Customer Reviews: Mercy
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on September 16, 2001
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. This happened on three separate occasions and after awhile, it only added to my overall confusion and lack of continuity of my reading experience. I'm usually not this hard when reviewing a book and it could be the fact that I read it in the midst of our great American tragedy which could have altered my mood considerably. For that reason, I've given it three stars as opposed to the two stars which I had originally intended. Somehow though, I don't think it was my mood...the book just wasn't that enjoyable for me.
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on December 14, 2000
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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VINE VOICEon March 20, 2006
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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VINE VOICEon February 28, 2005
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. The police chief and his wife never lock their doors. I've never lived in a small town, but come on, this isn't the 1930s, where anyone would invite a passing transient in to have lunch with the family. The police chief secretly pays a lawyer to get his cousin off a murder charge while he participates in the prosecution? Wouldn't the court appoint an attorney?

The book really isn't about euthanasia. It's about marital problems, flower arranging, New Age healing, people seeing ghosts, scenes that are repeated later in the story, and scenes that don't go anywhere. Verona seems like she's going to be a major character, but we hear nothing about her after chapter 1. Why didn't Picoult do some research on the real issue and treat it in depth instead of straying off into all this trivia? Anyone can write about extramarital affairs. It's as if she felt she had to fill 400 pages no matter what.

This is the first time I've had to force myself to finish a book by Jodi Picoult. Neither the plot nor the characters captured my interest, and it didn't get any better. It's too bad, because she could have done so much more with the real subject matter instead of wandering off onto topics that may have interested her, but bored a lot of readers.
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on February 3, 2006
This was the 5th book I've read by Jodi Picoult, and the one I liked the least. I was intrigued by the subject of the book, as I have been with all of the subjects she has written about. But, this story did not measure up to my expectations at all.

This book was supposed to focus on the question of mercy killing, and could you/would you kill someone you loved if they asked you to because they were ill and had been suffering for a long time. One of the main characters is Cam MacDonald, who is the sheriff of Wheelock, Mass. Cam's cousin Jamie arrives in town and promptly turns himself in to Cam, citing that he has just murdered his wife. Later, you learn she had been battling cancer for a while and allegedly asked Jamie to kill her. So naturally Jamie has to go on trial.

Well, a majority of the book turns out to be about Cam's adultery, which is annoying in and of itself. It seems like adultery is romanticized in this novel and made to seem 'ok' since, as you discover, Cam is disillusioned with his life and is only sheriff because he inherited the position and it's expected of him. Plus, the person he has the affair with, he has known a day or so, which is ridiculous.

Interspersed throughout all of this, almost seeming like an afterthought, is content dealing with the actual subject the book was supposed to cover.

I was very bored with this book, but continued to read it, thinking it was bound to pick up eventually. It never did. As it turned out, I ended up skimming the last 80 pages. If I were you, I'd pick another novel.
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on June 25, 2005
First off, this is the third book I read of Ms. Picoult's. The first two being My Sister's Keeper and Keeping Faith, I say this because we all have our own preferences,for me those two books were throroughly engrossing and touching, while with Mercy I was literally dreading having to turn each page. It's written with the same grace as all of her books seem to be, but while in the previous novels I appreciated her arcane ability to show the perspective of each party with sense and style, this time I feel she over did it. It seems Ms. Picoult was so intent on showing what every single person was thinking and why they were doing it, that she lost sight of what story exactly she was trying to tell. So many paragraphs end in snazzy one liners that when put together they just make contradiciting thoughts that leave the reader ( or at least me) feeling empty and confused at the end of the story. I loved Keeping Faith and My Sister's Keeper, and I wanted to read more of her works, and since I immediately picked this one up maybe I was ODing on Picoult novels, but I know that after reading this one I will be giving myself a slight break before reading another.
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on July 30, 2007
I read "My Sister's Keeper" which was excellent and "The Tenth Circle" which was good before picking-up this book. My first reaction was relief because it looked as though there wasn't an overly precocious 14 year old going through some kind of horror.

