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The Shape of Mercy: A Novel Paperback – September 16, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Meissner's newest novel is potentially life-changing, the kind of inspirational fiction that prompts readers to call up old friends, lost loves or fallen-away family members to tell them that all is forgiven and that life is too short for holding grudges. Achingly romantic, the novel features the legacy of Mercy Hayworth—a young woman convicted during the Salem witch trials—whose words reach out from the past to forever transform the lives of two present-day women. These book lovers—Abigail Boyles, elderly, bitter and frail, and Lauren Lars Durough, wealthy, earnest and young—become unlikely friends, drawn together over the untimely death of Mercy, whose precious diary is all that remains of her too short life. And what a diary! Mercy's words not only beguile but help Abigail and Lars together face life's hardest struggles about where true meaning is found, which dreams are worth chasing and which only lead to emptiness, and why faith and hope are essential on life's difficult path. Meissner's prose is exquisite and she is a stunning storyteller. This is a novel to be shared with friends. (Sept. 16)
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“As raindrops become mighty rivers, Susan Meissner’s words seem simple in the beginning, but one thought builds naturally upon another, phrases and sentences flow together with effortless fluidity, and before you know it, you are totally engrossed by the powerful undercurrents of her story. To read Ms. Meissner is to put yourself into the hands of that rarest kind of author: an artist working in the medium of words.”
Athol Dickson, Christy Award-winning author of The Cure and Winter Haven

“I loved The Shape of Mercy from beginning to end. Ms. Meissner’s prose sings, and her characters captured my interest from the start. As the story unfolded, those same characters captured my heart. I won’t soon forget Mercy, Lauren, or Abigail.”
Robin Lee Hatcher, award-winning author of Wagered Heart and When Love Blooms

The Shape of Mercy is vintage Susan Meissner: tender storytelling that keeps you hooked; living, breathing characters that capture your heart and madden you, too; and a message of redemption that sticks with you. Meissner deftly weaves the stories of three women of vastly different generations, connecting them perfectly and crafting a winsome, interesting, powerful read.”
Mary E. DeMuth, author of Watching the Tree Limbs and Daisy Chain

“A compelling tale that will resonate long after you turn the last page. A haunting story, deftly woven, full of layers and textures that will quickly pull you out of the present and into the long forgotten past. Meissner recalls a tale that must not be forgotten, about the tragedies and senseless cruelties which happen when we abandon grace and turn our backs on mercy.”
Siri Mitchell, author of A Constant Heart

The Shape of Mercy is a truly lovely story, one to savor again and again. In a fantastic blend of old and new, this modern-day novel has the scope and feel of a historical. The characters and their journeys will touch your heart.”
Mindy Starns Clark, author of Whispers of the Bayou

“A bit of mystery, fascinating history, and the biggest question of all: What would you do for love? I can't stop thinking about The Shape of Mercy.”
Roxanne Henke, author of After Anne and Learning to Fly

“With a deft hand, Meissner blends an intriguing storyline, artful writing, and memorable characters for a truly delicious read. This one’s a keeper!”
Denise Hunter, author of The Convenient Groom

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: WaterBrook Press (September 16, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400074568
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400074563
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (193 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,410,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I cannot remember a time when I wasn't driven to write. I attribute this passion to a creative God and to parents who love books and more particularly to a dad who majored in English and passed on a passion for writing.

I was born in 1961 in San Diego, California, and am the second of three daughters. I spent my very average childhood in just two houses. I attended Point Loma College in San Diego, majoring in education, but I would have been smarter to major in English with a concentration in writing. The advice I give now to anyone wondering what to major in is follow your heart and choose a vocation you are already in love with.

I'm happy and humbled to say that I've had 17 books published in the last dozen years, including The Shape of Mercy, which was named one of the 100 Best Books in 2008 by Publishers Weekly, and the ECPA's Fiction Book of the Year, a Carol Award winner, and a RITA finalist. I teach at writers' conferences from time to time and I've a background in community journalism.

I'm also a pastor's wife and a mother of four young adults. When I'm not at work on a new novel, I write small group curriculum for my San Diego church. Visit me at my website: http// on Twitter at @SusanMeissner or at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Kelly Klepfer VINE VOICE on October 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
Susan Meissner captivates from page one. She takes a handful of people in quiet crisis of the soul and pulls them together into a story, weaving threads of mercy, love, grace and tragedy from present day to 1692.

