Monday, July 9, 2018

The Mercy Seat (Elizabeth H. Winthrop)

Elizabeth H. Winthrop's The Mercy Seat is a beautiful, haunting novel that will stay with you long after you finish it. It is told from the viewpoints of many different characters, all of whom play an important role in the main plot point: an execution.

It is 1943 in Louisiana, and 18-year-old African American Willie Jones is scheduled to die by electric chair. Hundreds of miles away, that chair is brought ever closer to its destination by a convict and his warden. Other characters include Frank, Willie's father, whose mule will not go any farther on Frank's quest to bring back a grave marker for his son. The district attorney who brought Willie to justice has his conscience questioned by his wife, and his young son, Gabe, is caught in the crosshairs by the town's racists.

The Mercy Seat is a brilliantly layered novel, but it does not shy away from describing the dark days of prejudice during the Jim Crow South. I wish the ending gave a little more closure, but other than that, I feel that I can highly recommend this one.