7.30.2014 | Wednesday

A Matter of Mercy

category: Book Reviews

A Matter of Mercytitle: A Matter of Mercy
author: Lynne Hugo
published: 1 August 2014
publisher: Blank Slate Press
genre(s): contemporary, romance
pages: 278
source: NetGalley
format: eARC
buy/shelve it: Amazon | B&N | BookBub | Goodreads

rating: four-half-stars

the blurb

Caroline Marcum thought she'd escaped the great mistake of her life by leaving Wellfleet harbor, but is forced to face it when she returns, reluctantly, to care for her dying mother. Ridley Neal put his past-and his prison term-behind him to return home to take over his father's oyster and clam beds. Casual acquaintances long ago, when a nor'easter hits the coast, Rid and Caroline's lives intersect once again. When Rid and two other sea farmers are sued by the wealthy owners of vacation homes who want to shut them down, and Caroline accidentally meets the person she most wronged, they each must learn to trust-and love. Inspired by an actual lawsuit, A Matter of Mercy is a riveting novel about treasuring the traditional way of life in the shallows of beautiful Cape Cod bay by discovering where forgiveness ends. And where it begins.

my review

This was a beautiful book, albeit one that was hard for me to read for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the book and everything to do with me.  It is the story of Caroline Marcum, who has come home to care for her mother in her final days.  There is so much sadness, so much heartache, so much emotion.  It tugged at my heart from start to finish, even as the suspense of the mystery underlying Caroline’s life unfolded.

The last several years have been less than perfect for Caroline.  The pain of it and the pain and guilt she carries with her threatens to overwhelm her, especially when faced with the fact that her mother is dying from cancer.  She is emotionally wrought when she runs into an old friend and, in a moment of vulnerability, has a fling.  That one moment changes everything for her and, in many ways, makes her feel even more lost and confused and guilty.

This is a story of moments.  In a moment with Ridley, her life changes.  During a trip to a nearby library, another moment sets in motion a scary series of events in Caroline’s life.  There is a lesson there, that those small moments can change your life in ways you can’t possibly imagine.

The characters are wonderful in this story.  Caroline and Rid seem rather flat at the beginning of the story, but I think that this was intentional on the part of the author.  It seems to underscore the idea that life without the presence of love is not really living, that with love comes pain and loss, but that we can survive that pain and loss.  Caroline has become so guarded with her emotions over the last several years and she has to learn to be vulnerable again, even to her mother in her dying days.  Rid is used to relying on himself and is going through some things that make him distrustful of most everyone outside his immediate circle.  Love and trust does not come easy to either of them.  As they grow, their characters develop beautifully!

This is a beautiful story set in the midst of the Cape Cod oyster culture.  The setting is rich with detail and teaches without feeling like a lesson.  I felt like I was on the dunes of the oyster flats, experiencing the area right along with the characters.

Things to love…

  • The detailed setting.
  • The emotions and growth of the characters.

I loved the depth of the characters and the depth of the emotions for me as a reader.  Parts of Caroline’s story were painful for me, in light of my own loss, but it was beautiful nonetheless.

About Lynne Hugo

Lynne Hugo is an American author whose roots are in the northeast. A National Endowment For The Arts Fellowship recipient, she has also received repeat individual artists grants from the Ohio Arts Council and the Kentucky Foundation for Women. Her publications include five novels, one volume of creative non-fiction, two books of poetry and a children’s book. She lives with her husband, the Vice President for Academic Affairs of a liberal arts college, in the Midwest. They have two grown children, three grandchildren, and a yellow Labrador retriever.

Ms. Hugo has taught creative writing to hundreds of schoolchildren through the Ohio Arts Council’s renowned Arts in Education program. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Connecticut College, and a Master’s from Miami University.

When an editor asked her to describe herself as a writer, she responded:

“I write in black Wal-Mart capri sweatpants. They don’t start out as capris, but I routinely shrink them in the drier by accident. And I always buy black because it doesn’t show where I’ve wiped the chocolate off my hands. Now that my son and daughter are grown, my previous high grade of ‘below average’ in Domestic Achievement has dropped somewhat. But I’m less guilty about it now. I lose myself in crafting language by a window with birdfeeders hanging in the branches of a Chinese elm towering over the house. When I come up for air, I hike by the ponds and along the river in a nearby forest with my beloved Lab. My husband, with whom I planted that elm as a bare root sapling, joins us when he can.”

Rating Report
Overall: four-half-stars

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