A Tangled Mercy

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Nov 2017

Member Reviews

A beautiful, powerful, carefully-woven novel that ties together history and present in a way that speaks of the way a place carries story.
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Extremely well written and I became very invested in the story. The weaving of the two stories was exceptional! I can’t wait to read more by this author
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Absolutely one of the best books I have read. I’m sorry I’m late with it but it could not be helped. I loved this book. It hooked me from the start and it will stay with me for a good long time. Love this author’s work. Highly recommend.
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They say that the past is never really past, that it's tentacles often read into the present. No city is more indicative of this than Charleston. This city has a long, storied past, a beautiful city that for some was not always beautiful. A two thread story, one in the past, one in the present. The past story takes us back to the horrible issue of slavery, in particular 1822, and the Vassey insurrection. This time in the novel focuses on a young, black man, a slave but one who is a talented blacksmith. The present story focuses on a young woman named Kate, who has come to Charleston, trying to find the threads of her family's life, in particular her mother, who loved this city but left it in disgrace. 

Amazing characters in this story, Daniel, the current iron maker, Rose, an older woman, who feels she must right some of her family's past failings, and a young boy named Gabe, who will steal your heart. In alternating stories, we go back and forward, the past mingling with the present in a humbling way. The beauty of Charleston is beautifully described, a city I too love. Mother Emmanuel Church plays an important role, then and now. The mass shooting of church members by a sick, warped young man. 

Ultimately the novel is about forgiveness, of a personal nature for the characters, and as a city as forgiveness and grace was shown by the church members that were left, and of course their families and friends. A city that came together, black and white, to mourn together, and showed the world that out of evil can come good. In a rare instance I liked each of these threads equally. The ending does come together a little to tidily, a little too good to be true. Yet, sometimes we can hope that things like that do happen, and here in this book it fit.

ARC from Netgalley.
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A compelling mystery told in alternating time periods (2015 and 1822).  In 2015, Kate goes home to Charleston, SC, after her mother's death to unlock unanswered questions from her family tree, and to continue research into the Denmark Vesey almost uprising of 1822.  Thanks to Joy Jordan-Lake for illuminating a piece of American history that I was unaware of, and needed to know.

I received an advanced e-ARC from NetGalley.
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A Tangled Mercy paints a charming picture of present-day Charleston and shines a light on some little-known corners of the city's life in 1822. I appreciated the treatment of the young women in 1822 Charleston -- their horror and inner conflict over slavery, and their relative powerlessness in society. I found it interesting that the young Emily Pinckney didn't have a mother figure, and we don't really see many adult women in the historical portions of this novel.

As for the modern-day storyline, it ends up a little feel-good for my tastes, but the story also kind of earns it thanks to the dark events that get us there. I have very conflicting feelings about the writer's race here. On one hand, I don't want it to matter. On the other, I struggle with the idea of a white author writing a unifying story like this one. Perhaps this has to do with our current moment in real-life history, where a lot of white people are struggling with our racial identity and what it means in the larger context of oppression and violence.

I found it interesting that race is, obviously, a very overt and constant presence in the 1822 chapters, whereas it often fades to the background in 2015. I didn't know each character's race the moment I met them. Given the important of race to the story as a whole, I imagine this is a reference to -- or a hope for -- our unity as American people.

