BOOK REVIEW: A QUESTION OF MERCY


A Question of Mercy is Elizabeth Cox’s fifth novel and a rare look at mental-health treatment in 1950’s America. Jess Booker, the novel’s heroine develops a close emotional link and protective feelings for her mentally challenged stepbrother, Adam Finney. When he faces being institutionalized and a possible lobotomy, Jess and Adam both are desperate to spare him the terrible fate. But when Adam is found dead in the French Broad River of rural North Carolina, Jess in fear runs away from home and the questioning of the authorities. Her odyssey across four states leads to life and death moral choices. She treks through woods and hitchhikes her way to a boarding house in tiny Lula, Alabama where she finds a temporary safe haven with a friend of her deceased mother.

A novel filled with mystery and compelling characters, A Question of Mercy asks not about what is right or wrong but what does loyalty mean and how far does a person go. As Jill McCorkle mentions in her forward “There is romantic love, There is familial love. There is humor. There is grief. Ultimately, it is a novel about mercy and a level of love and devotion worthy of sacrifice.

Elizabeth Cox is the author or poetry and short story collections and four other novels’ The Ragged Way People Fall our of Love, Night Talk, Familiar Ground and the Slow Moon. She is the winner of the Lillian Smith Award, the Robert Penn Warren Award and the North Carolina Fiction Award. She is an inductee in the Fellowship of Southern Writers.

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