For 40 years I've had a policy to finish every book I start. I've stuck to that and have read some pretty bad books to the end. I thought the garage sale prologue was a great start to what was going to be an interesting book. How wrong I was. I made it through 90 pages of angst and the ridiculous belief that being the sheriff in a small town in New England somehow related to the legacy of being a lord in Scotland. And then Jamie MacDonald kills his sick wife in Cam MacDonald's territory because? At page 90 wondering if anything was ever going to happen I read the last few pages and decided that it didn't look like it--just 300 more pages of tedium and people I didn't believe or care about. I made the decision to stop reading--which was very difficult. I went on to two excellent books--"Water for Elephants" and "The House on Dream Street" without any regrets.
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VINE VOICEon May 30, 2001
At first, it sounded eerily so much like Picoult's "The Pact" that I almost didn't want to read it. After getting into the book, I realized that it was on two different themes ~~ one on "mercy killing" and the other on "betrayal."
Jamie MacDonald's wife was suffering from cancer and he killed her because he claimed that she had asked him to. Cam MacDonald is his cousin who is also the police chief of a Scottish town rich in heritage. Allie is Cam's wife who helps Jamie in his search for justice. And we can't forget Mia, who isn't a central character in this book ~~ but her actions turn Cam and Allie's lives upside down.
Picoult does a thorough job of researching all sides of the euthanisia issue and its lingering after-effects. And she draws her characters with vivid words and actions ~~ the courtroom scene was tense and suspenseful. It is a well-written book ~~ one that I couldn't put down.
But there is also another theme that Picoult explored here in this book ~~ betrayal. Jamie was betrayed by Maggie who asked him to kill her because the cancer was so bad. In doing that, Jamie is scarred for life simply because by his own hands, he killed the best thing that has ever happened to him. And he is full of grief that he doesn't have the courage to join her in death either. If Maggie was brave and selfless, she could have taken a bunch of pills to die instead of asking her husband ~~ a man who would do anything for her because of the depth of his love ~~ to kill her. What an incredibly selfish act.
And don't forget Allie. She was betrayed by Cam and Mia ~~ the two characters you would love to look down upon because of their immaturity and selfishness. Allie comes into her own person throughout Jamie's trial and that changed everything in the MacDonald's marriage.
Please don't hesitate to pick up this book. It's great and an engrossing read. It is one of her better books in her collection. The characters will linger with you for a while after reading this book. So will the issue of "mercy killing." It is something that society needs to explore more on.
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on July 1, 2009
I picked this book up because I got a copy of My Sister's Keeper on sale and hoped this book would be as good. I wish I had read other reviews first. First of all, I despise the character of Cameron. I can't connect with him at all. He angers me. I wish that Mia had come back and he had actually chosen Allie, only to have Allie leave him and then he could have spent his remaining days mourning the loss of the love he shared with his wife, instead of some two-bit con who was not written to have human emotions. I eventually just skipped over the parts with her in it to bottle my urge to hurl the book at the wall and curse.

There are also several inconsistencies involving the wedding of Jamie and Maggie, first they married at the barbecue of the local justice of peace with a drunk man bearing witness because they had noone they knew there, then later some of the witnesses on the stand said they attended the wedding. At one point Allie told Mia she and Cam celebrated valentine's day in the morning before things got hectic at her business, and later in the book, it was part of the storyline that they celebrated on January 12th every year since they married.

I also have no clue really how this book ended, unless I want to refer to Cam's letters to Mia at the beginnning of every chapter, which I don't, because those actually did cause me to hurl the book, stomp on it, and curse.

In my mind, Allie moved to New York and fell in love with a nice man, they had a child and retuned to Wheelock, where Cam saw them and realized he never loved Mia and he was tortured by his love for Allie. Mia returns and Cam wants no part of her, hating her for destroying his marriage. These things never happened, but in my mind they did.
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on June 28, 2009
I have devoured all of Jodi Picoults books in the past as they are usually very difficult to put down. I found I had a hard time staying interested in this one and finally put it down halfway through. I felt that it didn't truly adhere to the topic of mercy killing and failed terribly to construct any emotional connection from character to reader. I felt a lot of her ideas were flimsy, like trying to connect the whole Scottish clan thing to being a police chief. She's written so many fabulous, thought provoking books though and is such a talented writer that I would just chalk this one up to a "whoops". They can't all be 5 stars! :)
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