Robin Romm is no stranger to documenting loss, as her two collections of short fiction attest. Although she didn't set out to document the last weeks of her mother's life for publication, The Mercy Papers
distills the emotion of those earlier stories of loss into one highly personal episode. Romm is an adept guide who doesn't hesitate to expose the raw nerve. Her memoir treads a fine line—there is an intense intimacy that can leave the outsider overwhelmed and a bit cold, but there is also a powerful, empowering familiarity to readers who have experienced similar pain and loss. Even with glimmers of humor (particularly relating to her grandfather), The Mercy Papers
is a book that can be hard to read—but well worth the effort.
Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC
Romm presents a wrenching chronicle of the three weeks before her mother’s death from cancer. Her skills as a poet are obvious in the lyrical language she uses to describe her sadness and fury as her mother grows increasingly weaker. Though Romm still sees flashes of the bright, witty civil rights attorney her mother was, she cannot avoid detailing her rapid decline. As Romm’s mother succumbs, Romm relies on her dog, Mercy, for comfort and support. She fights attempts by Barb, a nurse, to speed her mother’s passing with drugs and turn it into some sort of strange theater with CDs for the dying and other trappings. All the while, she knows that the clock is moving inexorably toward her mother’s death. Romm’s piercing and personal look at loss will speak to anyone who has coped or is coping with the death of a loved one. --Katherine Boyle