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A Tangled Mercy: A Novel Kindle Edition
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A haunting and redemptive novel inspired by the heartbreaking true events that occurred at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, A Tangled Mercy examines the horrifying depths of human brutality and our enduring hope for forgiveness.
After the sudden death of her troubled mother, struggling Harvard grad student Kate Drayton walks out on her lecture—and her entire New England life. Haunted by unanswered questions and her own uncertain future, she flees to Charleston, South Carolina, the place where her parents met, convinced it holds the key to understanding her fractured family and saving her career in academia. Kate is determined to unearth groundbreaking information on a failed 1822 slave revolt—the subject of her mother’s own research.
Nearly two centuries earlier, Tom Russell, a gifted blacksmith and slave, grappled with a terrible choice: arm the uprising spearheaded by members of the fiercely independent African Methodist Episcopal Church or keep his own neck out of the noose and protect the woman he loves.
Kate’s attempts to discover what drove her mother’s dangerous obsession with Charleston’s tumultuous history are derailed by a horrific massacre in the very same landmark church. In the unimaginable aftermath, Kate discovers a family she never knew existed as the city unites with a powerful message of hope and forgiveness for the world.
A Goodreads Hot Reads Selection
“Satisfying…[A Tangled Mercy] will appeal to admirers of Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings.” —Library Journal
“A novel of secrets, racial tensions, family, and a love that withstands the passage of time, A Tangled Mercy is truly enthralling.” —Historical Novel Society (Editor’s Choice)
“Jordan-Lake brings us the aroma, taste, and view of Charleston as vividly as if we stood in the middle of the scene. The depth of emotion and veracity of the story sets this novel apart, as it brings a lost and critical piece of southern history to light. [It] is about the important things in our life—how art undoes our chaos; how history is part of our present; and how defiant love and forgiveness conquer hatred and bigotry.” —Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times bestselling author of The Bookshop at Water’s End
“A must-read novel for today. Weaving the story of a slave uprising in 1822 Charleston with one set during the 2015 massacre at Charleston’s AME Church, A Tangled Mercy reminds us of yesterday’s atrocities and today’s ongoing racial travesties. Throughout the novel, author Joy Jordan-Lake offers readers compelling characters, evocative writing, and an engrossing and appalling look at time past and time present.” —M.K. Tod, author of Time and Regret
“Joy Jordan-Lake has done a masterful job with her new novel, A Tangled Mercy. She captures the beauty, charm, and challenges of one of America’s great cities, Charleston, South Carolina. In the historical-cultural context of Charleston, her writing is an inspiration. Through rich character development, she gives us an intimate view of its African American life. A Tangled Mercy is a must-read for those who want to experience the South. We meet a variety of people, both living and dead, that represent the iconic, ‘Emmanuel Nine.’” —African Methodist Episcopal Bishop John Richard Bryant, retired
“Joy Jordan-Lake’s A Tangled Mercy is an incredibly compelling and meticulously researched historical novel that will have you thinking about it long after you turn the last page. The dual narrative interweaves the story of Harvard grad student Kate Drayton’s journey to Charleston, South Carolina, to find answers about her deceased mother’s troubled past, with the little known but fascinating story of the Charleston slave uprising of 1822. It is a powerful and culturally relevant tale that should be on everyone’s must-read list this year.” —Jane Healey, author of The Saturday Evening Girls Club
From the Publisher
1. Have you ever been to Charleston, South Carolina, and if so, what were your own impressions of the way the city approaches its history?
2. How much—if anything—did you know about the Denmark Vesey slave revolt of 1822 before reading this book? From what you know of him from history and through this book, what arguments can be made for his being a revolutionary for freedom along the lines of those who fought in the American Revolution just a few decades prior?
3. Had you ever heard of the Grimké sisters of South Carolina, and if so, what did you know? Angelina, a character in this book, and her sister Sarah were among the few Southern slaveholding women who took a public stand against slavery. What do you think made them willing to differentiate themselves from their family and the culture that had raised them? Have you had times in your life you felt called upon to stand up against the culture around you? What happened? Have there been times you wish you had spoken out but failed to?
4. Emily Pinckney chooses a different road from the slaveholding women who did nothing to assist suffering slaves, but also a different road from her more politically engaged friend Angelina Grimké, who would go on to become the first woman ever to address a legislative body in the United States. What do you think of Emily’s decision, and is it admirable or a cop-out?
5. A Tangled Mercy interweaves the stories of two different time periods and two different sets of characters. Which time period and which characters did you find more engaging? Can you talk about why? Did either of the time periods help bring to life the other for you?
6. If you had to choose a theme for this book, how would you phrase it?
7. Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when you first heard or read the news about the tragic shooting at Emanuel AME in Charleston? Has it blurred together with other recent tragic events for you, or has it remained distinct in your mind—and why?
