Book Review | The Mercies

One day, in a village far north, the men go out to fish. None return. The women are forced to adapt, change and sow their seeds of survival. Maren, having lost her father, brother and betrothed finds herself having to navigate this unforgiving land, alongside her mother, her sister in law and the rest of the women of the village.

Just as the women begin finding their feet without their men, becoming independent out of necessity, a commissioner is appointed to bring the mercies of God, order and proprietary back to Vardo. Ursa, his new wife comes with him and it’s an immediate shock to the system. She doesn’t know how to be a wife, doesn’t even know how to keep house, much less in this brutal, bleak land. Soon, she enlists Maren’s help and the two become fast friends.

It’s an unforgiving time, with the commissioner focused on quelling the evil that walks amongst them and turning them back to God. What lengths will he go to stamp it out? And will the women stand together, or turn on each other?

This book was at times action packed and other times a slower burn. The sights, sounds and architecture of the village, as well as general village life was brought vividly to life. The author managed to pack so much detail into a relatively short story.

I empathised a lot with Ursa. She was a fish out of water, having come from a big city, and I can’t say I would have handled the situation any better. The stifling lack of activity, gossiping women and claustrophobic and primitive setting would have gotten to me too. The hysteria towards the end reminded me a little of The Crucible, and the pious judgement took me back to Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter. If you’re looking for an atmospheric, well researched tale that meanders towards the finish line this would be a good one to pick up. I was also fascinated to learn it was based on real events!

Thanks as always to Pan Macmillan Aus for sending this my way. 🥰

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