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The Shape of Mercy

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  5,666 ratings  ·  1,063 reviews
"We understand what we want to understand."

Leaving a life of privilege to strike out on her own, Lauren Durough breaks with convention and her family's expectations by choosing a state college over Stanford and earning her own income over accepting her ample monthly allowance. She takes a part-time job from 83-year-old librarian Abigail Boyles, who asks Lauren to tran
Paperback, 307 pages
Published September 16th 2008 by Waterbrook Press (first published January 1st 2008)
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Kimberly I HIGHLY recommend A Fall of Marigolds and Secrets of a Charmed Life. In fact, I couldn't recommend them MORE. They're wonderful.

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✨ Gramy ✨
“We understand what we want to understand.”

This is a hauntingly strange journey of discovery, discerning the depth of bias and belief from different perspectives.

Mercy was an echo from the past, a link to our origins and observer to those things about us that never seem to change.

The heroine evaluated people by their values and worth while thinking she uniquely did not. She comes to the conclusion through her personal actions that she is actually the same as her father after all. Her recen
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
The Salem Witch trials are such a sad and fascinating time in US History. Meissner blends a woman from that time period with a current day story. The novel is well told and kept me turning pages.
“The frail letters on the first page were barely legible; they looked like whispers, if whispers had form.”
― Susan Meissner, The Shape of Mercy

I love that quote. If this book had a form, I have no doubt its form would be beautiful.

For me, this book is a five. It’s haunting and tragic and just so Marvelous and seamless in its writing.

This book is about Lauren and Abilgail, a journal and the Salem Witch trials. It moved from the present to the past and back again. I couldn’t put this book down.

Mar 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
I randomly picked this book up at the library and am so glad I did. The story is about a college student is hired to transcribe the diary of a girl accused of being a witch during the Salem witch trials. Of course, the diary is fictional, but the historical events surrounding it are real and factual, although presented in a way that is very real and moving. The author of the diary, the college student and the 80 year old woman who owns the diary are all interwined and learn a very important life ...more
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 nev
Feb 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
I think my main problem with this book is that I had a hard time relating to and liking the main character. I have to admit that I have never had the problem of that kind of wealth, but when she starts out the book claiming that we should feel sorry for her because of it, I just don't find myself that sympathetic. Also, she is always thinking about herself and thinking about everybody in terms of money and it doesn't make her particularly, likeable. I'm not saying I don't want characters to have ...more
Feb 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book has so many aspects about books that I love:
1. Beautiful writing
2. Thought provoking characters (I'm a psychology nerd and love to analyze people.)
3. Historical Fiction (I love to feel like I am getting an insight into the past when I read.)
4. Modern day experiences (and love :)
5. References to some of my favorite books.

I so wish I would have read this before book club selections were made. It's a great book and reminds me of books by Kate Morton. I thought it was a religious book, but
Maureen DeLuca
A 3 to a 3.5 in my rating. This historical fiction book is based on witches in Salem. The book kept my interest and being that Halloween is right around the corned, the timing was perfect. A decent read .
Margaret Chind
Sep 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Every woman who is a daughter and who loves
Recommended to Margaret by: Deena Peterson

*This is a review fresh post from one originally written in 2008.
This post has been updated, thanks to my new format with the
Ultimate Book Blogger Plugin on August 11, 2015.*
This is one of the most deeply moving novels that I have ever read, and without a doubt it is going on my favorites' shelf in my permanent library. The Shape of Mercy is a story that crosses generations and is both historical and contemporary. I can easily find myself relating to Mercy from early American history as well as

Apr 24, 2010 rated it it was ok
This is more of a 2.5 for me; I randomly picked it up at the library one day and it was a quick read- but nothing I'd stay up all night reading. I thought the lead character was believable and relatable.
My only issue with the book was that I felt the author tried too hard to make a bigger issue out of things than what was really there. The moral of the story is not to judge people so quickly without knowing them, a lesson the main character learns several times throughout the book. However, I t
Christina DeVane
Nov 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
There were several gripping themes throughout this book, a girl’s diary from the Salem witch trials who turns out to be innocent. An old lady who’s been holding on to this diary-almost keeping it a secret. I enjoyed the storyline more than I thought I would, and there was more of a moral to the story than some of her books. We can’t look down on others because of what they have or don’t have. Love people for who they are.
Jocelyn Green
Thoroughly enjoyed this quick read. It isn't time slip, but does incorporate a fictional diary from the Salem witch trial era that provided a parallel plot. Meissner succeeded in addressing a dark period of history without actually getting oppressively dark.
Jan 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I am totally in awe of Susan Meissner. This is the first book of hers that I have read and it won't be the last. The way that she was able to capture the 1600's and also write in the present was truly magnificent. The characters are real. I felt as if I was with Mercy in Salem Village, and with Lauren in Santa Barbara. This book hits me on a personal level as well....In reading the book, and my own limited knowledge about the Salem Witch Trials hearing the behavior described that the men and wom ...more
Eva Marie Everson
May 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
An incredible read. No wonder it won fiction of the year at the Medallion of Excellence (ECPA) awards.
Mar 25, 2016 added it
Shelves: 2016-reads
This is one of my all time favorites. I learned so much about the Salem Witch trials. Both of the stories in this novel are really good.
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I had this as an audio book. It was excellent. If someone is not a Christian, it would not matter. It is about love, life, forgiveness and accepting who you are. The subject matter of the Salem witch trials is no doubt depressing and sad. However, if you wait until the end, you might see how it all turns out to be a message of hope in a time of darkness.