8. In the wake of the shooting at Mother Emanuel, much has been written about forgiveness versus an understandable rage at injustice, discrimination, and violence. Do you think these things, forgiveness and unity versus a demand for justice, are properly balanced in our culture? How can we promote healthy, respectful conversations about these things among people who might disagree?
9. One of the family members of one of the AME victims in 2015 said candidly that she had not been able to forgive the shooter yet but that, given her faith, she knew she had to be on the road to forgiveness—that it is a process in some cases more than a moment in time. What do you have to say about the giving or receiving of forgiveness in your own life? In what instances has it been a moment in time, and when has it been a long, hard journey?
10. Which character in the book, historical or fictional, do you most admire and why? Which do you find most despicable and why?
11. What is it that enables Kate to move beyond the walls she’s set up in her life to protect herself emotionally? Based on what you know of her now, will she choose to become a professor of history or a working artist or both—or something else? When in your life have you put up these sorts of walls or faced these sorts of professional pulls in very different directions?
12. After the 2015 shooting in Charleston, thousands of residents and people across the globe made a point of crossing racial, economic, or other cultural lines to show they cared and wanted to help. How can that sort of spirit of unity and desire to connect be fostered on an everyday basis, not just in the wake of tragedy? If you have a place of worship, does that faith community contribute to racial justice, compassion, and unity? If it doesn’t contribute to racial justice, compassion, and unity, why not?
13. What practical steps might you take in your own neighborhood or workplace or through a group to which you belong to promote greater understanding, respect, admiration, and cohesion across cultural lines?Author Joy Jordan-Lake explores some big questions about race and forgiveness in her new novel, A Tangled Mercy, and, in doing so, uncovers the roots of a community and its infinite capacity for love.
Told through a dual lens, this story follows the events that led up to a slave revolt in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1822, and a woman in the present day researching its history for her graduate degree. Focused on her academics, Kate never suspected that she would uncover secrets from the past, and about her own family’s ancestry, that will change the course of her life forever.
Charleston is a special place that I have been lucky enough to spend time in. And it’s more than the architecture, the atmosphere, and the history that make Charleston—and this book—so special. It’s the community, the people of all backgrounds and creeds, who came together to form an unbreakable bond—a bond that is illuminated in this novel. After reading it, I feel hopeful that we, too, can transcend and triumph over tragedies that have spanned more than two hundred years. This book made me rethink my place in the world and how I interact with others. I consider it my duty and my honor to make sure that it is read, discussed, and shared. Won’t you join me in doing so?
- Danielle Marshall, Editor
- ASIN : B01M7XPCYE
- Publisher : Lake Union Publishing (November 1, 2017)
- Publication date : November 1, 2017
- Language : English
- File size : 1634 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 464 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #69,260 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- #121 in Black & African American Historical Fiction (Books)
- #469 in Women's Literary Fiction
- #494 in Women's Historical Fiction
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on December 29, 2017
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This book alternates back and forth between storylines – one modern, one older. In one vein, it tells the tragic story of the 1822 revolt, including the skilled but enslaved blacksmith Tom Russell, and these old-time affairs engage with one family’s modern ones in 2015. Faulkner’s oft-quoted line makes an appearance in this book as a theme – “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” This novel dives deeply into issues of race, so deeply that I had to take a two-day break to process before finishing. Jordan-Lake reminds us that our histories, presents, and futures are all “tangled” – that is, intertwined with each other. Such human entanglement is true whether through DNA, historical interactions, or movements of the heart.
In this narrative, Kate is a Harvard PhD student in history who was recently placed on probation. Her mother recently died, and her father, long absent from her life, is also deceased. Kate came to Charleston to understand her mother’s hidden yet haunting past. She becomes entangled in a series of suspenseful dramas that eventually all come together. The uniting of themes almost strains credulity, but they sure make for a good story! Much Charleston history is shared – the “tangled” story of Draytons, Rutledges, Maingaults, and Pinckneys, family names that span the skin-color divide (both because of naming newly freed individuals as well as because of horrific rapes). The history is respectful to the gothic-ness of southern history in that it is truthful about painful issues but also appreciative of the cultural beauty subsequently created. Anyone looking to confirm simple stereotypes about southern racism, ignorance, or bigotry will be disappointed by this tale’s complexity.
Of course, this book spins good yarn that keeps the reader engaged in suspense until the end. There are detailed issues that the author did not write perfectly – for example, the area code of Charleston in the 1990s was 803, not 843 – but most readers will not catch those details because of the intriguing storyline. This tale presents a newer type of Southern Gothic, in the vein of Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, and William Faulkner. It plumbs the depths of the region’s Christian religion to show simultaneously the depths of its historical bondage and the heights of its forgiving hope. In an era when America is discovering how to talk constructively about race in light of fraught history, this book deserves to be on the reading lists for those interested in the conversation.
