My rating: 5 of 5 stars
5 stars to emotive and lyrically-written, The Mercy Seat! 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟
Thanks to my friend, Cheri, for this recommendation. As you can see, I adored it!
It is 1943 in New Iberia, Louisiana, and Willie Jones is eighteen-years-old and sitting in prison cell on the eve of his execution by electric chair.
Told through sometimes short vignettes, we hear multiple perspectives in third person carefully pieced together. The DA who prosecuted Willie, Willie’s father who is lugging a gravestone on a highway via an old mule (imagine, oh how my heart hurt), a married couple, Ora and Dale, who have secrets of their own; all of these viewpoints round out this story and add so much depth.
This book was the starkest contradiction of beauty and brutality, pure of heart and total heartbreak. Elizabeth Winthrop’s gift for prose is beyond memorable, not only to my ear as I felt I was hearing these characters speak to me as I read, but also to my heart, as the words were etched firmly there.
I recommend this one without hesitation to my friends who enjoy eloquent writing and deeply moving, important stories. The Mercy Seat is a standout.
Thank you to Elizabeth Winthrop, Grove Press, and Netgalley. The Mercy Seat is available now!
My reviews can also be found on my shiny new blog www.jennifertarheelreader.com
A breakout novel by “a bitingly intelligent writer” (New York Times Book Review) set during the hours leading up to the scheduled execution of a young black man for the alleged rape of a white woman in a small Louisiana town in 1943.
“One of the finest writers of her generation” (Brad Watson), and author of three previously acclaimed novels, Elizabeth H. Winthrop delivers a brave new book that will launch her distinguished career anew. An incisive, meticulously crafted portrait of race, racism, and injustice in the Jim Crow era South that is as intimate and tense as a stage drama, The Mercy Seat is a stunning account of one town’s foundering over a trauma in their midst.
On the eve of his execution, eighteen year old Willie Jones sits in his cell in New Iberia awaiting his end. Across the state, a truck driven by a convict and his keeper carries the executioner’s chair closer. On a nearby highway, Willie’s father Frank lugs a gravestone on the back of his fading, old mule. In his office the DA who prosecuted Willie reckons with his sentencing, while at their gas station at the crossroads outside of town, married couple Ora and Dale grapple with their grief and their secrets.
As various members of the township consider and reflect on what Willie’s execution means, an intricately layered and complex portrait of a Jim Crow era Southern community emerges. Moving from voice to voice, Winthrop elegantly brings to stark light the story of a town, its people, and its injustices. The Mercy Seat is a brutally incisive and tender novel from one of our most acute literary observers.