How do I choose what books to read? Years ago, I’d go to the library and just browse in the stacks. I also read the book reviews printed in the newspaper, and clipped those that sounded interesting. These days, I usually choose among books reviewed at Goodreads or by friends online.
I still have a paperclipped stack of reviews in my kitchen drawer — you know, “that” drawer full of things with no real place to belong. The other day, I took the stack to the library and decided to randomly locate a book from it. That’s how I ended up with “Mercy Snow.”
The book is set in the New Hampshire town of Titan Falls, along the Androscoggin River. The town revolves around a dying paper mill, headed up by Cal McAllister, and his “perfect” wife June. We meet many residents of the town, including the orphaned Snow children — Zeke, Mercy, and Hannah — who live in the boonies in poverty. We also encounter Hazel and her disabled husband.
“Mercy Snow” is the story of how all their lives intertwine, and of the surprising secrets life can hold. Sometimes the upstanding members of the community aren’t what they seem. And sometimes the less-powerful members have purer hearts than the leaders — although that probably comes as no surprise to most of us. “There was something else about June that Hazel couldn’t quite put her finger on, and that was odd, since everything June did was perfect. Maybe that was it. In Titan Falls there was no reason to try that hard.”
I really don’t want to tell much more, because half the enjoyment of the story is learning the various relationships and secrets as they are revealed. I enjoyed the book, and thought author Tiffany Baker did a good job in writing it. The characters stuck with me. The setting reminded me of one in books by another favorite author, Richard Russo — maybe even hints of John Irving. I also appreciated that the book, while not Christian, didn’t have profanity or sex scenes (well, one was implied, but that’s about it). That is a rare thing today in general fiction.