Cover Image: Mercy Street

Mercy Street

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Member Reviews

Jennifer Haigh weaves the stories of characters together brilliantly, and Mercy Street is no exception.  Following Claudia, a counselor at a clinic for women, we feel for her as she deals with the polarizing climate of today.
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There are some really great elements here, and then there are some parts that made me want to DNF. Loved the Boston setting and the character of Claudia. She felt very real- I felt for her as she tried to navigate life as a single woman supporting other women in a world that hates women. I even liked the affable weed dealer- and loved the section where he reflects on what his next steps would be if (when) weed gets legalized! I just couldn't do other characters. The Catholic man felt flat, and it bummed me out. I would have loved a more nuanced take and focus on the women - I liked learning about Claudia's back story as a woman who grew up in a trailer with a single mother who "might have been aborted herself", but I was left feeling numb. Good writing and would try this author again, though.
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I usually love this author but I had a difficult time connecting with the characters. I enjoyed the parts about Claudia but not the male characters. Sorry but I lost interest at 50% so I will not post on Goodreads.
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The stories this book is telling -- a woman who grew up in a trailer with a single mother and got herself through college and into the white-collar world, working class men struggling to find purpose in life -- are so important. Unfortunately, too often these characters felt like caricatures, Poor White Americans as written by someone who only reads the New York Times. Maybe Haigh would have been better off staying with just one character's POV -- keeping us with Claudia, the most fully drawn character? As is, the book is slow and then resolves too quickly. 

Which is all a shame because Haigh's writing is strong and evocative and despite the sometimes meandering pace, she does a good job of building up suspense. 

I just wanted this to be better than it was.
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This was my first Jennifer Haigh book and it was a mixed experience. She is popular at all the public libraries I have worked at, and I've been intrigued by the plots of her other books Faith and The Condition. But, this is the first one I've read because the plot was IRRESISTIBLE: A woman who works doing social support-type things at a women's clinic, which becomes the target of an incel and his online minions. 

The stuff about the incels didn't disappoint in terms of realism. In fact, it was quite dark and pathetic. We glimpse into the trauma of a few of them, the awful experiences that shaped who they became and drove the hate. Just...sad. There's also quite the glimpse into poor, foster family life. This is the main character's background, she grew up in a single wide trailer w/ a mom who had all kinds of issues, At one point there was a creepy stepfather/boyfriend figure who contributed to main character's trauma. Then there's the storyline of the middle-aged, career drug dealer and his struggles to be a father and connect with women, and wondering if his choices were worth it. 

So lots of trauma! I think that if I'd had a connection with one or more of the characters the sadness would have been worth it, because the end is kind of cool. But, I just couldn't feel the "happy ending" as keenly because I didn't sense that it was experienced that way by the main character, who despite her interesting history was quite flat - She just seemed checked out, rather than what I wanted her to be: resilient (overcoming obstacles) or caring (working social support). I also did not see the appeal in the drug dealer -- also pretty checked out -- so the romance fell flat too. 

The writing was good and the glimpse into the women's clinic was so interesting, with details about the health care and other workers there, and some examples of problems and cases they see. I will recommend to patrons who have enjoyed her other books and also to people interested in the very timely, disturbing yet fascinating world of incels. Thank you!
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What a unique and timely novel this was. I really enjoyed it! 
Claudia works for a women's health clinic surrounded daily by protestors. Through her story, we hear about her background, the "competition" that sneaks into town promising women choices and lying about it, and her endless fight for reproductive rights. 
On the side, we dive deep into Claudia's weed relationships which made her more endearing to me as I feared for her safety. 
Good, solid read. Definitely different. Thankful for the ARC
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In MERCY STREET, Jennifer Haigh once again delivers a compelling novel rich in intriguing characters and brimming with thought-provoking issues. Abortion, motherhood, drugs, sex, power and the lack of power--there's a lot to chew on here and the reader is guaranteed to be thinking about the complex issues Haigh addresses in a beautifully written novel.
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Thank You to NetGalley for this advance reader copy in exchange for a review.
The publisher describes the plot perfectly so I will not attempt to rewrite. I had been waiting for this book since I sat in a upcoming book webinar, and was so excited to finally see it on NetGalley.
This is one of the most divisive issues in history. Regardless of which side you sit on, the answers are as complicated and varied as the next, but this book does an excellent job at sharing several of the stories.
Character driven, we meet various characters and see their points of view. We are a complication of our experiences and our decisions are made on the information we have at the time.  As the book unfolds, the characters experiences come to life and we become connected to the stories more as the chapters pass.
No matter which side you are on, you’ll be riveted if you keep going. I nodded, rolled my eyes, got angry, and made peace again with each of the characters. This book solves nothing but enlightens the reader just a touch. Extremely enjoyable.
Book clubs will have a lot to talk about. 4+ stars!
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Mercy Street wasn't the novel I expected. Claudia, a forty-three-year-old counselor at a women's clinic in Boston, is a perfect character. Claudia is a trained social worker, and that is where female advocate character types end. She is divorced, without children, and often forgets to eat. Claudia has no social life except for e-boyfriends that come and go about every six to eight months.

Timmy, a second character in the story, is Claudia's weed dealer. Timmy is a decent guy even though he has never really worked at a regular job and only leaves the house to get his supply. Timmy dreams of a better life and thinks that someday owning a laundromat would help him get out of the house, a place where he can stay 24/7 and still not have to deal with the real world.

Another in this puzzle of characters is Victor, who lives in survivalist mode with food, weapons, and ammo; he has enough to fight the war when it comes to his door. Victor's take on the role of women is entirely misogynistic. Women are breeders; their sole purpose is to deliver babies, possibly once a year, to keep society as racially white as Victor wants it. Victor wants white women to procreate more than they currently are, according to statistics. If you're going to hate a character, Victor is a good candidate. But he is also pathetic, and I almost felt sorry for him.

