In the novel Sweet Mercy by Ann Tatlock, seventeen-year-old Eve Marryat is glad her family has to leave St. Paul, Minnesota in 1931. The city had become a haven for gangsters and crime: Eve had even witnessed a man being killed.
Her father, newly laid-off from the Ford Motor Company, is taking the family back to where he grew up in Mercy, Ohio. His family owns the Marryat Island Ballroom and Lodge right on the beach, and Eve and her parents will help out in various capacities. Eve has idyllic memories of her family’s previous visits to the hotel and beach.
Before long, Eve learns that things and people aren’t always what they seem. She learns she has an albino cousin she never knew of before. At first he seems curmudgeonly, she assumes because of what he looks like and how other treat him. She soon finds out he harbors deep pain. She’s surprised to find that a bum who comes for an occasional handout meal has attended college and has ambitions. A boy she meets and starts a relationship with seems good and kind, until she finds out he’s a part of a crime network. And then she learns of nefarious goings-on right there in her uncle’s hotel.
Eve has a hard time with everyone else’s wrongdoing until she’s put into a position she has to cover up.
All I knew for sure was there wasn’t a place in the world that matched my dreams. For as long as I lived I would never stop pining for Paradise, but the gates had been shut and bolted long before I was born. I knew that now. The heartsickness of life outside of Eden was everyone’s lot, including mine
Her guilt and need for mercy open her eyes to her judgmentalness and everyone else’s need for mercy as well.
When I first read the description of this book, I thought the gangster side of it an odd topic. But I loved the way Ann showed us Eve’s character and opened her eyes as well as ours. I enjoyed Ann’s creative phrasing, like “A small steel bridge, humped like the back of a frightened cat” and “The day hobbled along on wounded feet.” I loved the many layers of the title’s meaning. This is another winner.