Sweet Mercy by Ann Tatlock (4 Stars)

16110344Sweet Mercy by Ann Tatlock (Bethany House Publishers – release date May 1, 2013)

I was drawn inside this book in the first paragraph “No one has been by this way for years, but as I step up to the porch of the old abandoned lodge I’m certain I hear music.  Music and laughter.  Footsteps and telephones ringing.  And a thousand voices coming not from far away but from long ago, reaching me now the way the light of a burned-out star reaches earth thousands of years after the star itself is gone.”  I was hooked by this narrative and wanted to know more about the music, the laughter, and why it’s been so long since she’s been back.

It’s 1978 and Eve, now a grandmother, has retuned to the Marryat Island Ballroom and Lodge with her grandson to search for a box full of special memories she left behind years ago. While in the attic, Sean, asked his grandmother to tell him about when she moved to Mercy, Ohio and the Marryat Island Ballroom and Lodge.  And then she steps back in time to tell the story. It was1931, Eve was 17, and moved with her parents from St. Paul, Minnesota, full of fugitives, gangsters and bootleggers to Mercy, Ohio to stay with her Daddy’s brother who owned the Lodge.  Her father lost his job and was forced to ask his brother, Cy, for a job and place to stay.  Eve was happy to leave, she hated the crime and felt she was so much better than the lawbreakers in St. Paul. She was ready to get to Mercy, a place that was perfect, filled with law-abiding citizens and all other good things she imagined.  Little did she know that her “perfect little dream” was far from perfect and she had a lot of growing up to do that Summer.

It was a lot of narrative and I prefer more dialogue, but there was enough dialogue to keep me interested.  And Ann Tatlock does have a way with words and she kept me interested in the story.  It was a good story and one I’m sure readers will enjoy, but at the end of the novel, which came too soon for me, I felt that some of the characters were left underdeveloped and I want to know more about them.  Such as her uncle’s stepson, Jones, who the locals called “devil eye” because he was an albino with red eyes.

There is excitement, love and redemption.  Eve learned a lot about people and herself that Summer and was often reminded of her Daddy’s favorite Bible verse, 1 Peter 4:8 “For love shall cover the multitude of sins.”  Her cousin, Jones, told her one day, talking about Michael O’Brannigan, who Eve said was just another criminal like Al Capone “That’s right.  He was a criminal, not the devil himself.  No one’s completely bad, Eve.  Don’t you know that?”  But Eve liked good and evil, black and white, she didn’t like that gray area that she was soon to be drawn into.  Had she known, she might have stayed in St. Paul.

Overall, I enjoyed the book.  But when it ended I felt a little cheated, just to share such a small part of Eve’s story, I felt like there should have been so much more.  That’s why I gave it a 4 instead of a 5 star.

I received a free digital copy of the book from NetGalley for an honest review.

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