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9780099426950

Mercy Among the Children

Richards, David Adams

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Sydney Henderson is a truly great man. As a young man, Sydney, believing he has accidentally killed a friend, makes a pact with God, promising never to harm another if the boy's life is spared. In the years that follow, the almost pathologically gentle Sydney holds true to his promise - at terrible cost to himself and his family. Stunningly beautiful and haunting, scenes from this magisterial novel will remain etched in the mind forever.

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Review:

Transpose Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure to New Brunswick's rugged Miramichi River. Surround Job with loose fists, malicious boots, and cold, gallon wine. Invite the Macbeths over for drinks. Add a lame dog named Scupper Pit and you've got the raw ingredients of David Adams Richards's Mercy Among the Children. Set in an isolated, wind-besieged house with bullet holes in the tarpaper walls, Richards's novel wonders-- pointedly, beautifully--whether goodness is merely a luxury.

At the age of 12, having borne more suffering in his child's body than any adult should endure, Sydney Henderson vows never to harm another human soul. Turning his back on the violent alcoholism of his upbringing, self-educated Sydney wins the honest respect of the beautiful Elly and the children they bear. Honest respect, however, is rarely a match for fear and base human opportunism. Manipulated, attacked, and abused by a small community eager for a scapegoat, Sydney loses his job, the health of his wife, and, most importantly, the respect of his son Lyle. "There is no worse flaw in man's character," Richards knows, "than that of wanting to belong."

The superb, controlled, and unapologetic Mercy Among the Children is nothing less than an inquiry into human strength. Richards uses the crack of ribs on a frigid night to remind us of the opportunistic populism of much so- called morality. Mercy, which shared Canada's premier fiction award, the Giller Prize, with Michael Ondaatje's Anil's Ghost, combines the hound dog's attention to locale of fellow Maritimer Alistair MacLeod with the quotidian insight of countryman Timothy Findley's The Wars, especially its reminder that the emotions behind war also drive fights over who should scrub the dinner dishes. --Darryl Whetter

From the Back Cover:

"Richards is a painfully sharp observer, who possesses one of the most distinct and compelling voices in contemporary literature." — The Toronto Star

"Richards has a wonderful ear for the cadence of the language, and his compassion for his poorest characters' misery is infectious—the best of Richards' work is dark in tone, both harshly realistic and lyrically sympathetic to the most disadvantaged members of society." — The Globe and Mail

"At its best, Richards' work has a touch of greatness, yielding up reminders, sharp as wood smoke on an autumn evening, of both the pity and the glory of being human." — Maclean's

"His voice is one of the most powerful and necessary to be found in Canadian fiction." — Ottawa Citizen

"Wit and acuity mark out this Canadian writer of unaffected, unsentimental integrity." — The Observer (U.K.)

" Mercy Among the Children is a major novel precisely because it disavows concern for the structure of things in any one place and time in favour of the structure of things for all places and times." — The Globe and Mail

"David Adams Richards is perhaps the greatest Canadian writer alive ... Although Mercy Among the Children is unrelentingly tragic, as with most great tragedies the undertone is one of boundless hope." — Vancouver Sun

"In its depth of feeling and fierce drive, Mercy Among the Children makes even the best of contemporary novels seem forced and pallid." — The Toronto Star

" Mercy Among the Children explores major issues with passion and high seriousness. It aims for the heart, not the head. If you give yourself to the experience of reading it, it will reward you." — National Post

"A wrenching, soaring read ... It compels the reader to ponder the cruelty and grace of our relationships with each other and with an invisible unknowable God." — The Calgary Herald

" Mercy Among the Children is a masterpiece." — Maclean's

“With Mercy Among the Children, David Adams Richards assures his place among the CanLit canon as one of this country’s greatest authors. Unrelenting, bleak and grim, the novel delivers its story with the force of an old testament prophet. Richards’s voice is consistently powerful as he relates this heartbreaking tale of generational poverty and abuse.” — The Edmonton Journal

Mercy Among the Children is a major novel precisely because it disavows concern for the structure of things in any one place and time in favour of the structure of things for all places nad times. Literary fashions be damned; her is a fictional universe, fiercely imagined and brilliantly rendered, and everyone is welcome into it.” — The Globe and Mail (Charles Foran)

“…Richards makes a concentrated commitment to his plot and to his characters, who carry the book upward. It is passionately informed with his love and hate. He has a visceral belief in his story, and he never relents. His knowledge of the mind of evil is impressive.” — The Gazette

“It’s time to declare David Adams Richards Canada’s greatest living writer. The reason for this assertion is simple: Of all the country’s best writers he is the one who has steadfastly set out to do what all great writers do — define what it is to be human. And he has done this through a voice uniquely his own, influenced by neither literary taste nor reader fashion….His latest novel Mercy Among the Children is not only his most ambitious, it’s as close to a masterpiece as he has yet written.” — Kitchener- Waterloo Record

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Book Description Vintage 2002 Paperback, 2002. Book Condition: Good. Mercy Among the Children received effusive praise from the critics, was nominated for a Governor Generalís Award and won the Giller Prize. It was named one of 2000ís best books, became a national bestseller in hardcover for months, and would be published in the US and UK. It is seen, however, as being at odds with literary fashion for concerning itself with good and evil and the human freedom to choose between them ó an approach that puts Richards, as Macleanís magazine says, firmly in the tradition of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Author Wayne Johnston recounts hearing Richards read in 1983 and being struck by his unqualified love for every one of his characters, even though "it was not then fashionable to love your characters". Pottersfield Portfolio editor Tony Tremblay calls Richards the most misunderstood Canadian writer of the century, and a "great moralist", comparing him to Morley Callaghan, Kafka and Melville.As a boy, Sydney Henderson thinks he has killed Connie Devlin when he pushes him from a roof for stealing his sandwich. He vows to God he will never again harm another if Connie survives. Connie walks away, laughing, and Sydney embarks upon a life of self-immolating goodness. In spite of having educated himself with such classics as Tolstoy and Marcus Aurelius, he is not taken seriously enough to enter university because of his background of dire poverty and abuse, which leads everyone to expect the worst of him. His saintly generosity of spirit is treated with suspicion and contempt, especially when he manages to win the love of beautiful Elly. Unwilling to harm another in thought or deed, or to defend himself against false accusations, he is exploited and tormented by others in this rural community, and finally implicated in the death of a 19-year-old boy.Lyle Henderson knows his father is innocent, but is angry that the family has been ridiculed for years, and that his mother and sister suffer for it. He feels betrayed by his fatherís passivity in the face of one blow after another, and unable to accept his belief in long-term salvation. Unlike his father, he cannot believe that evil will be punished in the end. While his father turns the other cheek, Lyle decides the right way is in fighting, and embarks on a morally empty life of stealing, drinking and violence.A compassionate, powerful story of humanity confronting inhumanity, it is a culmination of Richardsí last seven books, beginning with Road to the Stilt House. It takes place in New Brunswickís Miramichi Valley, like all of his novels so far, which has led some urban critics to misjudge his work as regional ó a criticism leveled at Thomas Hardy, Joseph Conrad and Emily Bronte in their own day. Like his literary heroes, Richards aims to evoke universal human struggles through his depiction of the events of a small, rural place, where one personís actions impact inevitably on others in a tragic web of interconnectedness. The setting is extremely important in Richardsí work, "because the characters come from the soil"; but as British Columbia author Jack Hodgins once told Richards, "every character you talk about is a character I've met here in Campbell River". 384 pages. Bookseller Inventory # 206302

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