A Mercy

Publisher: Vintage Canada
A powerful tragedy distilled into a small masterpiece by the Nobel Prize-winning author of Beloved and, almost like a prelude to that story, set two centuries earlier.

Jacob is an Anglo-Dutch trader in 1680s United States, when the slave trade is still in its infancy. Reluctantly he takes a small slave girl in part payment from a plantation owner for a bad debt. Feeling rejected by her slave mother, 14-year-old Florens can read and write and might be useful on his farm. Florens looks for love, first from Lina, an older servant woman at her new master's house, but later from the handsome blacksmith, an African, never enslaved, who comes riding into their lives . . .

At the novel's heart, like Beloved, it is the ambivalent, disturbing story of a mother and a daughter – a mother who casts off her daughter in order to save her, and a daughter who may never exorcise that abandonment.

From the Hardcover edition.


Don't be afraid. My telling can't hurt you in spite of what I have done and I promise to lie quietly in the dark — weeping perhaps or occasionally seeing the blood once more — but I will never again unfold my limbs to rise up and bare teeth. I explain. You can think what I tell you a confession, if you like,...
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1. Florens addresses her story to the blacksmith she loves and writes: "You can think what I tell you a confession, if you like, but one full of curiosities familiar only in dreams and during those moments when a dog's profile plays in the steam of a kettle" (page 3). In what sense is her story a confession?...

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“A powerful tragedy distilled into a small masterpiece of the relationship between a mother and a daughter, difficult choices and future ramifications.”
National Post

The Vancouver Sun

From the Hardcover edition.