About the book:

“We understand what we want to understand.”

Leaving a life of privilege to strike out on her own, Lauren Durough breaks with convention and her family’s expectations by choosing a state college over Stanford and earning her own income over accepting her ample monthly allowance. She takes a part-time job from 83-year-old librarian Abigail Boyles, who asks Lauren to transcribe the journal entries of her ancestor Mercy Hayworth, a victim of the Salem witch trials.

Almost immediatel
Jill Williamson
Dec 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Lauren Durrough, the only daughter of a privileged family, is looking to find her own way in the world, at her own expense and without her father’s help. She takes a part-time job from Abigail, an eighty-three-year-old woman who needs the diary of her ancestor transcribed. The diary belonged to Mercy Hayworth, a victim of the Salem witch trials.

Lauren is captivated by Mercy, a sweet girl who lived alone with her father on a farm. Mercy’s mother and younger brother died when Mercy was younger and
Aug 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

"People always believe what they want to believe. . . . . the key is to never let someone else tell you what to think."

When Lauren Durough sheds her upper class mantle long enough to explore employment, she happens upon an eighty three year old former librarian Abigail Boyles. The local heiress has placed an advertisement for a part time employee. The job? . . . transcribing the delicate pages of a primitive diary, penned by a young Puritan ancestor falsely convicted of being a witch du
Jan 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Great book. Loved the characters and the lessons it reinforces about stigmas and preconceived notions about people. Also that sometimes it takes an entire lifetime to learn our lessons and that when it happens in a lifetime consider it a blessing. Really loved human and so sad in her flaws.
Feb 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Highly recommended. Definitely a keeper.
May 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
I liked this story for several reasons. Historical fiction always grabs me! I also like going into the past and then coming back to the present. Good listen!
Bruce Judisch
Mar 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I’ve reviewed quite a few books over the past few years. Some I’ve had a lot of fun reviewing, some were more sober endeavors. But I haven’t actually feared reviewing any of them.

Until now.

Why fear? Well, because of the two things I think people fear most: the unknown and failure. I don’t know how to best approach representing this incredible story, and, regardless of the approach I choose, I’m certain I’ll fail to do the book justice.

So, you’re going to have to work with me here. Please be pati
Monica Savage
Apr 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
This beautiful story about Mercy Hayworth, a victim of the Salem witch trials, feels so real that it made me start researching Mercy and the witch trials. Mercy was a real person, but hers is not the only story here. We walk her path, through her diary, along with Lauren (Lars) Durough, the wealthy college student trying to prove that she does not need her family's money by working for the mysterious Abigail Boyles, Mercy's 83-year-old descendant. All of these lives will bring up questions about ...more
Apr 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book! Loved the symbolism throughout and the title has many hidden meanings. I have always been fascinated with the Salem witch trials and enjoyed the fictional stories woven between modern time and the past. There was a great overall moral theme to the book and much to think about.

One of my favorite quotes from the book was "I used to think mercy meant showing kindness to someone who didn't deserve it, as if only the recipient defined the act. The girl in between has learne
Reading books by this author is extra special to me since we live in the same city. I unfortunately missed each time she's visited the book club I used to attend. Maybe someday.

Anyway, The Shape of Mercy is a great book to read alone or alongside The Crucible like I did. The characters in both time periods draw you in to want to know what happens. Not remembering anything about the Salem Witch Trials, I had to look up at one point if Mercy Haysworth was a real person (she wasn't). The author mad
Sep 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I really LOVED this book. What a beautiful story of three women who are from three completely different time periods. Yet, are so connected with one another. Historical fiction in my favorite genre by far. This one didn't disappoint, it was an even better love story. This would be a great book club selection. Beautiful story!
Michelle Griep
Apr 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Sweet pickled pineapples Batman...I LOVE THIS BOOK! The story, the characters, the theme will stick with me for a long time. Meissner's tale of stigmas and prejudice spans the centuries from the Salem witch trials to today, and she pulls it all off with finesse. I rarely say this, but this is a must read.
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 - I was completely engrossed in each of the women's lives. An excellent read!
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
I think I have a problem connecting with this author and I need to give her up. I have tried several of her books because I read, and loved, Secrets of a Charmed Life, but none of her others have captured me and drawn me in like that one. 😕
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LDS Ladies Book Club: The Shape of Mercy 11 41 Dec 11, 2016 10:03PM  
The theme of Mercy 5 44 Dec 07, 2008 11:24AM  

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Susan Meissner was born in San Diego, California, the second of three. She spent her childhood in just two houses.
Her first writings are a laughable collection of oddly worded poems and predictable stories she wrote when she was eight.

She attended Point Loma College in San Diego, and married her husband, Bob, who is now an associate pastor and a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves, in 1980. When sh

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