's been quite a while since I've read several pages and shed a few tears. This story describes pain, loss, emptiness and that there's always a tiny bit of hope even when there's no light to be seen.
Desi Valentine
May 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I stayed up late last night to start this book and woke early this morning to finish it.... Livingston's gift is the painful, uplifting, captivating, flawed and perfect humanity of her characters and she exceeds the top of her game in this book.
Aug 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite book of Billie's so far. It was riveting from the first line. Highly recommend.
Nov 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book! Wonderfully written with excellent dialogue and scenes. Billie Livingston has grown into a stellar novelist.
Jordan Blaylock
Nov 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A raw and lovely novel of healing and hope. Definitely a new favorite!!
A hard book to review....I really liked the author's writing style. The story was mostly very sad & covered quite a bit of dysfunction.

A young couple have something tragic happen to them & they each fall apart in their own way.

Their family members are a part of the story also & no one seems to be living a stable life.

Grief is a strong part of this book...

I will certainly read more by this Canadian author....
Mar 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Crooked Heart of Mercy is an emotional and heart-breaking novel that tells the story of Ben and Maggie, a husband and wife who have suffered a tragic loss. The novel alternates between two perspectives, those of Ben and Maggie and their individual struggles in dealing with this loss. They are living apart, with Ben reaching a breaking point that leads to a stay at a psych ward and Maggie attempting to get a job and regain some sense of normalcy, which is made all the more challenging with he ...more
Marni Lee
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Phenomenal. For me, this book had everything. It tackled harsh realities but like other books I've read by Billie Livingston, there's still this streak of humor through it all. The writing is wild, especially the parts from Ben's POV.


I just read Crooked Heart of Mercy again because I've been having weird dreams ever since! I got it from the library the first time and then I ordered it after reading this review online http://www.washingtonindependentrevie...

My favorite parts were the Ben
Roxanne Meek
Jan 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved this story. It was so sad and so gut wrenching but a testament to love and faith in the face of the worst tragedy. I loved all of the characters and the perspective of their different voices. An easy read- read it in 2 days
Apr 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, canadian
I enjoyed this character study of a couple who lose a child and in the process their relationship and themselves. This is by a Canadian author I hadn't read before but I'll keep an eye out for more of her work.
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Billie Livingston is a fiction writer, poet, and essayist. Born in Hamilton, Ontario, she grew up in Toronto and Vancouver, and has since lived in Tokyo, Hamburg, Munich, Los Angeles and London, England. Her first employment was filling the dairy coolers in a Macs Milk. She went on to work varying lengths of time as a file clerk, receptionist, cocktail waitress, model, actor, chocolate sampler, an ...more

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