Mercy Among the Children

Mercy Among the Children

Book - 2000
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Mercy Among the Childrenreceived effusive praise from the critics, was nominated for a Governor General's Award and won the Giller Prize. It was named one of 2000's best books, became a national bestseller in hardcover for months, and would be published in the US and UK. It is seen, however, as being at odds with literary fashion for concerning itself with good and evil and the human freedom to choose between them -- an approach that puts Richards, asMaclean'smagazine says, firmly in the tradition of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Author Wayne Johnston recounts hearing Richards read in 1983 and being struck by his unqualified love for every one of his characters, even though "it was not then fashionable to love your characters".Pottersfield Portfolioeditor Tony Tremblay calls Richards the most misunderstood Canadian writer of the century, and a "great moralist", comparing him to Morley Callaghan, Kafka and Melville. As a boy, Sydney Henderson thinks he has killed Connie Devlin when he pushes him from a roof for stealing his sandwich. He vows to God he will never again harm another if Connie survives. Connie walks away, laughing, and Sydney embarks upon a life of self-immolating goodness. In spite of having educated himself with such classics as Tolstoy and Marcus Aurelius, he is not taken seriously enough to enter university because of his background of dire poverty and abuse, which leads everyone to expect the worst of him. His saintly generosity of spirit is treated with suspicion and contempt, especially when he manages to win the love of beautiful Elly. Unwilling to harm another in thought or deed, or to defend himself against false accusations, he is exploited and tormented by others in this rural community, and finally implicated in the death of a 19-year-old boy. Lyle Henderson knows his father is innocent, but is angry that the family has been ridiculed for years, and that his mother and sister suffer for it. He feels betrayed by his father's passivity in the face of one blow after another, and unable to accept his belief in long-term salvation. Unlike his father, he cannot believe that evil will be punished in the end. While his father turns the other cheek, Lyle decides the right way is in fighting, and embarks on a morally empty life of stealing, drinking and violence. A compassionate, powerful story of humanity confronting inhumanity, it is a culmination of Richards' last seven books, beginning withRoad to the Stilt House. It takes place in New Brunswick's Miramichi Valley, like all of his novels so far, which has led some urban critics to misjudge his work as regional -- a criticism leveled at Thomas Hardy, Joseph Conrad and Emily Bronte in their own day. Like his literary heroes, Richards aims to evoke universal human struggles through his depiction of the events of a small, rural place, where one person's actions impact inevitably on others in a tragic web of interconnectedness. The setting is extremely important in Richards' work, "because the characters come from the soil"; but as British Columbia author Jack Hodgins once told Richards, "every character you talk about is a character I've met here in Campbell River".
Publisher: Toronto : Doubleday Canada, 2000
ISBN: 9780385259170
Branch Call Number: RIC
Characteristics: 371 p. ;,25 cm


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VaughanPLAlex Dec 15, 2016

I first read Mercy Among the Children in high school. Our assignment was to choose a Canadian author, read one of their works, summarize it, and write about how it made you feel. I remember being immediately drawn to it, as Sydney pushes his friend off a church roof and then makes a pact with God: providing his friend lives, he will lead a life free of violence. David Adams Richards explores the concepts morality, poverty, and life in Canada, with just a little bit of darkness mixed into the equation.

Oct 08, 2016

Mercy Among the Children is a tragic family saga full of irony and suspense. As in other novels of his that I have read, the wrongfully accused play an important role in the plot. This complex story is well developed, brilliantly written and powerfully moving. The story made me think about the differences between passive and submissive personality types. There were also characters who were aggressors and characters who were defenders.

Jul 29, 2016

So many themes throughout this book: strength vs pacifism, poverty/lack of voice vs privilege/voice, good vs evil (of course), truth vs lies and choices.
There's alcoholism, abuse, destitution, vileness of people (the town's people are all basically selfish, mean, greedy), martyrs, rage and so much more. It's about facing your beliefs and living with them, the good & bad of this choice.....and who it may hurt or help. It's a story of family, father & sons and community.
It's not a happy story but compelling. This is a family who live lives of quiet desperation and did so with a majesty of sorts. Elly's pure heart and Sydney's convictions & belief in the Truth build a strong family....but not without its problems as they try to find their way.
There are twists and turns, some surprises, sadness. Although bleak, this story never dips into the hopeless.

WVMLStaffPicks Dec 16, 2014

One of our most talented Canadian authors, Richard’s books have been among those quiet hand-picks, passed around by readers for years; but with the winning of the Giller Prize, he steps out of the shadows and onto the main stage. His poignant characters wrench at your heart in their search for truth. Life along the Miramichi River in New Brunswick is often grim and dark, but without sentimentality, Richards leads his characters towards redemption.

teresa_johnson Aug 29, 2013

Characters that you will not forget and a story that makes you think about class, education, the environment, truth and morality.

Aug 01, 2012

While it is an emotionally sad story, I really enjoyed it and could not put it down. I will definitely read more from this author.

Apr 02, 2012

A masterpiece. Richards' novels are not light reading, so be forewarned. What I like about this novel is that even the lowest, most despicable characters are portrayed as human beings. Without condoning the terribly selfish things they do, Richards allows the reader walk a mile in their shoes.
At first, I had a hard time understanding why the main character didn't move away with his family and escape from the awful people around them. I guess many people don't know how to escape from people that are bent on poisoning the lives of others. Reading Richards' personal reflections in another of his recent books, "God Is", will enrich the experience of this book (and vice versa).

Dec 01, 2010

Well, I agree with the comments thus far, wonderfully written but oh so depressing. I cried and cried and kept asking myself "why am I reading this?" yet I couldn't put it down.

Jun 01, 2010

This is the best book I feel I have read to date . Not only did it encompass aspects of Eastern Canada many Canadians tend to not have knowledge of but also is eye awakening to the realities of life and an unwavering moral code. The life stories intertwined throughout the novel are ones which will stick with you for years to come.

VeganGreen Sep 10, 2009

Well written but way too depressing - people being trampled to the ground and then beaten, kicked and walked all over, all because of their foolish misguided moral code. I need a glimmer of hope in a story, so may have to give up on this one.

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