Mercy Among the Children – David Adams Richards

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You know those chain things on Facebook, where you have to answer a few questions and tag a certain amount of people to do the same? Sort of like “the Ice Bucket Challenge”? I hate them. But I did one. It was about 10 books that made an impression on you – or something like that. One of my FB friends mentioned “Mercy Among the Children” – and that’s how I got to know the book. I spotted it among her list of 10 because of – yes, that’s right – the title, again.

It tells a story about a guy who pushed his colleague off the rooftop, when he was 12. He was so ashamed of what he did that he decided to give up on any violence for the rest of his life. Sort of like a pacifist thing. This turns his life into some kind of a living hell; living in a small village, being poor and coming from a family with an already bad reputation, he didn’t have much chance, anyway. Yet, his choice made his life even more miserable, because he wouldn’t do anything to hurt other people even in small cases when it could help him exonerate himself from a false accusation.

This is not an action novel, but there’s a lot of storytelling and the book is filled with little details, that all make sense and are crucial in describing the characters and the reasons behind their actions. It’s a family tale, or a saga, if you may; it’s also very well written.

For me the novel shows how important looks still are, and how quick people are to judge “the book by its cover.” How they don’t want to – don’t have time, or energy or courage – to truly know another man and his motives. It shows that once you get a reputation, it may take you forever to change it – and sometimes even this is not enough. How the merciful and gentle people are crushed by more ruthless ones.

It’s worth reading, but it’s not an easy read. It’s not something I could “devour” in one or two days. It involves over-thinking and analyzing people’s behaviors. It’s definitely not for everyone.

 

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