A hauntingly beautiful story of dual-timelines— a moving Southern tale: 1822 dark family secrets of slavery, and present-day Charleston, SC. From the Denmark Vesey slave revolt, and those who courageously fought for freedom.
The strong and courageous characters who stood out to take a stand against slavery to the more recent tragic shooting at Emanuel AME in Charleston —of rage, injustice, discrimination, and violence.
“A time for every season, you know —a time to mourn and a time to dance. Only here in the Low Country, we sometimes do both at the same time.”
Kate Drayton’s mother has passed and as a struggling Harvard grad student in New England, she decides to return to Charleston, SC — the place where her parents met. There are unanswered questions plus she needs to salvage her career in academia using her mom’s research.
Kate’s attempts to discover what drove her mother’s dangerous obsession with Charleston’s tumultuous history are derailed by a horrific massacre in the very same landmark church. In the unimaginable aftermath, Kate discovers a family she never knew existed as the city unites after horror and outrage.
A well-researched meticulous blending of fact and fiction, the author eloquently outlines why this story is so important to her. Her passion shines through each word on the page. It is critical to be tuned into how the “past bleeds through the present at every corner.”
As the author reiterates, it is her hope that this story of tragedy, brutality, beauty, and courage across two hundred years might be a least a small part of a conversation to have between our races.
Where not talking is also dangerous. “Make some noise” on behalf of those whose voices aren’t being heard. Promote respectful conversations.
I appreciate the author’s specific notes how she loved American history and the South. I can envision her packing up her eight-month daughter and her adventurous husband and driving to Charleston where she fell in love with the city. There was a story to be told. And back again later with three children and a husband to finish her work.
Engrossing! It is important to show the historical characters have changed the course of American history and why their message still matters today, particularly in a cultural moment in which people of common goodwill but different racial, ethnic and political backgrounds and perspectives are trying to be heard, and understood while attempting to move forward together.
Astounding, the author began this journey some twenty years ago; however, rings true today in our complex world of understanding people, their roots, their past, and their hearts.
As a reader, I find these components of fact and fiction make for a powerful and insightful read. The reason I myself find historical fiction so fascinating, you have a foundation of real people, vivid places, and experiences rich in history and character.
The skill of the author is to be able to put themselves in the minds and hearts of their characters —portray which could have happened or their most intimate thoughts. Feel what they are feeling.
Joy-Jordan Lake and her words will empower you. You cannot read this tale and not be moved in some way. A story of hope, forgiveness, and redemption. (have you read her bio)? Highly impressive.
If you have grown up or spent time in the Low Country, you may know of its historical architecture, beauty, and charm today.
However, as depicted in the novel, beneath the façade, there has been a turbulent history. Darkness and ugliness in contrast to the beauty. Even today in our world and cultural climate of today, we see the pain of racial injustice and a world of violence. We cannot read any news feed without devastation.
As the author mentions her intent is not only to tell a story worth reading (which she does masterfully); but equally and more importantly to honor the memory of those in the nineteenth and twenty-first-century Charleston who have set an example of courage, conviction, and a spirit of love far stronger than hate. They need a voice.
From outrage, pain, and horror to love, unity, forgiveness, and strength. A poignant and inspiring story of how people come together, even in their darkest hours. Crossing lines of race, income, social class, and religion. Seeking justice.
I loved the author’s reference to a foundation from a portion of the proceeds of the novel to go towards serving the families of victims, administered by Mother Emanuel.
Beyond the harrowing depths of human brutality and betrayal, their lives redemption, freedom, and forgiveness.
A highly recommended choice for book clubs and further discussions (Reading Group Questions Included).
For fans of well-researched historical and Southern fiction and readers who enjoy Jodi Picoult, Diane Chamberlain, Charles Martin, Karen White, Lisa Wingate and Susan Meissner. (all favorites of mine).
My first book by the author, and look forward to reading more (and her backlist of those I missed) from this talented and gifted writer! My Top Books of 2017 and my featured Top 20 Books for Nov.
Top reviews from other countries
Unfortunately, however, the characters didn't live for me at all. I found them wooden and unconvincing and more like symbols than real people, so that shockingly I didn't much care about them even when they went through terrible things. For me, a novel is about both characters and plot, and the characters are always more important. Left only with the plot to keep me going, I struggled a bit with what seemed to me an excessively long-winded and rather breathless style of writing, I felt that less would definitely have been more.
I really wanted to like the book, and I'm glad it has told me about an episode in 19th century American history that I'd never heard of, with background to an atrocity in recent years which I remember in the news. I got the impression that the writer was so desperate to bring these stories to our attention that she tried a bit too hard.