Lauren Durough is a West Coast English major at the proverbial age of discovery. Sheltered in her childhood years by family wealth, she is just beginning to grasp how people judge others by what they want to believe about them; particularly, how the poor mistakenly view the wealthy and vice-versa. When she opts out of her family's monthly financial support, she takes on a job as a literary assistant to Abigail Boyles, an eighty year-old reclusive, retired librarian. Abigail tasks Lauren with transcribing the diary of Abigail's ancestral cousin, Mercy Hayworth--a woman hanged for witchcraft in seventeenth century Salem, Massachusetts. The lives of Abigail and Lauren, two very different women, converge as they jointly piece together the life and death of Mercy Hayworth. Lauren finds herself drawn to this girl who lived four hundred years earlier, who also struggled against undeserved cultural stigmatization, but lost. But the more she learns about Mercy, the more Lauren realizes this project is as much about Abigail as it is her ancestor. As secrets unfold, the extent to which the lives of these three women are connected comes to light, and both Lauren and Abigail find their lives and the very way they view the world irrevocably changed
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Customer Reviews for The Shape of Mercy: A Novel - eBook
My thoughts: Abigail, a wealthy elderly woman, hires Lauren Durough, an English major at the state college, to transcribe a three hundred year old journal written by her ancestor Mercy Hayworth.
Mercy endured the notorious Salem witch trials, and Lauren's transcriptions of the journal reveal the horror and helplessness that Mercy felt when her innocent neighbors and friends were accused and convicted of being witches without any true evidence. Eventually Mercy is also accused by a jealous neighbor of being a witch because she wrote fanciful stories and loved a young man in the village. During the trials Mercy trades her life to save another.
Mercy's experiences cause introspective Lauren to reconsider her own life and relationships with Abigail, her college roommate, and her friend Raul. She realizes that she judges people by what they have or don't have. Instead she desires to "see people for what they are on the inside" before she comes to any conclusions.
Mercy's final sacrifice teaches Lauren that the choice is hers. Consequently, Lauren chooses to make a difference in the life of someone else. Readers will enjoy the resourceful plan that Lauren attempts in order to aid Abigail during a difficult time in her life.
The author Susan Meissner uses the three generational realistic characters in the book to enable the reader to reach the conclusion that "we tend to judge people based on notions rather than truth, and without stopping to consider if we even have the right to judge them at all".
The Shape of Mercy combines historical fiction with modern realistic fiction to write a thought-provoking tale of fear, mass hysteria, jealousy,and finally the right choices. Certainly readers will be ready to evaluate their own lives after absorbing the lessons in this engaging book. (reviewed by S.Fuqua)
About the author: Susan Meissner is an award-winning author whose books include The Shape of Mercy, Lady in Waiting, and A Sound Among the Trees. She is the wife of an Air Force chaplain and a mother of four young adults. When she’s not writing, Susan directs the Small Groups and Connection Ministries program at her San Diego church.
DISCLOSURE: The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner is published by Waterbrook Press. A complimentary copy was provided to us to facilitate our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.
We all come face to face with judgment . . . either judging or being judged. We all have to own our snap and unfair judgments about others and must accept that we will be judged and misunderstood from time to time in life. The Shape of Mercy unravels the layers of judgment that easily entangle us. The main character, Lauren Durroughs, must learn a tough lesson in misguided judgment while learning to accept who she is and who she was born to be. The Shape of Mercy is layered with life and time. While Lauren transcribes the 400 year old diary of Mercy Hayworth, a girl convicted of being a witch in Salem, MA in 1692 and suffered the harsh judgment of her own day, she must learn to trust without question Abigail Boyles, the owner of the precious diary and elderly woman who hired her to do the transcription. Full of life and history, this story entwines the lives of three women, Mercy, Lauren and Abigail. One from the past who still has much to teach us -- one whose life is coming to its end but still has a life she needs to learn to live -- and, Lauren, whose life is ahead of her and must learn how to live it well.
The Shape of Mercy is a wonderful work of historical fiction combined with modern day drama and life lessons. I loved the book and found myself and snippets of my own life in each of the character's lives as they worked through their own questions and difficult situations. If you like traces of God's handiwork, historical truth, a little mystery, self reflection and clean reading in your novels, then I highly recommend The Shape of Mercy.
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.
