Mercy Among the Children

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9781559705868: Mercy Among the Children
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At the age of 12, believing he has killed a friend, Sidney Henderson vows to God never to harm another human being. In the years that follow, the brilliant, self-educated, almost pathologically gentle Sidney keeps his promise, even in the face of hatred and persecution in his insular, rural community. So when a small boy dies in a botched act of sabotage and revenge and Sidney is blamed, his son Lyle takes matters into his own violent hands to defend the family. Rejecting both God and the books on which he was raised, Lyle must determine the legacy his family's tragedy will hold.

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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

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"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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