PUBLICATION DATE: AUGUST 7, 2012
er name means house of mercy, but to Bethesda (Beth) Borzoi, it feels as though mercy is just an unattainable dream. With good intentions, Beth stole the saddle of a long-time friend; in poor judgment she took an unapproved ride on a champion thoroughbred. These first two decisions start a windfall of adverse events leading to unbearable grief. But in the midst of her crumbling world, Beth discovers a gift for miraculous healing—unfortunately she can’t figure out how it works or summon it when she needs it most.
Garner Remke has spent the last 27 years estranged from his daughter, but a freak storm convinces him it’s time to finally track her down. Though most people in the small town of Burnt Rock have little knowledge of his past, his friend Dr. Catherine Ransom does. Instead of supporting his decision to find his daughter, Cat decides to subtly undermine his efforts, even if it means resorting to harmful medicine in order to keep Garner dependent upon her. With two characters seeking the same purpose, but approaching it from different directions, House of Mercy is an intriguing read, though at times a bit sad.
I usually don’t judge a book by its cover, but it’s very likely I would have picked up House of Mercy even if I had never read any other books by Erin Healy. The gorgeous cover captured my heart before I even read the first page. Fortunately the story inside is just as captivating with characters that I genuinely cared about and a beautiful message of mercy and God’s goodness in the midst of despair.
This is a book that frequently put me in a quandary—I wanted to know what happened next, but was afraid to find out. From the opening scenes till about the halfway point, Beth’s life crumbles piece by piece. The writing is excellent, making the reader struggle right along with Beth and long for some relief from the terrible events that are happening. However, just like Beth the reader is not given a break and instead must continue to face new obstacles which are increasingly more heartbreaking.
What really drew me into this story is the believability of Beth’s character. She truly wants to do what is right, but her decisions don’t have the intended results. She starts out believing the end justifies the means, but as her world falls apart, she begins to mature. As her character grows and develops, it contrasts nicely with Cat’s character that steadily declines. These two women both have a strong desire to do good, but they approach things from opposite directions and for different reasons. This dichotomy adds depth to this story and makes Beth a wonderfully endearing character.
There’s also an excellent cast of supporting characters. I very much enjoyed Jacob. With his wonderful patience and loving personality, he is an excellent partner to Beth’s more aggressive and forthright personality. I look forward to reading more about Jacob in a future book. Trey, the people of Burnt Rock, Able, Wally, mysterious Wally, and cowboys at the ranch each add a unique perspective to the story and I could easily have read a book twice this length just to spend more time with the supporting cast. But the really surprising character is a very cool wolf named Mercy. He very much captured my imagination and stole the scenes he was a part of.
As in all of Healy’s books, House of Mercy has a wonderful supernatural element. In some ways the supernatural aspect is not as refined or narrowly defined as it is in her previous novels, but it works well for this book. After all, this story deals with miracles and that’s not a topic one can easily put into a box with a nice tidy bow.
I very much enjoyed the various storylines and backstory, particularly those involving Miracle Mattie and the characters at Burnt Rock. But at times, I felt like the pacing was interrupted by background and practical information. While the information is interesting it doesn’t always add to the story.
House of Mercy is a great book, but it falters at the end. As the story is concluding, it begins to feel rushed and doesn’t have a true ending. I’m a fan of creative endings and I do not require all the storylines to be wrapped up nicely. In this case, none of the storylines are wrapped up. It honestly feels like the last few pages are missing, but there is no indication of a sequel. I was happy to learn there will be a subsequent book though. However, I see a creative reason for why the book could have ended as it does and to some degree it works. In fact, the more I think about the ending the more comfortable I am with it. But it still would have been nice if the ending more clearly pointed towards a sequel. Anyway, thankfully this isn’t the end of the story and readers will eventually get some answers to the many lingering questions.
Aside from the ending and some minor pacing issues, I completely enjoyed House of Mercy. The characters truly are spectacular and Erin continues to impress with her elegant, yet simpler style and beautiful spiritual themes. As always, I’m looking forward to her next book!