SHORT & SWEET REVIEW: LITTLE MERCIES BY HEATHER GUDENKAUF

Note, the format of my Short and Sweet reviews differs in that they simply comprise the book blurb and a short response (hence, the short and sweet). Sometimes I have too many books to do a full-length review. At other times, like now, tennis elbow and a torn tendon makes too much writing/typing difficult. As such, I’ve decided to devote longer reviews to Australian authors until such time as my injury clears. 

Little Mercies

I first saw this book mentioned on another blog I admire – Cleopatra Loves Books. It caught my eye because it reminded me of a tragic news story that unfolded a couple of suburbs away. It’s the kind of story that captures public attention because everyone wants to know how it happened … yet secretly knows that it could happen to anyone. Here’s the blurb:

Veteran social worker Ellen Moore has seen the worst side of humanity—the vilest acts one person can commit against another. She is a fiercely dedicated children’s advocate and a devoted mother and wife. But one blistering summer day, a simple moment of distraction will have repercussions that Ellen could never have imagined, threatening to shatter everything she holds dear, and trapping her between the gears of the system she works for. Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jenny Briard has been living with her well-meaning but irresponsible father since her mother left them, sleeping on friends’ couches and moving in and out of cheap motels. When Jenny suddenly finds herself on her own, she is forced to survive with nothing but a few dollars and her street smarts. The last thing she wants is a social worker, but when Ellen’s and Jenny’s lives collide, little do they know just how much they can help one another. A powerful and emotionally charged tale about motherhood and justice, Little Mercies is a searing portrait of the tenuous grasp we have on the things we love the most, and of the ties that unexpectedly bring us together.

A child left in a hot car. A window being smashed during its rescue. A parent who didn’t know her child was even in the car. How could this happen? The sad thing is that this does happen from time to time. Busy-ness blurs comprehension and mistakes, life-changing ones, can be made. Gudenkauf tackles the “what ifs” and “what nows” with sensitivity and intensity, sending a message of caution and a reminder of the tenuous grip we have on life. The story of Jenny, which runs parallel and then intersects with Ellen’s, carries almost as much emotional weight, but the ending seemed a bit too neat and happy. The “reality” is that there would be a lot of heartache ahead for this little girl.

Gudenkauf’s focus on in-the-headlines issues has likened her to Jodi Piccoult, but their styles are quite different, with Gudenkauf using less voices to flesh out the event/issue and its implications. A well-written page turner, I’d recommend this for those who like books that make them wonder “what would I do?”.

Available from good bookstores and Harlequin MIRA (RRP $24.99). My copy was courtesy of Harlequin MIRA.

Bookish treat: Pancakes. Jenny has a liking for them and so do I.