The Crooked Heart of Mercy by Billie Livingston

25739021“We’ll survive.  That’s what we do.”

The Crooked Heart of Mercy is an emotional and heart-breaking novel that tells the story of Ben and Maggie, a husband and wife who have suffered a tragic loss.  The novel alternates between two perspectives, those of Ben and Maggie and their individual struggles in dealing with this loss.  They are living apart, with Ben reaching a breaking point that leads to a stay at a psych ward and Maggie attempting to get a job and regain some sense of normalcy, which is made all the more challenging with her brother Francis facing his own scandal.

This story is one of hope, grief, and forgiveness.  It asks and seeks to answer the question, when your world falls apart, how do you put the pieces back together?  The alternating points of view work very well, illustrating two people who fell apart, their intrapersonal conflicts, and their journey to heal and find each other again.  What makes this novel work so well is the author’s writing style, which is outstanding in its simplicity and free-flowing nature.  This is most evident in the sections with Ben’s point of view where the line between his internal dialogue and what he actually verbalizes to other characters is unclear.  His state of mind, internal struggle, and sense of loss are effectively portrayed and presented.

Each characters’ story does not stick strictly to the present but also flashes back to key moments in their lives, both joyous and difficult, providing understanding of their past lives as they battle for a future.  The Crooked Heart of Mercy is a beautifully written book that deals with life’s tragedies, struggles, and the strength we find in one another.

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