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Mercy Hardcover – August 8, 1996

438 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

What could have been a competent, topical novel about a mercy killing becomes, in Picoult's (following Picture Perfect, 1995) hands, an inspired meditation on love. The setting is Wheelock, Mass., a slightly eccentric town where most of the residents are of Scottish descent, where weddings end in a blood vow, the name MacDonald is "painted on an alarming number of mailboxes" and police chief Cameron MacDonald doubles as clan chief and protector. On a seemingly ordinary day in Wheelock, Jamie MacDonald, a cousin of Cameron's, drives to the police station and announces: "My wife here, Maggie, is dead, and I'm the one who killed her." Cam finds himself saddled with a murder case and a conflict of interest: his cousin has given in to the pleas of his cancer-ravaged wife to kill her, and he's come to the clan chief to confess. But as police chief, Cam must also prosecute. On the same day, Cam's wife, Allie, the local florist, hires Mia, a violet-eyed beauty with a genius for flower arranging. Allie gets involved in Jamie's case, and Cam, who has spent his life in service to his community and his clan, falls in love with Mia and begins an affair that will bring his marriage to the breaking point and change it profoundly. Like Jamie, Allie is the marriage partner who loves more. "It's never fifty-fifty," says Jamie. As Jamie's court case proceeds, Picoult plumbs the emotional core of both marriages. The pace of the trial is slow, but Picoult pays loving attention to her central characters, fashioning a sensitive exploration of the balance of love.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Cameron MacDonald is both the chief of police in the Massachusetts village of Wheelock and the reluctant figurehead chieftain of the MacDonald clan, which immigrated there in the late 1700s. Thus it is to Cam that his cousin Jamie turns after he accedes to his suffering wife's wish and helps her to die. Cam, who longs to travel and free himself from his family obligation, arrests Jamie for first-degree murder but then hires a lawyer for him. On that same day, exotic young Mia wanders into the village and is hired by Cam's wife, Allie, to help out in her florist shop. Cam and Allie have reached a comfortable plateau in their marriage, but both sense that something is missing. Mia and Cam are irresistibly drawn to each other, she to his established place in local society and he to her itinerant lifestyle. The story explores love and the intricate balance of give and take that marriage demands. Picoult (Picture Perfect, LJ 1/95) offers a well-written novel with touches of spirituality that are reminiscent of Alice Hoffman's stories. Highly recommended for most collections.?Kathleen Stevens, Fairfax Cty. P. L., Vir.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 353 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult (August 8, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568652151
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399141607
  • ASIN: 039914160X
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.2 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (438 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #708,210 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jodi Picoult is the author of twenty-two novels, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers "The Storyteller," "Lone Wolf," "Between the Lines," "Sing You Home," "House Rules," "Handle with Care," "Change of Heart," "Nineteen Minutes," and "My Sister's Keeper." She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