The point of view and focus changes from ancient, fragile diary pages to modern here and now issues like relationships keeps the horror of the happenings during the Salem Witch Trials from becoming too much and too hard.

I know a book or a movie is pure gold if I walk away but can't leave the characters or the situations. I know a novel has gotten under my skin if I feel a sadness that colors how I think or absorb things for a few days. The Shape of Mercy is a golden sliver.

Some will not like it. Readers who don't care for deep literary styles or a glimpse into sorrow or evil be warned - heavy subjects are covered -- life, death, regret, love. Others might not want to read it if they expect all Christian fiction to have a gospel message clearly presented, there is only a light touch within these pages. However, there is a depth that will cause a reader to look within and ponder life and death.

Susan Meissner has yet to disappoint me. I hope her work continues to receives wider notice. Talent with all aspects of writing put her solidly in the category of must read.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By lhj313 on September 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
I won't summarize Shape of Mercy since there are adequate ones elsewhere. I felt the author created something unusual for the Christian market--a book where faith is woven in tight, small, and strong. You can't pull the faith element without losing the story. And yet, it's not overpowering or overbearing. It is certainly a book that keeps you reading. I did not like it when I had to put it down. I cared about the three women very much. I liked that Lauren was flawed. Although I hated how she behaved at certain times, I still wanted to walk through this story with her. I always enjoy historical fiction (because I hated history textbooks and learned little), so the historical thread captured me as well. It made me want to read more on the subject.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Deborah VINE VOICE on October 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
Lauren is a rich girl who has chosen to be on her own, away from her wealthy family. She is a college student trying to fend for herself. She manages to get a job transcribing the diary of an ancestor of a former librarian. Lauren begins to get lost in the world of Mercy, a young woman living during the Salem Witch Trials. She finds herself being drawn into a tale that she knows will end tragically but she finds she cannot stop herself from reading. As she continues with her work, Lauren begins to see how a girl who lived centuries ago shares the same feelings and angst that she herself feels today.

Wow when I finished this book, I nearly broke down and cried. This book was so moving and heartbreaking. Just like Lauren, it was difficult for me to keep reading Mercy's entries in the diary. Yet I too kept being drawn towards it. Even though I am one who tends to want to know the ending first, this time I didn't want the story to continue. I wanted Mercy to be able to enjoy her life as long as she could. I didn't want to read about the wrongful accusations and the hardships she was forced to suffer. And just like Lauren, I was not eager to read about her death. The Salem Witch Trials was a time in our nation's history that is very dark and one period that would like to be forgotten. I think what made the event more tragic was that it was supposedly all done in the name of Christianity. This unfortunately NOT Christ intended for his followers to act like. I understand their intentions but I really felt that the Puritans of that time didn't really understand God's love and grace. Lauren's story is equally as enthralling. I think the reason why I enjoyed it as much as I did was because she's around the same age as I am.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Lindsey on February 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
Moving, haunting, compelling. Three words that describe this wonderful book, which is now a keeper on my bookshelf. Susan Meissner did her job a little too well, if that's even possible. The horror and heartbreak of the Salem Witch Trials was brought to life for me in a way I've never before experienced. Oh, I knew the history - but in a detached, factual way. After reading The Shape of Mercy, I was able to see how it would truly have felt to be a part of that history: terrified for myself, afraid to lose a member of my family, afraid to leave my home, wondering what kind of madness this was, wondering where God was hiding Himself. That last evokes a lot of emotion - the experience would have tested my faith in a huge and new way. I just can't believe that all of that really happened, that people could be imprisoned and hanged based on accusations in a fear-driven society.

The main theme of this story is love, and choices. Not a love-at-first-sight kind of love, but a sacrificial, unselfish, true love. Lauren and Abigail are each affected in different ways by the love demonstrated in Mercy's diary, which was heartbreaking and bittersweet. It was too real - sometimes I forgot I was reading fiction, though of course it was not far from what a young girl like Mercy would have felt and thought at that time. I was also able to relate to Lauren's struggles. I felt for her as she searched her mind and heart and Mercy's diary, trying to find herself and figure out what life is really about.

I did not want The Shape of Mercy to end.* It. Was. Amazing. Without a doubt my best read this year, at least when it comes to most memorable and cared-for characters. The settings, both present-day and historical Salem, were rich and vivid.
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