11 February 2014

Echoes of Mercy by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Excellent romance, through-provoking plot

Ollie Moore, the day janitor at Dinsmore’s World-Famous Chocolate Factor finds himself attracted to the new toter, Carrie Lang. But he knows Carrie isn’t someone his parents will approve of. After all, he’s not really janitor Ollie Moore. He’s Oliver Fulton Dinsmore, son of the owner of the chocolate factor, working in disguise to investigate working practices at the factory, and the factory manager, Gordon Hightower.

Carrie isn’t who she seems, either. She’s an undercover investigator for the Labor Commission, working to ascertain whether the recent death at the factory was an accident or something more sinister, and with a personal mission to end child labour (sorry. New Zealand spelling coming through here). Carrie is attracted by Ollie, but suspects there is more to him than meets the eye—he might look like a common factory worker, but he doesn’t always sound like one.

I have enjoyed the previous books I’ve read by Kim Vogel Sawyer, and Echoes of Mercy was no different. She combines interesting and likeable characters with a historical romance plot that manages to exceed my expectations in the way she weaves in issues of the day, in this case, child labour. Yet this theme is a natural outflowing of the story and never seems forced, and she gives weight to the arguments both for and against child labour: economic necessity vs. human compassion.

Echoes of Mercy also includes a subtle but solid Christian element, best evidenced for me with this quote:
“Jesus tells us in the eleventh chapter of Matthew, verse twenty-eight, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’. He’ll honor the promise, but you must do your part in laying down the burden.”

We live in a world where so many of us are so very busy, yet we are not always prepared to lay that burden at the cross.  Hmm …

I very much enjoyed the story, and found the information in the notes at the end informative. The state of Kansas passed laws in 1905 prohibiting children under the age of 14 from working in factors or mines, while national (US) laws weren’t passed until 1917.

What the author doesn’t mention, but which is worth thinking about, is that child labour still exists in many countries, particularly in Africa and Asia. Children are sent out to work because their families can’t support them without the wages they earn, as low as they are. As a result, these children are unable to gain the education they need to acquire higher-level, better-paying jobs, and so the cycle continues.

One idea I’ve often heard is that there would be no need for child labour if we in the west were prepared to give up our low-cost clothing manufactured in Asian sweatshops. The idea has merit, but misses the economic necessity for many families. If their children do not work, there is not enough money to feed them. In fact, a UNICEF study found that after the US passed a law forbidding child labour in garment factories, an estimated 50,000 Bangladeshi children lost their jobs, which left many resorting to working in areas such as stone-crushing, street hustling and prostitution. That’s a sobering thought: that a child might be safer in a factory.

So what can we do to make a difference in these young lives? First, I’d like to remind you that you might not be able to change the world, but you can change the world for one person. Then I’d like you to join writer Jeff Goins as he recounts his recenttrip to Africa, to visit the child he sponsors with Compassion. Child sponsorship not the answer. It won’t change the world. But it gives hope to one child, and hope can change the world for that child.

Overall, I highly recommend Echoes of Mercy as a good story with a thought-provoking yet unobtrusive theme. And I hope you'll forgive me for the additional commentary it inspired.

Thanks to Waterbrook Multnomah and Blogging for Books for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Kim Vogel Sawyer at her website

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