Caroline, 40, has stayed away from Wellfleet after her DWI car accident in Provincetown over six years ago, when she hit a mother and her child, which killed the four-year-old boy, Alexander. Caroline has returned home to Wellfleet solely because of her mother's grave illness. Rid, who's a couple of years younger than Caroline and always calls her CiCi, is also from Wellfleet. He spent four and a half years in prison for using and selling drugs. Now Rid is an aquaculturist who works the flats on a 5-acre grant that his father left him, raising and harvesting oysters and quahogs (hard-shell clams). Rid loves his profession, his dog, Lizzie, and his way of life. Caroline went to college and became a teacher, but she lost her certificate to teach and also spent time in prison, due to the fatal accident. One evening, Caroline sees Rid working outside and goes out to help him right before a big storm hits. They end up having a few drinks, and spend the night together, which will alter the course of their lives. Rid soon learns that a disgruntled homeowner named Pissario has filed a lawsuit against him, Tomas, and Mario (other nearby aquaculturists), and that they may lose their grants. A bit later in the book, Caroline accidentally encounters Terry, the mother of the child who died in the accident, at the library where she works, and she's forced to revisit her painful past.
"The sun slid below the horizon degree by degree, a great read neon ball being lowered from an invisible string held by God, fiery and benign. The bay answered with tongues and darts and minnows of color."
~ A Matter of Mercy, Lynne Hugo
Inspired by a 1996 lawsuit, A Matter of Mercy is a very touching book, that has gotten a lot of wonderful reviews. It paints a picture of Cape Cod, a complete seascape, with sound, scent, and ocean spray. While I was reading it, I felt as if I lived on the Cape, and I became immersed in and enamored by a subject that was completely new to me, aquaculture. The author did extensive research for her book about aquaculture and the aquaculturists, who "live in respectful harmony with the tides and ecosystem of the bay". In the Author's Note at the beginning of the book, Lynne Hugo mentions an aquaculturist who was especially helpful to her, Barbara Austin. I was able to "meet" Barbara Austin in a fascinating YouTube video (there's also a character in the book named Barb who's an aquaculturist, mentioned by Rid several times, although this novel is fiction).
A Matter of Mercy is a novel that deserves close attention. The characters and the setting are very well drawn. The descriptions of the seascape in Cape Cod are magnificent, and the main (and secondary) characters are flawed, realistic, and (mostly) likable. They make mistakes, they suffer, and they don't communicate freely or honestly. (After their first chance meeting, Caroline keeps visiting Terry at the library, pretending to be a journalist researching a story; this was painful to read about.)
We have mercy for the characters, and want them to be happy, or at least happier. The matter of mercy comes up several times in the book, and there are different instances of it throughout. In this way, the book highlights the need for mercy. Mercy is compassion or forbearance shown, especially to an offender; it can also mean something for which to be thankful, a blessing (Rid's grant is a blessing to him, from his father). The last notable instance of mercy was surprising to me, but perfect for this story.
When Lisa from TLC contacted me about this novel, she called it a literary book. It is a literary book. I'd definitely like to read other novels by Lynne Hugo. She has created a story that brings the characters and setting to life, quite vividly. I was hooked by this story in the first chapter, and my attention remained strong through the very last chapter. The writing is beautiful and poignant. I took my time reading A Matter of Mercy, and I truly savored it.
Thanks to the author and TLC, I'm thrilled to offer my readers a giveaway for a copy of A Matter of Mercy (U.S.A. /Canada).
- To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
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Enter by 5 PM PDT on Monday, February 9. One winner will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, February 10. Good luck to all!
Special thanks to Lisa from TLC for sending me a complimentary copy of this novel. Please visit the other stops on TLC's book blog tour for A Matter of Mercy.