Published by Blank Slate Press ISBN 978-0-9858086-1-7
Trade paperback, $14.95, 263 pages
Using a real lawsuit from 1996 between wealthy vacation home owners and sea farmers who cultivated oysters and scallops on the outer banks of Cape Cod as a stepping off point, author Lynne Hugo weaves an intriguing story in her terrific novel, A Matter of Mercy.
Caroline, known as CiCi to her high school friends, moves back home to Wellfleet, a small fishing community in Cape Cod to care for her dying mother Eleanor. Slowly, we find that something bad happened to Cici, something for which she served time in jail.
Eleanor would like to see CiCi settle down, marry and start a family. She reminds CiCi that Rid, an guy whom CiCi knew in high school, is working as an aquafarmer and looking very good. I love that Eleanor describes him as "built like a brick s@#thouse. Eleanor had abandoned prim language with no explanation after she was widowed." That is a fabulous line, such a great way to establish Eleanor's character in one sentence.
During a bad storm, CiCi runs out to help Rid, and they end up at her home where they have sex. Rid spent some time in prison for a drug charge, so he and CiCi have something in common. The next morning, Rid races out, leaving a confused CiCi.
The aquafarmers, who have owned and worked oyster beds in the water behind the now-ubiquitous McMansions forever, are being sued by the new homeowners, claiming that the farmers are trespassing on their property to harvest their oyster beds.
Some of the farmers believe that CiCi may be involved in the lawsuit, even though the home she inherited is modest in size and scope, and her family has been in Wellfleet forever too. When someone starts stalking CiCi, trying to scare her and throwing rocks through her window, she becomes afraid.
CiCi accidentally runs into someone she hurt in the past, and she desperately wants to find out how the person is doing, almost to the point of obsession. Does CiCi hope to be forgiven or is this person the stalker?
The characters in the story- CiCi, Rid, Terri the librarian, Elsie (Eleanor's hospice nurse), Billy the bartender- are fascinating and completely realistic. If I ever visited Wellfleet, I believe I would run into them somewhere in the village.
The relationships between the characters are well-drawn too, between Rid and CiCi, Rid and his fellow aquafarmers, with the one between Rid and his faithful dog Lizzie being my favorite.
Hugo's language is beautiful too, with these sentences really moving me:
"And suddenly, she was crying at the too-largeness, the mystery of things, needing to make them small enough to think about, to get her arms around."
"The mercy I can show you is in not asking for your forgiveness."Hugo manages to beautifully blend a love story with a mystery, with a story about forgiveness, all set in a fascinating place that becomes an important character in the book. My family has vacationed several times in Cape Cod, and so I was particularly interested in reading A Matter of Mercy.
She manages to put us in CiCi's shoes, and had me wondering if I would make the same decisions the characters did. I became completely invested in this amazing story, my heart aching for the characters and what they went through. (Bonus: I learned a lot about aquafarming, something I knew nothing about.) I read A Matter of Mercy in just two sittings, unable to break away from this emotional, moving story.
In Reading Challenge 2015, A Matter of Mercy fulfills my A Book By An Author You've Never Read Before book.
Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on this tour. The rest of Lynne Hugo's stops are here: