While I enjoy historical fiction, I don’t often read books set during the Great Depression and Prohibition period of America, but the synopsis of Sweet Mercy by Ann Tatlock captured my attention-
Stunning coming-of-age drama set during the Great Depression and Prohibition
Eve Marryat’s father is laid off from the Ford Motor Company in 1931,
he is forced to support his family by leaving St. Paul, Minnesota, and
moving back to his Ohio roots. Eve’s uncle Cyrus has invited the family
to live and work at his Marryat Island Ballroom and Lodge.
can’t wait to leave St. Paul, a notorious haven for gangsters. At
seventeen, she considers her family to be “good people,” not lawbreakers
like so many in her neighborhood. Thrilled to be moving to a “safe
haven,” Eve soon forms an unlikely friendship with a strange young man
named Link, blissfully unaware that her uncle’s lodge is anything but
what it seems.
When the reality of her situation finally becomes
clear, Eve is faced with a dilemma. Does she dare risk everything by
exposing the man whose love and generosity is keeping her family from
ruin? And when things turn dangerous, can she trust Link in spite of
When I picture the late 1920’s and early 1930’s America, I picture an interesting mixture of innocence and crime. The mob bosses like Al Capone unfortunately personified glamor, luxury, and posh living as a result of high crime endeavors, during a time when most other Americans suffered the Great Depression. I don’t picture much of a middle class, you were either on the top or the bottom. I’m not sure if this is an exact depiction of America back then, but again, that’s just how I picture it in my mind. After reading Sweet Mercy, my image of that time period is only more solid.
Right away, Sweet Mercy begins from Eve’s point of view as an elderly woman, telling the story of her young adult life to her grandson. The transition into the 1930’s takes place as she returns to the Lodge where her life was completely changed in one Summer.
The setting of the story takes place in a seemingly innocent setting during the 30’s at the Marryat Island Lodge. At first, it seems Eve has found her escape, her paradise and can take everything and everyone there at face value. However, when she quickly realizes that is not quite the case, and her thoughts on family, innocence, and life in general become skewed, she is forced to mature quite quickly and face life and truth head on.
Eve meets two quite interesting characters at the Lodge, her strange cousin by marriage, who folks call the red eyed devil, and a homeless young man named Link. As her thoughts on the world around her come into focus, Eve realizes that there may be only one of them that can be trusted.
While Eve’s character begins very whiny and judgemental, I enjoyed reading the quick succession from an immature girl into a strong, faith based young woman. I also gravitated towards Link and Eve’s father. I never could quite wrap my mind around her cousin, but my heart felt for him just the same.
I give this book a strong 3.5 stars. It’s not going to hold the attention of everyone, but Sweet Mercy has just the right touch of romance mixed with a bit more character development and political issues. At times it’s a bit slow, and then other times almost too fast. A bit predictable, until the near end when a plot twist happens. Overall, readers will not be disappointed, and I do recommend it for a great summer read!