I initially feared the plot would be too predictable, but I was relieved to find it didn't go down the painfully-obvious path. The ending felt a little movie-neat, yet still satisfying enough for me. At times, the mystery elements felt heavy-handed, and I wonder if the book wouldn't have benefited from a third timeline to show Kate's childhood a bit more directly, rather than experience it through telling and flashbacks. As it is, we see a lot of Kate struggling and wondering and pining, even before we know her well enough to be fully invested in her journey.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read with lovable characters and a beautiful setting. I would've loved to have seen a book like this written by a person of color, but I also think it's valuable as a white author's reckoning with several deep issues, old and new. Not to mention a sometimes-humorous portrayal of a white Bostonian trying to navigate Southern culture. The message in the end -- that we all belong to each other -- is a good one, as the author manages to pull healing out of tragedy.
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This novel is a must read.  It is the story of Kate and her search for answers to questions her mother left behind when she died.  Kate goes to Charleston to find those answers and meets up with a young boy named Gabe.  He pulls her into his life by his innocent charm which leads her to the answers she's searching for..  I had a hard time putting this book down....I wanted to know how each character was connected to Kate and her past....one that her mother tired to conceal.  How was what happened in 1822 connected to 2015?  I really like how the author told the story in a dual time line....a parallel story between the two times.  This had my heart breaking at times with the horrors of events in both times.  It also had my heart full of happiness at the answers in the end.  I highly recommend this book.  TY to Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.
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What a wonderful novel. It captured my attention from the first page and never stopped. I loved the way she connected the past and the present. Very well written and complex plot ....... there are some beautiful one-liners........ with well developed characters.
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Wonderfully researched and written historical fiction with two tales- told in 1822 and 2015.  Kate's search for answers about her family leads her to Charleston and in Charleston we meet Tom Russell.  The slave uprising in 1822 centers on the same church where there, so sadly, there will be another massacre in 2015.  I learned quite a bit while reading this, largely because the characters are so engaging.  Jordan-Lake never loses sight of the plot lines and keeps her focus on the people as much as the events.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  This is a good one.
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This was just a gorgeous, fascinating, oh so topical historical fiction book. Set in Charleston, South Carolina, the story takes two roads: 1822, as the city awaits the beginning of a slave rebellion and 2015, as a young woman searching for her family's history discovers the past. Both stories contain compelling characters. The famous weapons maker of the rebellion and his lover, the daughter of a slave owner with her own rebellious streak, and the masterminds of the uprising draws one into both the beauty of Charleston and the underlying ugliness of its history. The modern day story is equally as compelling, as Kate examines the past and its connection to today as she is pulled into Charleston life through friendships with a judge, a member of the old blue blood elite, and an artisan and his son as she tries to uncover the mystery of her mother's past. The author seamlessly weaves the tragedy of the AME church massacre of 2015 into the story line as she deals with today's issues of race in a thoughtful and powerful manner. This was a book I could not put down.
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I am about 8-10% into the book. I am having a hard time getting into it. I am going to put the book down for a while and go back and try to focus and get into the places, the times, and the characters because I read Ms. Jordan-Lakes' book, The Blue Hole Back Home, and loved it!
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Jordan-Lake has woven together two tales of the South, past and present.  With racial tensions  and complicated relationships echoing across generations, the story grabbed my attention.  Authentic history and current events of Charleston bring the setting and characters to life.  This is a really good read!
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A Tangled Mercy draws the reader in with the opening lines and engages until the last. Told in two stories, in two eras, set in a beautiful and haunted city, the writer uses historical and current events to enhance the fictional characters interactions with one another and the tales of their lives as they intersect with and discover new meanings intheir pasts. Joy Jordan-Lake masterfully brings to life questions and longings we still struggle to make right.
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Beautifully written, historically accurate and very timely. The story is intriguing and, at times, utterly gut wrenching. The characters are deep, complicated, interesting, fierce and bold.  I couldn’t put it down. The story weaves effortlessly between 1822 and 2015, linked through the complexity of human nature. The ugliness and tragedies of both eras may be similar, but so, too, is the forgiveness, love, hope and longing for unity that truly connects us a human beings.
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A haunting book, A Tangled Mercy held my attention gripped in it's claws from the first page. A time slip book it contains alternating chapters taking place in the modern time of 2015 and the past time of 1822. Based on true facts of what really happened in Charleston, South Carolina. The author has done an absolutely amazing job of research and presenting facts in this book.The wring though is not stiff and boring it flows and keeps you wanting to read it. The story touched on the slave rebellion planned by Denmark Vesey in 1822 but aborted when terrified associates leaked the plan to the white men of the city. The 2015 part included the massacre of nine members of a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. When the author went to this church to interview people she was welcomed in. The two time periods have just the right amount of information that keeps you reading rapidly right to the end to see the conclusion. At times heartbreaking and heartwarming you will love this historical fiction. This is my first book I've read by Joy Jordan-Lake and I am now looking for more books by this author. 
Pub Date 01 Nov 2017 
Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
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This is a well researched novel about Charleston SC in 1822 and 2015 and is not only about racial issues but about family and love and the connections that exist between families and generations.

The author does a fantastic job of tying together the terror that the slaves lived through in 1822 and the more subtle but equally as painful terror that the present day blacks live through on a daily basis. She brings up a unsuccessful slave revolt in 1822 and the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015. The main character in 2015 is Kate, a Harvard grad student trying to solve the mystery of her family while doing research for her dissertation on attempted slave revolt in 1822 while the main character in 1822 is Tom Russell, a slave and blacksmith who is trying to protect the woman that he loves even as he gets involved in the slave revolt. Sometimes when I read books with a dual time line, I like one story more than the other. Both of the stories are compelling and readable with well done characters and the way that the author ties it all together at the end is fantastic.

I highly recommend this book. It's a well written novel on the subject of racism which is an issue that everyone in America needs to learn more about and understand better in our current troubling times.

Thanks to the author and netgalley for a copy of this book to read and review.
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Good story! Looking forward to reading more by this author. Highly recommend!
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I think you'll enjoy my review of A Tangled Mercy: A Novel. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1965722978
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When her mother dies, grad student Kate Drayton walks away from academia to travel to South Carolina, the place her parents met and the subject of her mother’ s research project. Kate believes the 1822 slave rebellion can save not only her academic career, but also help her mend fences in her fractured family. From the present day to the 19th century and a man willing to sacrifice his life for the woman he loves and the cause he believes in, this is a sobering, haunting portrait of American history as well as a woman’s search for answers about her own truth
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