Review: The Shape of Mercy

The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner

Michelle gave me this book for winning this contest.
Michelle has her own review of it which I pretty much agree with (except for which character's story I identified most with).

It's about three women - a college student who is hired by an old lady to translate the diary of an ancestor who was tried as a witch during the Salem trials.

I most identified with Lauren, the college age gal, mostly because I over think things like she does and puzzle over my own thought processes like she does. I found a few lines particularly profound, like when her dad points out that even if you manage to see people as they are (and not assuming they are), that still doesn't justify judging them. [It lost something in the paraphrasing, but you get the idea.]

It's well-written, and light, kind of like eating a good salad. Enjoyable, good for you, doesn't seem like it'll fill you up, but then it does. It is skewed toward a female audience (all three main characters are women) and there are aspects that would appeal to a young audience. It's very well done.

The book gave me much to think about afterwards, but interestingly, one of the most striking points of thought was not prompted by the book but by some of the reviews on the book's Amazon.com page. Turns out that in some circles this book is idenified as "Christian Fiction." This brought up an immediate reaction - and judgement! - but in looking for another link, I stumbled across an excellent review page that said pretty much what I was thinking, only better than I could have said it:
As a Christian myself, I honestly didn't realize it was Christian Fiction until I saw it called so. The only religious aspect to the book, aside from the Salem witch trials, is that the characters believe in God and in passing the author mentions that they pray or go to church. While the theme of the book is a Christian one of not judging others that theme transcends Christianity to all walks of life. [emphasis mine]

I love that the reviewer, ElizaJane, pointed that out. (There's HOPE for the world!)
Religion in this book is perfectly appropriate for each character. The woman from the past was embedded in a highly religious society and people were being accused of allying themselves with The Devil.
Interestingly for me (and this fact is cited by another reviewer on that page), If I had known about the label, I would have either not read it (for fear of finding it too "preachy") or started reading it prejudiced. In both cases, I would have been the loser, as it is a lovely book that transcends its labels. Plus, I wouldn't have had such a great opportunity to think about my prejudices, my judgments, and how I think about myself.

The link I was looking for when I found the good review page was a blog that follows the story of the characters after the end of the book. The author says she wasn't ready to leave these characters just yet. Kinda cool!

Highly Recommended: 8/10


Random Michelle K said...

I was also surprised to discover this was classified as a "Christian" book when I went to write my review.

I left that off my review though, because I would have had the same reaction you did, and I guessed those who read my review might feel the same way.

But mostly it leads you to wonder about the classification system of books. It seems to me that this system would lead the Scarlett Letter and almost anything written in Puritan American as "religious" fiction.

But I'm glad you liked it. :)

Anne C. said...

I mentioned it mainly because I found the prejudice present in my reaction to be an extention of the themes of the book.