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The Mercy of the Tide Paperback – February 21, 2017
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"A dark thrill ride."(Kyle Minor, author of PRAYING DRUNK Book Endorsement)
“Keith Rosson’s fearless and genre-bending debut novel, The Mercy of the Tide, is harrowing, haunting, and hypnotic. This is nightmare material of the first order, at once exhilarating and profoundly disturbing. It’ll leave you breathless. Riptide, Oregon, is a forbidding landscape of shattered lives and broken dreams, and it’s a scarier place than the world you’re living in. Pour yourself a bracing drink, settle into your comfy chair. Once you begin this book, you won’t be going anywhere. What talent, what nerve, what an astonishing first novel.”(John Dufresne, author of I DON'T LIKE WHERE THIS IS GOING Book Endorsement)
(Starred Review) "Blending horror and alternate history, this striking first novel takes its time familiarizing readers with the small seacoast town of Riptide, Ore. It’s late 1983, and the U.S. and Russia seem to be sliding toward nuclear Armageddon. At least that’s what nine-year-old Trina Finster believes, focusing on politics partly to distract herself from sorrow over her mother’s death. Her brother, Sam, and her father are also struggling with personal grief, as are town sheriff Dave Dobbs and excruciatingly haunted deputy Nick Hayslip. When they start finding the mutilated corpses of animals, they fear that a vicious shape-shifting monster out of local Native American legend, the tah-kee-na-the, has reappeared to feed on sorrow and serve as a harbinger of more awful events to come. Considering the international situation described in the novel, readers are left uncertain whether any of the characters will survive in the long run. What is clear, though, is that Rosson has a real gift for vivid description and for creating anguished characters who deserve a faint glimmer of hope."(PUBLISHERS WEEKLY - STARRED REVIEW)
“An astonishing debut soaked with suspense. Rosson brings his characters to life with surefooted precision. The town of Riptide, Oregon, may be cursed with rain, but it will be scorched into your memory. Outlandishly excellent.”(Jim Ruland, author of FOREST OF FORTUNE Book Endorsement)
“This story of a community of wounded souls takes some gutsy turns off the main roads to stake its own unforgettable territory. With grit and empathy, Rosson tells a story of heartache and grief unlike any I’ve ever read.”(James Boice, author of THE SHOOTING and MVP Book Endorsement)
". . . Highly recommended. Feels like: Dead Zone meets Cycle of the Werewolf - Smells like: Portlandia meets Stranger Things"(Shahab Zargari The Verbicide Magazine)
About the Author
Keith Rosson's fiction has appeared in Redivider, Cream City Review, PANK, The Nervous Breakdown, and more. He is the author of The Best of Intentions: The Avow Anthology, an omnibus collection of his long-running punk fanzine, Avow, as well as an illustrator and graphic designer, with clients that include Green Day, Against Me, the Goo Goo Dolls, and others. An advocate of both public libraries and non-ironic adulation of the cassette tape, he can be found at keithrosson.com.
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Top Customer Reviews
The story is also a good one though I almost wish there was more backstory regarding the monster.
The tiny town of Riptide, Oregon is knee deep in grief. A recent head-on collision claimed the lives of Melissa Finster, mother of Sam and Trina, and June Dobbs, the town’s beloved librarian and wife of Sheriff Dave Dobbs. The blow has left everyone reeling and on edge.
Someone else is missing Melissa too, though he can’t say so. Deputy Nick Hayslip–a Vietnam veteran who has no patience for the madness associated with that category, a vet who figures that you go home when the war is over, you put on your clothes and go to work and therapy is for losers–is coming unstuck. Nobody knows about his past with Melissa, and he finds terrible ways to keep her memory alive.
The teaser for this novel tells us that the story centers around Sam and Trina, and since the author generally writes the teaser, that must be his intention. However, I found Trina to be the weakest element here, and it was the other characters that made this story work for me. Part of this is just pure fickle bad luck for the author; I actually taught deaf kids of the same age as Trina, as well as gifted kids that age; and in one instance, a gifted deaf kid that age. It’s true that the gifts of highly capable children vary widely in scope and range, and that every child is unique, but the vocabulary and abstract concepts Rosson bestows on this kid are just not within the realm of the possible, and so Trina isn’t real to me until later in the book, when things other than her obsession with nuclear holocaust are used in the development of her character.
The most interesting character and unlikely hero here is Hayslip. Also beautifully developed are Sheriff Dodds and Sam’s closest friend, Todd, known familiarly as “Toad”. Alternating points of view from the third person omniscient give us ready access to their thoughts, impulses, and feelings.
An interesting side character is zealous Christian wingnut Joe Lyley, who says in a somewhat uncharacteristic understatement, “These are unlovely times.” I also liked Leon Davies, whose role I will let the reader discover, because it’s such a fun surprise.
The setting is almost an anti-tourist brochure. The Oregon Coast is well known for its wild, rugged beauty, but Rosson chooses to introduce the other reality, that of the many local denizens that endure a hardscrabble working class existence in small, chilly, damp coastal communities that rarely see the sun. The moldering smell of rotting wood, porches and floors with a sponge-like give under foot are dead accurate, although the town of Riptide is fictitious; the recession of the 80’s plunged small beach towns into a depression from which there has never been a moment’s relief.
This is a strong story with a tight, tense climax and a powerful resolution. This darkly delicious novel shows that Rosson is a force to be reckoned with; I look forward to seeing more of his work in the future.
In the small town of Riptide, the discovery of a child's skeleton in a park sparks an investigation into its origin, as well as the idea that it might be related to the recent, strange displays of dead birds near particular people's homes. Following in the wake of grief from a double fatal car crash three months prior, the lives of the three remaining in the Finster family, Sheriff Dobbs, and Nick Hayslip are intricately pulled together again by the investigation of the skeleton and the odd, supernatural happenings that follow it.
The characters were well developed and they were nuanced with redeeming characteristics and flaws such that made it easy to connect with them and become invested in their future. The story has a bit of a Stranger Things feel to it with the creature wreaking havoc on the town. I found that the ending was a bit too abrupt - there was a nice, slow build toward the development of the ending, but when it actually came it more or less happened and then immediately fizzled into nothingness with no more text. As a side note, I really enjoyed the Shakespearean section openers that briefly told the reader what was contained therein and was going to happen.