Krista Mueller's elderly mother is dying, so she returns home to Taos, New Mexico, at the request of Dane McDonnell, the director of the Cimarron Care Center where her elderly mother lives. Dane is also Krista's first love, and although she initially suggests that she didn’t really know why the relationship never went anywhere, we do get hints as the story progresses. Despite not having spoken for years, Krista's mother now sings Christmas carols no one even knew that she knew. Krista gradually finds out more about her mother from an old book of hymns that has diary entries and keepsakes interleaved between the pages.
Mercy Come Morning is a story of a not-so-young woman finding herself as she gets to know the mother who has been silent for so many years, and who was distant even before that. Although I found the flashback scenes distracting (because of the constant references to exact years, which was particularly annoying when they didn’t always add up - for example, Mother was supposedly born in 1930, but she married in 1942 and turned 40 in 1962), overall I found the novel to be interesting and thought provoking.
The story is told in the first person, by Krista, interspersed with the diary entries, letters and flashbacks to Krista’s own childhood memories. There is a skill to writing in the first person. A skilful author can make us see the narrator both as she sees herself, and as others see her. We need to be able to empathise with and like the narrator even while we see her faults. Lisa Tawn Bergren has this ability, which means we can empathise with Krista (and Dane) and engage ourselves in her situation.
Every year, Queen Elizabeth II delivers a televised Christmas message to the people of the Commonwealth. The theme of her 2011 Christmas Message was family and forgiveness, the same as the message of Mercy Come Morning. Many of Krista’s issues stem from the fact that she never knew her father, she had a virtually non-existent relationship with her mother (who started showing signs of Alzheimer’s when Kristia was only a teen), and a relationship with God that has never filled the gap inside her. I found this to be a slightly disturbing admission at first, because the churches I have attended preach that Jesus will fill the gap inside, yet here we have a Christian character revealing the opposite. It struck me that this is perhaps a more realistic portrayal of life, in that we are often unable to understand and fully accept God’s love and peace (and fill the gap inside) until we have come to terms with the links between family, forgiveness and faith in our own lives.
Thanks to Waterbrook Multnomah for providing a free ebook for review. By the way, WaterbrookMultnomah give away free books at random to those readers who rank reviews of their books. You can rank my review using the buttons below, or read and rank more reviews on their website, http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/bloggingforbooks/book-lovers. This will also help me - the more people rate my reviews, the bigger the selection of books I get to choose from.