Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Under the Mercy Trees

I'm going to be honest- I forgot I had wanted to review this book. When I got it in the mail I couldn't remember what it was about and I had to look it up.

Thirty years ago, Martin Owenby came to New York City with dreams of becoming a writer. Now his existence revolves around cheap Scotch and weekend flings with equally damaged men. When he learns that his older brother, Leon, has gone missing, he must return to the Owenby farm in Solace Fork, North Carolina, to assist in the search. But that means facing a past filled with regrets, the family that never understood him, the girl whose heart he broke, and the best friend who has faithfully kept the home fires burning. As the mystery surrounding Leon’s disappearance deepens, so too does the weight of decades-long unresolved differences and unspoken feelings—forcing Martin to deal with the hardest lessons about home, duty, and love.

And when you first start reading it... it's slow. It really is a slow read. But when I finished it, I was glad I did because all of these characters pull at you. Not just Martin and Liza (the girl who loved him), but all of the Owenby family. They are all screwed up in their own right but each one has a story. This is one of the rare books that completes the story of all of the character. Oftentimes when you have a book that each chapter focuses on a different character's point of view, somebody's story gets lost in the shuffle and it doesn't quite finish how it should. This one pulls it off beautifully.

What I loved about it is that it's really relevant to today even though the story is back a few years and it all starts in the late 50's/early 60's. Think of where our country was on topics such as adultery, homosexuality, and family duty. It's a completely different scenario today... but not really. Martin's story as a young boy discovering he isn't like other boys and although he loves Liza... it's not the same way that she loves him. She plans a future with him and he feels terrible, but he knows he would be breaking her heart no matter what. So his life goes into a tailspin. Which makes me think of all of the kids who are killing themselves by being taunted based on their sexuality, they could be Martin. Martin could be them. You root for Martin through the whole book because you know he has the potential- he just has to be shown that it's ok to be a failure in some rights. It's not the end of the world and life will move on.

The story also touches on mental illness as we perceive it. One of Martin's sisters sees ghosts and she talks to them, sometimes she forgets others can hear her. Everyone of course assumes she's crazy but it's tragic. She suffers tremendous loss in her life with the loss of her children so to speak, and it makes you think of all the people we automatically label as crazy.

Overall, I loved the book. I liked how it tied social issues in with real people and it was believable. I liked how the author shows you the same issues but in two different time periods and you see how time has really changed not just people but the issues themselves. You root for these characters and the ending was something that I never saw coming. Usually I can figure out the ending of the "who done it" but wow- that was not what I was expecting at all. And the ending, tragic as it is, feels like the way it should have ended. It feels like all of the characters are then able to move on past early traumas and into their futures. Which isn't giving you any information about the story really- you'll have to read it to understand it. :)


Zoƫ said...

I'm actually reading this this week. It sounds like a quietly well done book. I am looking forward to picking it up this weekend, thanks for the review!

ComfyMom~Stacey said...

Our library book group has this as a monthly read for March. I'm glad to read you liked it. I've been dithering about it

Krysten @ Why Girls Are Weird said...

Wow this sounds good! I love books whose endings you never see coming, those are so hard to come by these days.

prettylittlereckless said...

looks like I'll have to add this to my list :)

Heather J. @ TLC Books said...

It's amazing how things have changed but not really changed, if you know what I mean.

This sounds like a very touching book. I'm glad you enjoyed it and that you remembered why you wanted to read it! LOL

Thanks for being a part of the tour.