Anthony, a friend of Timmy, lives in his mother's basement. He doesn't have to work due to an injury on a construction site many years ago, and his disability checks keep in going. He spends his time attending mass and protesting outside of Claudia's clinic. Anthony spends time on a website Victor created for pro-life advocates. Victor has taken it up a notch by adding pictures to his website, claiming that the women seen are entering women's clinics for abortions. 

Jennifer Haigh's characters represent a section of our divided society where those without family support or money fall through the cracks. Some struggle and survive, and others have become violent actors on the bloody stage of American politics and culture. This novel fascinated me and gave me some hope.

Thank you to NetGalley, Ecco, and Jennifer Haigh for this ARC.
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This book was so good and hard and important and well written. My first of this author and I will definitely be reading more from her!
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I've read a few of Ms. Haigh's books and loved 2/3 of them.  This one was a bit of a disappointment.  It was mostly well written and started off quite strong but lost me about half way through.  I felt that the male characters were quite one dimensional, well, Tim the drug dealer was a little fleshed out but the white supremacist under the guise of pro-lifer felt completely stereotypical and not even believable.  

I think the book would have been a smash hit had it stayed with Claudia as the main character all the way through.
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Jennifer Haigh is the author of a number of novels all dealing with the question of how to live in this world beset with situations beyond the characters' control, about making the best of a problematic situation. In Mercy Street, there are intertwined issues of abortion, poverty, drug use, bad parenting that set the scene for an ultimately satisfying outcome. Highly recommended for readers of this novel and fans of Joyce Carol Oates, whose American Martyrs covered some of the same ground.
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A great, topical book with characters that you won’t forget.  The abortion clinic theme is multi faceted with a thought provoking focus on how, as a society, we sometimes care more about the unborn than the mother.  This isn’t a political book, but the extreme characters should make everyone think.  A book for everyone and one that everyone should read. 
Thank you Netgalley for a ARC.
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Mercy

It's a notion that seems to be out of fashion in our current cancel culture and one that I think Jennifer Haigh is pushing us to reconsider. Who in our society needs compassion for them and their circumstance? This book covers many political hot topics- abortion, poverty, drugs, privacy, just to name a few- and asks you to spend considerable time in the minds and lives of people who are likely different from you. At times it is not an easy read.

This would make an excellent book club selection, but be prepared for a very long discussion as there is so much to unpack.
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I really like Haigh's writing and was thrilled to be able to read this on my Kindle as an advance reading copy from NetGalley. Thank you, NG!

I had not read any summaries or reviews prior to picking this up so I went in totally blind, which added a layer of suspense to what I felt was already a mildly suspenseful book. If not suspenseful, then definitely a book where I so wanted to know what would happen next and really had a hard time putting it down.

Mercy Street is a women's health clinic in Boston and Claudia has worked there a long time. She is very familiar with the die hard abortion protestors. She is the main character, but the story is also told from the p.o.v. of a few other people who are connected to Claudia. I love when authors show you how characters are connected in ways that maybe even the characters don't know. In this case there's Claudia's pot dealer, who seems very cool and amiable, even if his living conditions and career aren't great choices. And there's also a protestor as well as a total wackadoo guy who seems ready to unleash violence everywhere. I believe this character has a tie in to Baker Towers, which I loved. Will these characters all meet up? Will they see the connections? Will the violence unfold? Those were the questions that made me want to keep reading quickly, but, as in her other books, Haigh's writing made me want to read slowly, savoring the descriptions and insights. 
I would like everyone in Texas to read this book. In fact, I would like everyone to read this book, especially those who believe it's ok to try to make decisions about other women's healthcare. This was marvelously and honestly written.
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I got half way through this book and had to stop. It was really slow and sad. I didn't feel connected to anyone or anything in this novel.
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Ahhh I didn't want this one to end.  Loved the characters and their journeys.  Loved how everything intersected.  Just wanted to keep reading about these people!
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Lovely writing and a powerful read. I enjoyed following the interesting characters throughout their lives and thoroughly enjoyed this entire book.
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This was a really moving and fascinating novel. Claudia works at women's clinic and her story intersects with other characters (Tim, Victor, and Anthony) in this book. I appreciate the frank discussion surrounding abortion. A lot of novels I've read in the past brush over such a controversial and sensitive topic, not this one. A very eye-opening account on all levels. I've loved reading about Claudia's backstory. There was something so intimate and raw about "Mercy Street". The writing took my breath away. I've never read Jennifer Haigh's previous novels, but I definitely will now. Her prose is stunning. Some parts of this story might upset you, some might make you cry, but in the end, this story will leaving a lasting impression either way. I even enjoyed hearing Victor's narrative, even though he's a distasteful character. All points-of-view from the 4 characters really helped fleshed out the novel. Highly recommended! 

Thank you, Netgalley and Ecco for the digital ARC.
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Mercy Street is the name of an abortion clinic in Boston (well, the nickname based on the address) and this novel dives deep into the life of Claudia, a worker at the clinic and the stress and pressure she faces on the job, the counter abortion nasty tactics and the struggles of the women seeking abortions.  I happened to pick this up after listening to a recent NYT Daily episode "They don't understand that we are real people" (October 1, 2021) which emphasizes the real struggles and humanity of the patients of the clinic.  These depictions are the crowning glory of this novel, and makes this a book I will be recommending widely.  Other plot points do at times clutter the narrative, while attempting to be a unifying focus (many of the characters buy their weed from Tim, who has his own story line here).
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