Book Review: The Miracle Of Mercy Land

23 Mar

Mercy Land has made some unexpected choices for a young woman in the 1930s. The sheltered daughter of a traveling preacher, she chooses to leave her rural community to move to nearby Bay City on the warm, gulf-waters of southern Alabama. There she finds a job at the local paper and spends seven years making herself indispensable to old Doc Philips, the publisher and editor. Then she gets a frantic call at dawn—it’s the biggest news story of her life, and she can’t print a word of it.

Doc has come into possession of a curious book that maps the lives of everyone in Bay City—decisions they’ve made in the past, and how those choices affect the future. Mercy and Doc are consumed by the mystery locked between the pages—Doc because he hopes to right a very old wrong, and Mercy because she wants to fulfill the book’s strange purpose. But when a mystery from Mercy’s past arrives by train, she begins to understand that she will have to make choices that will deeply affect everyone she loves—forever.


River Jordan is a southerner with a global perspective. She began her writing career as a playwright and spent over ten years with the Loblolly Theatre group, where her original works were produced, including Mama Jewels: Tales from Mullet Creek, Soul, Rhythm and Blues, and Virga.

Ms. Jordan’s first novel,The Gin Girl (Livingston Press, 2003), has garnered such high praise as “This author writes with a hard bitten confidence comparable to Ernest Hemingway. And yet, in the Southern tradition of William Faulkner, she can knit together sentences that can take your breath.”

Kirkus Reviews described her second novel, The Messenger of Magnolia Street, as “a beautifully written atmospheric tale.  “It was applauded as “a tale of wonder” by Southern Living, who chose the novel as their Selects feature for March 2006, and described by other reviewers as “a riveting, magical mystery” and “a remarkable book.”

Her third novel, Saints In Limbo has been painted by some of the finest fiction voices of today as “a lyrical and relentlessly beautiful book,” and “a wise, funny, joyful and deadly serious book, written with a poet’s multilayered sense of metaphor and meter and a page-turning sense of urgency.

The Miracle of Mercy Land, a novel set in 1938 along the Gulf waters of Alabama, debuted September 7, 2010 and has been painted as ‘A triumph of beauty.”

River Jordan’s first work of narrative non-fiction, Praying for Strangers, An Adventure of the Human Spirit, arrives with great expectation, April 5, 2011.

Ms. Jordan teaches and speaks around the country on “The Power of Story”, and produces and hosts Clearstory Radio on WRFN, 107.1fm Nashville.

When not traveling the back roads of America, River lives with her husband Owen Hicks, and their Great Pyrennees lap dog, Titan in Nashville, Tennessee. She thinks about where stories come from – places and people and moods of the heart while rocking on her front porch. And long after the sun sets over the ridge, she waits for the moon to rise, watches the stars come out, and stares off into the blue-night sky believing with all her might.

Q & A With River Jordan

My Impressions:

River Jordan’s newest novel The Miracle of Mercy Land is a beautifully written story about the choices we make and how they impact ourselves and the lives of others.  Mercy Land is a daughter of backwoods Alabama making her way in Bay City as the go-to girl of newspaper editor/publisher Doc Phillips.  She is good at what she does and has become an indispensable part of the newspaper and the community as a whole.  Her life is going so well, that she is caught off guard by the arrival of a strange book that not only exposes the lives of Bay City citizens but also shows how those lives could or should have been.  Doc then complicates matters more by summoning to town a stranger to be a part of their investigation into the purpose of that book.

Jordan skillfully brings to life a small Southern town emerging from the hardships of the Depression and on the brink of World War.  It is a slower paced time.  A time when you knew your neighbors and could depend on them. But do we ever truly know someone else?  The Miracle of Mercy Land poses that question and examines the consequences of such knowledge.  One thing is sure, the Creator of all knows who we are, and that is the most comforting thing of all.   The words of Psalm 139 were not far from my thoughts as I read this book  —

You know when I sit down and when I get up; even from far away you understand my motives. You carefully observe me when I travel or when I lie down to rest. you are aware of everything I do. Psalm 139:2-3

The story is told from the perspectives of the three main characters.  Through their words, the reader is slowly drawn into the mystery surrounding the book and the lives it brings to light.  Each character has parts of the whole and it is a fascinating journey of discovery for the reader.

Slow-paced, yet riveting, this book is a great read.

Highly Recommended.

(I received The Miracle of Mercy Land from Waterbrook/Multnomah in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

4 Responses to “Book Review: The Miracle Of Mercy Land”

  1. Carrie, Reading to Know March 23, 2011 at 5:29 pm #

    I LOVED this book! I thought the story was awesome and engaging. Definitely one I’d recommend!

  2. Amy @ Hope Is the Word March 26, 2011 at 8:38 am #

    Sounds great! I think I need to look up this author!

    • rbclibrary March 26, 2011 at 9:06 am #

      This is my first book with the author. But the others look really good too.

  3. Judy Dudley March 26, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    I read this one and reviewed it on my blog. I didn’t like it quite as much as most readers did, but it was interesting!

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