A fantastic blend of historical and contemporary f
Date:March 24, 2011
Susan Meissner has quickly become one of my favorite authors. She is more than an excellent author of historical fiction; she is a weaver of words, seamlessly tangling the lives of three women, one of whom lived more than 300 years ago.
In The Shape of Mercy, Meissner guides us as we explore the themes of wealth, prejudice, and the power of love for another.
Lauren Durough is a wealthy young woman desperately trying to prove that she does not need her family's legacy or wealth. When she accepts a part-time job transcribing a diary from the Salem Witch Trials, her eyes are opened to the tragedy of the historical hysteria. The diary's owner, Abigail, is saddened by her distant cousin's story, and burdened that it live on beyond the family legend it has become.
"I should have realized then that this wasn't about Mercy alone." Lauren herself quickly realizes that she has a lot to learn from the choices that Abigail and Mercy, the diary's author, have made. The diary becomes a catalyst for redemption for the two women, as each comes to terms with their own prejudices and relationships.
Because Lauren's perspective is revealed most often, we learn quickly that she is frequently unaware of her own prejudices and shallowness. At first, I found that I didn't like her; but although I was disappointed in my lack of adoration for the protagonist, Meissner gives her room to change and grow, and makes her teachable, without fixing all of her flaws by the novel's end. All in all, I came to appreciate Lauren, a woman willing to admit her faults and push through to do what is right.
Mercy's diary, the story within the story, was written into the novel beautifully, and was so well written that I had to remind myself that it was not a primary source document being translated into story form by Lauren.
Mercy challenged me to check my own opinions and caused me to ponder what I would truly be willing to do for one my heart loves. Meissner has created a story that will long stay with me, and will certainly be found on my list of favorites.
I highly recommend The Shape of Mercy for fans of historical and contemporary fiction, as it is a perfect blend of both.
*Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing provided a free copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. I have not been compensated in any other way.
I was drawn into The Shape of Mercy, which I was given for free from Waterbrook Multnomah, from page 1. Lauren is a rich college student, struggling to figure out who she is apart from her wealth and her family. To that end, she goes to a public university and decides to forgo her monthly allowance in favor of a job. She's hired to transcribe the diary of her employer Abigail's ancestor, who was a victim of the Salem witch trials.
Mercy Hayworth's diary paints a picture of her life in 1692. Though Lauren and the reader know Mercy's fate, she does not and it is heartbreaking to watch the events unfold. Because Lauren is transcribing the diary and updating the language, we are saved from wading through the "thees" and "thous" of that time. Because of this, we can focus more on Mercy. Mercy's story is as much about first love and family, as it is about the hysteria of that time.
Lauren cannot help but see similarities between herself, Abigail, and Mercy. We learn more about Abigail and Mercy through Lauren's eyes. And in the learning, Lauren learns more about herself, her assumptions, her interests, and what really matters.
The Shape of Mercy is beautifully written. I should note that beautifully written novels are not always interesting and don't always move the plot forward (therefore negating their beauty, in my mind). However, The Shape of Mercy remained intriguing and interesting. I wanted to know more about why Lauren thought the way she did, what mysteries Abigail's past held, and what would seal Mercy's fate.
There are three separate love stories but they are entirely different from one another. Each brought tears to my eyes at various points. What each woman learns from their experience with love can be a lesson for us all.
While this book is categorized as Christian fiction, there is not an overt spiritual message. Mercy references what God would make of all the false accusations of witchcraft and is the most vocal about her beliefs but in a way that is natural. Prayer is mentioned occasionally but otherwise the reader is left to draw their own conclusions about what the characters believe. I don't think that's a bad thing as the characters go through quite a transformation. I reacted to their experience in terms of my own beliefs and I believe this is the mark of a good book.
Now that The Shape of Mercy is over, I feel let down, as if I've lost a friend. I wish that I was not quite finished reading it so I could continue to savor Meissner's words. But I take heart because Meissner's other books sound equally booklover worthy.
I can't wait to acquaint myself with her other characters!
Susan Meissner takes a college student and an eighty-year-old lady in the present, adds the diary of a victim of the Salem witch trials four centuries ago and then builds a connection between them. The themes of choices, stigma, and preconceived notions are developed as these three women “interact” around this special diary.
