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Review: Under the Mercy Trees

February 15, 2011

When Martin Owenby has the opportunity to leave his small hometown in the mountains of North Carolina, Solace Fork, he never looks back.  He graduates from college, moves to New York, and initially has some success as a playwright.  Times change, though, and he’s not able to adapt his work to suit the times, so he finds himself struggling to make a living as a freelance writer.

When one of Martin’s brothers, Leon, goes missing, Martin returns home as a show of support.  Even though he quickly gets wrapped back up in his family’s drama, Martin decides to move back to Solace Fork when an old friend finds him a job.  He discovers that it’s difficult to go home again, especially when you’re haunted by secrets.

Under the Mercy Trees by Heather Newton is chock full of fabulous quirky characters and is told in the present tense and through flashbacks by several of them:

  • Martin – the main character who is struggling to find his place in the world – I felt bad for him and wanted to choke him all at the same time
  • Bertie – is married to Martin’s brother James – she has a secret that is about to destroy her and her marriage
  • Ivy  – one of Martin’s sisters – everyone assumes she’s slow-witted because she can see ghosts
  • Liza – Martin’s high school sweetheart who continues to love and believe in him

One of the things that struck me was that Leon’s family was more worried about how his disappearance affected them than they were in finding him.  That made me think a lot about human nature.

Not only did I love the fabulous characters (well, I didn’t love all of them), I loved the small town setting as well.  Having visited the mountains of North Carolina on several occasions, I can tell you, Newton got the setting just right.   Add an air of mystery to the characters and setting, and you have a book that’s just marvelous! I was engrossed in this book right from the start and didn’t want to set it down until I found out what happened to Leon, but have to admit that I was kind of sad as I turned the last page because I didn’t want the book to end.  This is a book you don’t want to miss!

Be sure to catch Heather Newton on Blog Talk Radio on March 1 when she chats with Book Club Girl.

Review copy provided by Harper Collins.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.
49 Comments leave one →
  1. February 15, 2011 5:07 am

    Thank you for this review. Book and author both new to me.

  2. February 15, 2011 6:28 am

    I love the setting and I love the description of the characters. Isn’t it great when an author can create a character you care for and *not* all at the same time?

  3. February 15, 2011 6:46 am

    You hooked me when you said quirky characters. Sounds good Kathy.

  4. February 15, 2011 6:55 am

    I am intrigued about how his family were more worried about themselves than his disappearance! Love quirky characters, though losing patience with the constant use of present tense recently.

  5. February 15, 2011 7:02 am

    I love books like this!

  6. February 15, 2011 7:07 am

    Another for the North Carolina novel shelf!

  7. February 15, 2011 7:07 am

    When you go back it’s never the same, that’s what I hear. I would like to read this one. Enjoyed the review.

  8. February 15, 2011 7:36 am

    This book sounds great! Not mysterious enough to be a thriller, and yet mysterious enough to have you invested in the characters. Plus when they are quirky, it’ll be just hard to put the book down. I’m going to check this out!

  9. February 15, 2011 7:39 am

    Everything I’ve heard about this book is so charming and quirky. I know I would love this one, and I’m going to have to figure out how I’m going to squeeze it in. I’ve been in the mountains of NC as well, and it almost feels like you are in a different country.

  10. February 15, 2011 8:48 am

    I like those southern settings as well. It seems they just lend themselves to good writing!

  11. February 15, 2011 8:50 am

    I love books set in my home state! Sounds fabulous!

  12. February 15, 2011 8:51 am

    I am not as familiar with the mountains of North Carolina as I wish I were, since I was only there once, but this book sounds very interesting.

  13. February 15, 2011 9:43 am

    I’m sold! You said you liked Martin but sometimes wanted to choke him, that tells me he’s a very real character, something I love in a novel. It’s on my list.

  14. February 15, 2011 10:11 am

    This novel sounds like it hits the sweet spot from beginning to end, and I am glad to hear that you enjoyed it so much. I am going to have to check this one out!

  15. February 15, 2011 10:43 am

    I wish I could drop everything today and read this one! Great review!

  16. February 15, 2011 11:11 am

    Quirky characters and family secrets…sounds like a book for me!

  17. February 15, 2011 11:33 am

    This sounds good to me, thanks! for the great review.

  18. February 15, 2011 12:05 pm

    Thank You for this review, I love quirky.

