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A Tangled Mercy: A Novel by [Joy Jordan-Lake]

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A Tangled Mercy: A Novel Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 3,157 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


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

Discussion Questions

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

Product details

  • 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
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.4 out of 5 stars 3,157 ratings

About the author

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Joy Jordan-Lake's varied--and admittedly odd--professional experience has included working as a college professor, author, journalist, waitress, director of a program for homeless families, university chaplain, horseback riding instructor, free lance photographer, and --the job title that remains her personal favorite--head sailing instructor.

Born in Washington, D.C., Joy Jordan-Lake's first vivid childhood memory was watching her mother weep in front of the television, where newscasters were just reporting the shooting of Martin Luther King, Jr. Later moving south with her family, she grew up on Signal Mountain, Tennessee, just outside Chattanooga, where she learned to observe the ways in which communities respond with courage to bigotry and violence--or fail to do so.

After earning a bachelors degree from Furman University and a masters from a theological seminary, Joy re-located to the Boston, Massachusetts, area where she earned a masters and a Ph.D. in English Literature from Tufts University, and specialized in the role of race in 19-century American fiction.

While in New England, she founded a food pantry targeting low-income and homeless families, served on the staff of a multi-ethnic church in Cambridge, worked as a free-lance journalist, and became a Baptist chaplain at Harvard. Her first book, Grit and Grace: Portraits of a Woman's Life (Harold Shaw Publishers, 1997), was a collection of stories, poems and essays which The Chicago Tribune described this way: "Written with much heart and wit, this little gem of a book touches on the ordinary and profound experiences that make up a woman's life . . . a poignant and satisfying collection . . . funny and sad, inspiring and awfully surprising."

Joy's second book, Whitewashing Uncle Tom's Cabin: Nineteenth-Century Women Novelists Respond to Stowe (Vanderbilt University Press, 2005) continued her doctoral dissertation work, exploring the inter-weavings of literature, theology, and race in American culture.

During this period, life for Joy and her husband, Todd Lake, was becoming increasingly chaotic with two careers, numerous re-locations for Todd's work, two young biological children and the adoption of a baby girl from China. Joy's nearly-manic need to ask everyone around her about how they managed--or not--to balance kids and career led to her third book, Working Families: Navigating the Demands and Delights of Marriage, Parenting and Career (WaterBrook/ Random House, 2007). Publishers Weekly called the book, "refreshing for its social conscience," and written with "sharp humor and snappy prose."

In its review of Joy's fourth book, Why Jesus Makes Me Nervous: Ten Alarming Words of Faith (Paraclete Press, 2007), Publishers Weekly again praised the author: "A professor at Belmont University and a former Baptist chaplain at Harvard University , the author mines her personal illumine and interpret ideas such as...hope. Sometimes wry, occasionally stern, Jordan-Lake, with a touch of Southern gothic sensibility...has a gift for welcoming, lucid and insightful prose...."

Joy's first novel, Blue Hole Back Home, published in 2008 and inspired by actual events from her own teenage years, explores the tensions and eventual violence that erupt in a small, all-white Appalachian town when a Sri Lankan family moves in. Ultimately, Blue Hole Back Home, which bestselling author Leif Enger called "beautifully crafted," is a story not only of the devastating effects of racial hatred and cowardice, but more centrally, a celebration of courage, confrontation and healing. Used in a variety of classroom and book club settings, Blue Hole Back Home was chosen in 2009 as Baylor University's Common Book, and as the Common Book at Amarillo College in 2014.

Joy's latest novel, to be released in fall of 2017, is A Tangled Mercy. Told in alternating tales at once haunting and redemptive, A Tangled Mercy is a quintessentially American epic rooted in heartbreaking true events examining the harrowing depths of human brutality and betrayal, and our enduring hope for freedom and forgiveness.

Having taught at universities in Massachusetts, North Carolina and Texas, Joy teaches from time to time as an adjunct professor at Belmont University in Tennessee. Residing just south of Nashville, she and her husband share life with their three fabulous children, as well as the family's sweet, needy Golden Retriever.

Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5
3,157 global ratings

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Jess S
2.0 out of 5 stars Great premise but...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on November 26, 2022
Fen Girl
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Mersa & Sean
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read
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Sue Snowden
3.0 out of 5 stars Needed less unnecessary romanticism
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1.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't Finish This Book.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on November 23, 2022
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