House of Mercy – Erin Healy

Beth Borzoi stole a saddle, but it was for a good cause.

Absurd as that may sound, all of us have made absurd justifications in our own mind to cover for our own sins. That’s exactly the situation Beth finds herself in. She escapes immediate justice — or so it seems for an hour or two.

And then the first of many catastrophes strikes. Sometimes when terrible things start happening, it’s perfect opportunity for more and more terrible things to just pile themselves on. Furthermore, as Beth’s world crumbles around her, trouble is brewing just a town or two over. The two stories are intertwined in ways both brilliant and subtle as Beth seeks some sort of solution to the mess she has landed in with the ones she loves.

The summary of House of Mercy didn’t sound terribly appealing to me, but I know Erin Healy, and so I absolutely expected to love it. I was spot-on. I’m by no means a horse person, nor do I know anything about ranches (breaking Texas stereotypes, I know, I know) or veterinarians. But the setting of the book has little effect on the potency of its themes. I may not know horses or countryside, but I am well acquainted with mercy. I know its central role in my life, and stories — even fictional accounts — that display that kind of God’s mercy in the lives of others cannot help but be powerful.

There were a couple of things that confused me. A character was introduced very prominently, but then had virtually nothing to do with the story as it progressed. I don’t know Erin Healy’s future plans for this story, though; if she’s going to write any subsequent books, she could definitely have been setting something up. Also, if you like stories to be strictly real-world with no aspects of the supernatural affecting the natural realm, well, I’d say you’d have to avoid Healy altogether. Things happen in all of her books that really can’t be explained and really aren’t explained but sort of hand-waved as something supernatural. That’s a bit weird to accept at first, but it doesn’t really take away from the book’s experience as a whole.

I sat down to read House of Mercy in the airport before a two-and-a-half hour flight, and I was done by the time I reached my destination. It’s a compelling read and not difficult to understand. But by no means is it an exhausted storyline or a simple plot. On the contrary, the characters are multi-dimensional; even the “villain” of the story is unexpected, complicated, and hard to hate.

Erin’s storytelling is, as always, excellent. She’s tightly woven together seemingly unrelated storylines, realistic characters, intriguing setting, and through it all runs this beautiful thread of mercy, just as the title implies. The result? This book will make you think. It’ll make you question yourself. It’ll stretch you. It’s not one you want to miss.

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