The characters are real and complex. I connected with them; I even felt like I knew them. The story is strong and deep and stayed with me after I finished the book. I thought about I how I would have handled things and about what could have happened next. I wished this well crafted tale could have continued. I have found a new favorite author in Susan Meissner!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through Blogging for Books, Waterbrook Multnomah Publisher’s book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
The Shape Of Mercy Susan Meissner Waterbrook Press 4 Stars
“The Shape Of Mercy” is the fictional story of three women, women who all lived in a different time span but each shared something in common. Lauren Durough born into a family of power and money strikes out on her own, a small college, dorm living and taking on a job, something she did not need to do. When eighty-three year old Abigail Boyles a former librarian posted a notice at the college, this was something that fit right in with Lauren’s major. The job was hers if she wanted it, transcribing the writings of an old diary written by Mercy Hayworth, who was declared a witch in the Salem witch trials and was sentenced to death by hanging in the year 1692. Throughout the story we see judgment, judging people that we have no right to judge and love. Mercy and Abigail each had a love in their life that they never got to enjoy, a love that was taken away from them. Will Lauren look at her relationships through a different set of eyes now that she has read Mercy’s story and see what Abigail went through. Though the story of Mercy and others from that era was a heart rendering event, will Lauren and Abigail learn a lesson from the diary. A lesson on forgiveness, love, and judging others.
This was quite an interesting book although it took me longer to read this then most books. I think the deepness of the story line made me read it slower to get the full impact of the book. Although Christian based it is not preachy. It’s a book that some will get into deeply and others will not find interesting at all.
I received this book from Waterbrook Press through their blogging program. A positive review was not required and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own views of what I read.
I had a chance to review this book. It is about a college student who is from a wealthy family takes a part time job helping an older woman transcribe a diary that has been passed down through the years. The diary is about a girl who was accused in the Salem witch trails. I have never read anything about that so it was all new to me. It was written with the entries from the girl and then goes back and fourth between then and now. It's all comes down to pretty much how we should not judge someone at first glance or without talking to them,you don't know their story. Don't go by feelings, know the person to form an opinion. It was good read, I kinda guessed what was going to happen through it. Not many surprises. It was a book I read to the end to find out what happened.
I received this book free from waterbrook/multnomah for my own honest review
Susan Meissner is quickly joining my list of favorite authors. Now that I’ve read two of her novels, I’ll definitely be watching for more.
Like "Lady in Waiting," "The Shape of Mercy" is two books in one—a contemporary story tied to one from history. The format of "The Shape of Mercy" is a little different and, though the historical event really happened, this time, the character in the story is fictional. But the character, Mercy, truly helps us understand the tragedy of the event—and, perhaps, the loving sacrifice of One in another most important event (see John 15:13).
When the elderly Abigail Boyles hires 20-year-old Lauren Durough to transcribe Mercy Hayworth’s journal, neither realizes what she’s gotten herself into. As Mercy’s account of the Salem Witch Trials unfolds, Lauren must face truths about herself that she had been blind to. Abigail also must deal with a past that has haunted her for years. The lessons they learn in the end are beautiful indeed.
The stories are compelling and the book has great take-away value, too. A novel doesn’t get much better than that. I gladly recommend this book to you, and thank Waterbrook Multnomah for sending it to me.
I personally do not care so much for contemporary fiction novels, but this novel description intrigue me because it had a twist of historical fiction to it and was based on the Salem Witch Trials, I personally found that subject interesting. I got this book thinking I would not like it that much because I enjoy historical fictions better, but I was very wrong.
Lauren Durough comes from a family of great wealth and stature. Even though she can have anything she wants served to her on a silver plate, she chooses to break from the stereotype and decides to test out “normal” life for her own. Going to a “normal” college, living in a “regular” dorm with her room mate, and applying for a job that her father would be less then thrilled about. After being hired by Abigail Boyles to transcribe the ancient book, Mercy Hayworth’s diary will take Lauren on an unforgettable journey. She will learn of Mercy’s last days on earth, she will unravel Abigail’s past secrets, and she will discover secrets of her own.
