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Brooke's Pick: Mercy Street by Jennifer Haigh


A tense and riveting story about the disparate lives that intersect at a women's clinic in Boston, by New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Haigh.


People's reasons for visiting Mercy Street vary. Some who find themselves on Mercy Street are looking for help, guidance, and compassion. Others are seeking to shame and intercede. Just what is located on Mercy Street that is capable of so much division? Why, an abortion clinic ... what else? Jennifer Haigh's new literary novel tells the story of four people whose lives connect through the clinic on Mercy Street, and serves as a social commentary on one of the most divisive issues of all time.


The clinic at Mercy Street is at the center of this introspective, reflective novel. The story follows Claudia, a counselor at the clinic, which provides female reproductive health in addition to abortions, much like a Planned Parenthood clinic; Timmy, Claudia's weed dealer, who is trying to grow his drug business while attempting to mend his strained relationship with his son; Anthony, a client of Timmy's and also a devoted Catholic, who spends his free time protesting outside the Mercy Street clinic and photographing women who enter and exit its doors; and Victor, a zealot who runs an anti-abortion website where he attempts to shame women seeking abortions by posting their photos online. The lives of these four characters intersect in various ways, building this story and demonstrating how women's reproductive health affects people on various levels, regardless of gender or proximity to the issue.


Haigh's Mercy Street ended up being something quite different from what I expected. What I expected was a novel situated inside the Mercy Street clinic, with the employees and patients battling backlash from outside protestors. What I got was something much more poetic and nuanced in nature. Mercy Street borders on highbrow, placing an American slice of life under a microscope, and exposing all there is to see. Much more about the choices people make and what drives them to do so, Mercy Street keeps abortion in the background without being solely about the issue.


Mercy Street slowly meanders through the lives of its four characters, describing their daily ins and outs while also providing clues about their past. As we get closer to these characters, we learn what makes them tick and we also discover that we are all much closer to the issues revolving around reproduction than we may realize at first glance.


Mercy Street will appeal to readers who enjoy character-driven novels that profile people from all walks of American life. While none of the characters in this novel are particularly likeable, there is something to learn from each of them, which is why this book will best be enjoyed by those who want to better understand humanity in all its shades.


Availability: Book Rating: **** Stars (I really liked it) Reviewer: Brooke, Public Relations Librarian

 

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GENRE: Literary Fiction; Political Fiction

TONE: Disturbing; Suspenseful

STORYLINE: Issue-Oriented

WRITING STYLE: Compelling

CHARACTER: Complex; Flawed; Twisted

LOCATION: Boston, Massachusetts

SUBJECT: Abortion; Anxiety; Counselors; Drug Dealers; Insomnia; Marijuana; Obsession; Protests, Demonstrations, Vigils; Social Isolation; Stalkers; Stress; Vietnam Veterans; Violence Against Abortion Clinics; Winter


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