100 of 108 people found the following review helpful By TheReader23 on September 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
I can't remember reading a book where all the characters had such undesirable traits that reading any further became an effort. The only character who was somewhat bearable was a cat and that's probably because it spent its time either eating or hidden in someone's backpack serving as a parallel to everything else that's hidden away in this small town of Wheelock, MA.
I'm already a Jodi Picoult fan having read and liked four of her other books -- The Pact, Keeping Faith, Plain Truth and Salem Falls -- so when I say that I didn't enjoy this book at all, I have a good basis for comparison. Never before have I read a book where I felt so detached from each and every character. The wife Allie has no backbone, the husband Cam has no loyalty, the mistress Mia has no values, the mercy killer Jamie has no fortitude, his dead wife Maggie was selfish, Cam's mother Ellen is a wacko.....I could go on and on.
The backdrop of the story is one of intense love -- so intense that your emotions take over your senses. There's a case of a mercy killing, another story of a cheating spouse and a courtroom scene where all the scenarios are played out. The events leading up to and after the killing are all impulsive -- sometimes so impulsive that they're hard to believe. There are other parts in the book where reality is suspended and mysticism takes over. I'm always at a loss when an author resorts to this.
Probably the biggest complaint I have is the intense lack of editing. I can't stand when I'm reading a book and two people are having a conversation yet the name you're reading on the typewritten page is NOT the name of the person who is actually doing the talking.
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63 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Denise Bentley on December 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Euthanasia is the subject and it is handled quite well by this author. First I want you to know that there are no spoilers here. The book starts with the act of suffocation and then goes on to explain the circumstances. Jamie MacDonald loves his wife Maggie with a fierce loyalty. When Maggie's cancer ridden body becomes more than she can bear she asks him to kill her. What follows is a journey that there is no coming back from.
Cam MacDonald is the highly respected police chief in a small town and is married to Allie who adores him to the point that she has lost herself in this man she calls her husband. The sun rises in the east due to the light she sees in Cam's eyes. Allie's world is about to come crashing down around her. Hers is also a journey that will take her to a place that there is no coming back from.
Cam is not only the police chief, but by no choice of his own, he has become the respected head of the MacDonald Clan, whose ancestors hail from Scotland. They have settled in Wheelock, Massachusetts over the centuries. Jamie comes to Wheeloch to enjoy his last hours with Maggie and commit his act of love.
The author has created a multifaceted situation and has gone on to superbly blend the stories together. We are dealt a betrayal on two fronts and we watch as the characters wade through the mire that their lives become because of it. This is another great book by Picoult. She was kind enough to chat with my book group on line a few months back and told us this was her personal favorite. I have to admit I'm hooked, and I have now bought every one of her books. I am anxiously awaiting her new book SALEM FALLS that should be out in the first part of the New Year. 12/14/00
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Tracy L. VINE VOICE on March 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
If a book thoroughly angers and frustrates you, does that mean it's a good book or a bad book? In the case of MERCY, I'll have to go with the latter.

I found I could not get past my intense dislike of both Cam and Mia, truly two of the most despicable, selfish characters I've ever read in any book. I've read murder mysteries with killers who had more admirable qualities. Their sole intent were their own wants and needs, regardless of who (Cam's wife Allie) got hurt. Allie was described early on in the book as someone who people walk all over. I never got that impression. She was the owner of her own business, and she was determined to help Cam's cousin Jamie. She also happened to be a woman deeply in love with her husband. It was her love and loyalty that Cam felt totally comfortable in betraying. At one point late in the book, Allie asks Cam if he and Mia had laughed at her. He tells her no. However in a way, they did, considering they had no problem having sex in her flower shop and her bed. I felt for Allie. She deserved far better then Cam

I really wanted this book to be more about mercy killing and euthanasia. Instead it was more about infidelity and how far a person is willing to go for someone they love. Infidelity seems to be a pretty constant story line in most of Picoult's books (I understand her latest book, THE TENTH CIRCLE is no different.) She is without a doubt an excellent writer, but this one just wasn't for me.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By lisatheratgirl VINE VOICE on February 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
I have read most of Jodi Picoult's books and reviewed some, and they were all outstanding. This is the first one in which I was really disappointed. After page 25, I knew a lot about one person's genealogy, another's high school reminiscences, an unknown person who had a tag sale of all her husband's stuff when he was away, and a few notes with no indication who wrote them or to whom they were written or what they had to do with anything. The story seemed to be constantly sidetracking. It took forever to cut to the action and then it would be interrupted by more distractions.

I didn't get the point of having this book set in a town inhabited by an entire Scottish clan that emigrated together two hundred years before. Maybe there actually is a town like this, but it didn't ring true. By page 100, the names of the characters were making me nuts. It reminded me of Brigadoon where there is a song that goes something like MacGregor, MacDougall, Macduff and MacCoy, McKenna MacNeil and MacRae, etc. If she had set the book in Scotland, not everyone would have names like this. It was impossible for me to take seriously anyone named Verona MacBean. There also names like Watchell Spitlick (!)

The plot seems far-fetched and unrealistic. The issue is a good one; there is a controversial case in the Florida courts right now. But smothering your wife and then pulling up in the main square to announce it to the whole town, with the dead body in tow-they didn't even do that in Brigadoon. You're kind of waiting for James to break into song at this point. Allie hiring Mia and inviting her to stay in their house when she knows nothing about her and doesn't even ask is crazy. She could be a fugitive from justice, a serial killer, an illegal immigrant with no Social Security number, who knows.
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