This book is stunningly written and remarkably put together. I thoroughly enjoyed this from the very first page to the last. From the first chapter Meissner’s weaves her words, reeling you in with every bite. She puts flesh and breath into her characters making them as believable and real as your nosey neighbors. The depth in her layers of the story have you wanting more, you will not be able to put this book down. I even did more research into the Salem Witch trials just out of curiosity. Which might I suggest; it will make this book all the more real if you have some knowledge of that tragic historical event. Truly an enchanting novel chalk full of suspense, beauty, love, and heartbreak. I will recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good read.
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. This review is of my words and is original.
I am so thankful that I was able to read this book. What a story!!!!. The back of the book sounded so interesting and I found this book to be amazing. The author has scripted beautiful characters,modern day and historical events and a haunting tale.
The story centers around three women: Mercy Hayworth, Abigail Boyles and Lauren Durough and just how much these three women are alike-all from different generations. Lauren is hired by Abigail to transcribe an old book of journal entries from Mercy. So enjoyed the modern day story chapter then the chapter on Mercy, that was so captivating. It is not an easy book to digest since there were dealings about the Salem witch trials and just how perverted things and people can get. The author takes you on a journey of love, forgiveness, redemption and many twists and turns. This book is one that leaves you breathless toward the end-so surprised to find out the "rest of the story" about Mercy. Shape of Mercy is one of those books you won't soon forget.
Thank you Waterbrook for sending this for free for my honest opinion. Superb choice.
Although I am not a big fan of novels, I must admit I was very impressed with the novel 'The Shape of Mercy' by Christian author Susan Meissner. I purchased this book because the fictional aspect of the narrative is given the non-fictional background of the Salem Witch Trials. The story is of a modern-day college student named Lauren who is given the job of transcribing the diary of a young girl (Mercy Hayworth) accused of witchcraft in Salem in 1692 (the young girl is fictional but the accounts told in the diary are primarily historical). As Lauren works her way through the diary, she realizes more and more how much her own life is like that of Mercy's life. But Lauren also comes to realize the difficult truth that just as Mercy was misjudged by the Salem community, so too Lauren has the unjustified habit of misjudging people in her own time. She then allows herself to be changed and edified by a 300 hundred year old diary written by a woman she has never met.I highly recommend 'The Shape of Mercy' for those who enjoy a good novel, as well as to those who have an interest in the historical Salem Witch Trials.
A young woman in college answers an ad for a job that leads her to transcribing an old diary for a very old lady. The diary... from a young woman (Mercy) in the Salem Witch Trials in the 1690s. The old lady (Abigail)... a direct descendant of the diary writer. The young woman (Lauren)... drawn into this job and not willing to stop until it is finished.An amazing story which I just loved, I have always been fascinated by the Salem Witch Trials and so I enjoyed digging deeper into that part of history. Just what would make a God-fearing group of people start believing that those that worked with, lived among and were friends of theirs were all of a sudden possessed by the devil? Shape of Mercy goes back and forth from the past to the present yet is easy to follow unlike some books that I have seen employ this technique before. In addition to a great story, Susan throws in some twists and turns that make it impossible to know what exactly will happen or just how it will all end. We see parts of the lives of all 3 women and I just cried and smiled and at the end I was gasping for breath. It was a bittersweet ending (I knew Mercy would die, her life happened hundreds of years before, but I still wasn't really prepared for it) but the journey to get there was so worth it. A beautiful story, expertly told by Susan Meissner - I loved it!
I am not typically a womens fiction reader, but every now and then a novel comes along about which everyone is talking and accolades run high, and I am compelled to read it. Such is the case with Susan Meissners The Shape of Mercy, and let me say in this instanceunequivocallycompulsion has served me well.Seldom do I read a work of fiction that so shakes me at the core that it changes who I am, and yet Ms. Meissners poignantly penned novel about the Salem witch trials and its effect on two 21st-century womens lives has done just that. With haunting prose, flesh-and-blood characters and vivid imagery, Susan Meissner mesmerizes readers with a tale of three women whose hearts and souls are boundand set freeby a travesty of justice perpetrated in the name of God three centuries ago. So profound was this novels effect on me that at one point in my reading, I jolted up in bed at a spiritual truth so cleansing, it brought tears to my eyes.Thank you, Ms. Meissner, for not only gracing your readers with a story rich in beauty, purpose and indelible love, but for affording me a healing glimpse into the people God sees each of us to be.
