About this book: (from the publisher) In the tiny town of Titan Falls, New Hampshire, the paper mill dictates a quiet, steady rhythm of life. But one day a tragic bus accident sets two families on a course toward destruction, irrevocably altering the lives of everyone in their wake.
June McAllister is the wife of the local mill owner and undisputed first lady in town. But the Snow family, a group of itinerant ne’er-do-wells who live on a decrepit and cursed property, have brought her–and the town–nothing but grief.
June will do anything to cover up a dark secret she discovers after the crash, one that threatens to upend her picture-perfect life, even if it means driving the Snow family out of town. But she has never gone up against a force as fierce as the young Mercy Snow. Mercy is determined to protect her rebellious brother, whom the town blames for the accident, despite his innocence. And she has a secret of her own. When an old skeleton is discovered not far from the crash, it beckons Mercy to solve a mystery buried deep within the town’s past.
About the author: (from the publisher) Tiffany Baker is the author of The Gilly Salt Sisters and The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, which was a New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle bestseller. She holds an M.F.A. (creative writing) and a Ph.D. (Victorian literature) from UC Irvine and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and three children.
Genre: Fiction/Women’s Fiction
Why I read this book: As a She Reads reviewer, I chose it (one of their four Books of Winter selections) because I was intrigued by the setup, the mystery, and the promise of conflict between two strong, female characters. Also because the author was new-to-me and she had the earmarks of an author I would enjoy.
First impressions: I was immediately drawn to the evocative cover, although in the end, I’m unclear as to which character is depicted here. The story’s first pages captured me with its lyrical prose.
If this book were a movie, I would rate it: R–just barely. Sparse profanity, mostly mild.
Reminds me of…Empire Falls by Richard Russo
Will especially appeal to… fans of Ann Patchett, Kim Edwards, Anita Shreve, Sarah Addison Allen
This story matters because…of its vivid, nuanced portrayal of the triumph of justice, redemption, and yes, mercy.
My take: Right from the start I was captivated by this story’s tone, perhaps the surest indicator for determining whether I will enjoy a story. With every page, my interest and admiration for this writer’s skill grew as her prose seemed infinitely lyrical, reeling me in deeper and deeper into her tale.
“Tonight there was a cold snap whipping in the air…[Her breath] made a spirited cloud to rival the size of her head.”
“The color was an orange so zesty she was tempted to lick it.”
“The jangle of the phone broke up the puddle of still air spread between them.”
These lines spooled out over a span of just three pages (56-58)–and this is just a sampling. Every detail of this story is meticulously played, each word richly original, and the characters marvelously complex–especially the increasingly layered June. Add to that a powerful use of metaphor–and a touch of the supernatural–and you have a novel you won’t soon forget.
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Though ultimately the story of Mercy Snow is more hopeful than happy, I know I will look forward to reading more from this breathtakingly gifted writer.
Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.
After words: See what other She Reads reviewers are saying, here. And if you act fast, you can still get in on the chance to win all four of their Books of Winter.
Also–I mentioned tone as one of the key indicators determining whether I’m going to like a book or won’t. What determines a novel’s likability for you? Characters, plot, setting, style, genre…?