Stunning coming-of-age drama set during the Great Depression and Prohibition
When Eve Marryat’s father is laid off from the Ford Motor Company in 1931, he is forced to support his family by leaving St. Paul, Minnesota, and moving back to his Ohio roots. Eve’s uncle Cyrus has invited the family to live and work at his Marryat Island Ballroom and Lodge.
Eve can’t wait to leave St. Paul, a notorious haven for gangsters. At seventeen, she considers her family to be “good people,” not lawbreakers like so many in her neighborhood. Thrilled to be moving to a “safe haven,” Eve soon forms an unlikely friendship with a strange young man named Link, blissfully unaware that her uncle’s lodge is anything but what it seems.
When the reality of her situation finally becomes clear, Eve is faced with a dilemma. Does she dare risk everything by exposing the man whose love and generosity is keeping her family from ruin? And when things turn dangerous, can she trust Link in spite of appearances?
Where is the line between good and bad? Can a person be both? When should you mind your own business or get involved in something you witness? These are the questions Eve is forced to confront one summer when her life is turned upside down. Eve is a supporter of Prohibition, even while she reluctantly acknowledges how badly the law has failed. For her, it’s a clear cut issue. Her definition of a good person is, “Someone who keeps the law,” and, therefore, all bootleggers and moonshiners are bad people who deserve to be in prison. It doesn’t matter if, in a time of the Great Depression, a person has turned to bootlegging in order to provide for their family. There are no shades of gray. No one can be both good and bad.
To be honest, I found Eve a difficult character to like. At times, she came across as terribly naïve while at others she sounded very self-righteous. When she said that good person was someone who kept the law, she reminded me of the Pharisees in the New Testament. But at seventeen – an age where many were finding their independence – she still went running to her parents like a child for so many things. That image wasn’t helped by the book cover, which looks like a young girl paddling in the water. I don’t want to say she’s a “goody-two-shoes,” but she’s certainly close to it. It’s apparent, to me at least, that she got this from her father. When she tells her father about an illegal bootlegging act she’s witnessed, he insists on taking it not only to his brother, but also the local chief of police. It soon becomes evident to both father and daughter that people aren’t always as they appear and it’s difficult to know who you can trust.
Sweet Mercy raises interesting questions and subjects that will make you think. Besides the good and bad issue, it also covers issues such as race and congenital disorders. There’s also a visit to a ‘Hooverville,’ where Eve learns what it’s like for some of the local homeless. Given my thoughts on Eve, you might conclude I wasn’t fond of this book. But sometimes, you don’t realize the impact a book can have you on until the end. That’s what I discovered when I got to the end of the book and the tears began rolling down my cheeks. This book had an emotional impact on me that I didn’t expect. That gives it high marks in my opinion.
Thank you to Bethany House for my free copy of Sweet Mercy, which I received in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing)
Publication Date: 01 May 2013
Page Count: 321