I don't often read books that touch my heart so deeply and keep me thinking about them for days afterwards. Shape of Mercy is one. I was touched by both of the stories and all of the characters. I had to keep reminding myself this was a work of fiction. However, Susan Meissner wove historical fact together so well with fiction that it was hard to tell the difference.This book is like getting three stories for the price of one. Lauren Durough goes against her life of privilege, family traditions, and her parents' expectations when she takes a job transcribing journals for an aged librarian, Abigail Boyles. The journals belonged to an ancestor of Abigail's, Mercy Hayworth, a victim of the Salem witch trials. As Lauren transcribes the fragile pages and spends hours with Abigail learning tidbits of family information, she is drawn into Mercy's life and tragedy. And, within the pages of a young woman's life story, Lauren finds herself and helps Abigail regain a little bit of who she was.Susan Meissner did a creative work of art in this novel. She wove history, tragedy, three generations of women's lives into a story with depth that will leave readers touched and searching their own hearts for hidden prejudices, wrong perceptions, and snap judgments. And, when the last page is turned, the book is closed, readers will know they have been entertained, challenged and changed by Susan's words. I highly recommend Shape of Mercy.
I just read this book in a day. Not something I normally do, but I couldn't put it down. This is the story of two young women, one 18 year old girl living in a Puritan village near Salem town in the 17th century and a 20 year old college student who is transcribing a 300 year old diary. Each girl is dealing with the issue of how society perceives people, whether good or evil, or rich or poor. Both girls love to write.Mercy is a young woman who is a believer living through a difficult time in American history, the Salem witch trials. She has already lost half her family and her father is ill. She loves to write stories that are constantly flying through her head, but the puritan society frowns upon this. Mercy does not quite fit in the the Puritan society, but there is a young man who cannot keep his eyes off her.Lauren is a college student from a privileged family who wants to make her own way in life. She answers an add as a literary assistant and is hired to transcribe Mercy's diary. She has no idea how much Mercy's life will affect her own and challenge her own views of how she herself views people.Susan's writing is just magical. Even though you know from the beginning that Mercy will die in the witch trials, it is still filled with suspense and things turned out in a very surprising way.
I discovered Susan Meissner with this novel and was captured by her ability to define her characters with subtlety and precision of phrase. She chooses each word with exquisite care to paint a powerful story with delicate but sure strokes. Meissner is a master craftsman, weaving the compelling stories of three women of different eras with a grace and eloquence that is pure delight.
Moving, haunting, compelling. Three words that describe this wonderful book, which is now a keeper on my bookshelf. Susan Meissner did her job a little too well, if that's even possible. The horror and heartbreak of the Salem Witch Trials was brought to life for me in a way I've never before experienced. Oh, I knew the history - but in a detached, factual way. After reading The Shape of Mercy, I was able to see how it would truly have felt to be a part of that history: terrified for myself, afraid to lose a member of my family, afraid to leave my home, wondering what kind of madness this was, wondering where God was hiding Himself. That last evokes a lot of emotion - the experience would have tested my faith in a huge and new way. I just can't believe that all of that really happened, that people could be imprisoned and hanged based on accusations in a fear-driven society.The main theme of this story is love and choices. Not a love-at-first-sight kind of love, but an unselfish, true love. Lauren and Abigail are each affected in different ways by the love demonstrated in Mercy's diary, which was heartbreaking and bittersweet. It was too real - sometimes I forgot I was reading fiction, though of course it was not far from what a young girl like Mercy would have felt and thought at that time. I was also able to relate to Lauren's struggles. I felt for her as she searched her mind and heart and Mercy's diary, trying to find herself and figure out what life is really about.I did not want The Shape of Mercy to end. It. Was. Amazing. The settings, both present-day and historical Salem, were rich and vivid. I loved the description of Abigail's library, and when I read that Lauren was reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn I knew I would have to read it, too. There are so many layers to this book, it's one that you'll want to pick up and read again and again.
I have read countless books during the year. This book will always standout in my mind as one that caused me to go to the internet and do some digging on the Salem Witch Trials. The story kept me involved from start to finish. I recommend this book to one and all.
Intriguing to say the very least. I struggled with the depth of the hurt, injustices inflicted on Mercy, and to some degree her ultimate decision - though I probably would have taken the same course. I'm still unsettled about the rapport between Abigail and Lauren and wonder how else Susan could have concluded the story. As I said this is one intriguing work and worth the reader's time.