  19. February 15, 2011 12:06 pm

    This is definitely one I’m interested to read – I love the idea of him returning back to that small town setting to rebuild his life, but then getting swirled up in the family drama again. Anything quirky and full of unique characters sounds fabulous to me 🙂

  20. February 15, 2011 12:22 pm

    I loved this book. The characters and setting were just marvelous. Now I just have to write my review. Thanks for your insight.

  21. February 15, 2011 2:00 pm

    Awesome setting and quirky characters – sounds like one I need to get ahold of.

  22. February 15, 2011 2:09 pm

    Nice review, sounds like an ok book.
    And I am so happy to hear she got the setting right, since I have no idea of knowing that at all 🙂

  23. February 15, 2011 2:29 pm

    I love this book and I love Heather!!!

  24. February 15, 2011 2:46 pm

    This is such a wonderful book! Heather did a great job. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Kathy. Terrific review!

  25. February 15, 2011 2:54 pm

    Looking forward to reading this one… thanks for the review!

  26. February 15, 2011 3:02 pm

    Books with a strong sense of place are usually winners for me. Sounds like a great read!

  27. February 15, 2011 3:56 pm

    I want to read it!!! 😀

  28. February 15, 2011 5:14 pm

    Oh that sounds good! John Shor was the first author that sent me a book when I started blogging. I was gah gah that an author had sent me a book! When this book became available he sent me this one as well and I still have not read it – why oh why have I not read it yet?

    AND North Carolina! A state I need for the WHERE Are You Reading Challenge 🙂

  29. February 15, 2011 5:16 pm

    I, too, enjoyed your review of this book, Kathy! 🙂

  30. February 15, 2011 5:37 pm

    Yay! I am so glad you enjoyed it. I too found it an interesting study on human nature and the family dynamics was never dull. I too did not want the book to end.

  31. February 15, 2011 6:29 pm

    Oh this sounds like a great read! Some characters in the South – love it!

  32. February 15, 2011 7:45 pm

    Set in the North Carolina mountains with great characters is a good formula for a cozy afternoon of reading.

  33. February 15, 2011 8:21 pm

    I think it is always a good sign when you feel strongly about characters. It shows you got involved.

  34. February 15, 2011 8:24 pm

    I’m a sucker for small town settings…see my Waiting On Wednesday pick tomorrow! Double good that it’s set in a small town in the south…I would enjoy this one, I think!

  35. February 15, 2011 8:39 pm

    I’m glad you enjoyed this one more than I did.

  36. February 15, 2011 9:12 pm

    I have a friend who lived in North Carolina for awhile and she made it sounds beautiful — I’m sure it was a lovely setting for a book!

  37. February 15, 2011 11:56 pm

    I have this one on the to-review shelf, so I’m really glad to hear it’s so good!

  38. February 16, 2011 12:13 pm

    I have to read this book…quirky characters and a small town setting sound fabulous! After reading your review, I listed this book on my tbr list. I have read several great reviews of this book but you let me know why I should read it. Thanks Kathy!

    ~ Amy

  39. February 16, 2011 5:26 pm

    This sounds great Kathy. I love those books that make you regret that last page.

  40. February 16, 2011 6:17 pm

    Have to find this one after the review you posted. This one is completely new to me and now you have my curiosity peaked with the whole mention of what happened to Leon.

  41. February 16, 2011 8:49 pm

    Sounds intriguing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  42. kaye permalink
    February 17, 2011 9:03 am

    Going home again and family secrets just grabbed my attention. Add in a small town and quirky characters and I want to read it. Wonderful review!

  43. February 17, 2011 4:56 pm

    Please enter me. After reading your review, I now need to know what happened to Leon.

  44. February 17, 2011 7:05 pm

    I like how you dissect the characters. If I see this one in the stores, I would get it. Thanks!

  45. February 18, 2011 2:02 am

    Wonderful review. This book is on my TBR and on order at my library. It sounds so good.

  46. February 18, 2011 11:58 am

    It sounds amazing! How could I resist an interesting set of character set in a small town with an air of mystery? You just described my dream-book!

  47. February 21, 2011 11:12 am

    Sounds wonderful and I think it sounds like one that would make a great book club choice. Might just have to suggest it!

  48. March 2, 2011 5:18 pm

    I love books that have a really great sense of place – and this book definitely sounds like it has that. I think this is definitely something that I should pick up in the future.

  49. Thoughts of Joy permalink
    March 5, 2011 8:56 am

    Quirky characters is a plus for sure, but your desire for the book not to end speaks volumes!

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