Cover Image: Mercy Street

Mercy Street

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I couldn’t really get into this book. It moved slowly, and due to the current political situation facing the nation, it made me feel depressed. I will consider going back to it when the world is a little saner.
Was this review helpful?
Focusing on an abortion clinic in Boston, this book may be the last written before the Supreme Court takes up the issue most likely placing the control of women’s bodies in the hands of state lawmakers. 
Its not an uplifting book. Claudia is a counselor and the reader follows what is often a monotonous day fielding calls from women. She daily battles her way past protestors to get into the office. And most importantly, Haight, through the eyes of Claudia, show how the impact is most felt by the poor women with few options. Readers are also introduced to a couple of pro-life activists who spend most of their time online. While the story heads to a confrontation between the two, it is not the confrontation the reader might expect.
Was this review helpful?
Mercy Street by Jennifer Haigh

This is a really interesting, character-driven story nestled right in the center of the abortion debate. The main protagonist, Claudia, is a counselor at an abortion clinic. This book captures the desperate need for women to have control over their bodies (and the humanity it grants them), while highlighting the abrasive, overwhelming force of resistance against this idea.

The misogyny and conspiratorial-thinking found in some of the characters is just absurd enough to be believable. It’s astounding in the same way as reading misogynistic hate comments on the internet; the hate is nonsensical and runs deep. The plot itself is quite interesting and minimal. The story is mostly driven by character-development, and the anticipation comes from waiting to see if and how the characters’ lives will finally intersect.

To me, this one felt a bit like a slow burn. Lots of descriptions of Boston, back-stories, and motivations. Just when I felt like it was starting to get boring, it picked up, and I finished the rest quickly.

Overall, a solid read. Especially if you’re looking to fiction to learn more about pro-choice views. But it can feel a bit heavy, just given the state of the world and how true it rings. A few lines had me chuckling. Check this one out!

📖: (4/5) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Was this review helpful?
2.5 stars.

"But what was the point of making yet another person, when the woman herself —a person who already existed—counted for so little?"

Mercy Street revolves around a host of characters who are connected in some way to Mercy Street, an abortion clinic located in Boston.

The good:

- Mercy Street provides readers with an insider look at the operation of an abortion clinic. Since reading Mercy Street, I've appreciated it slightly more, especially with the prevailing political climate surrounding Roe v. Wade and especially after reading Bodies on the Line: At the Front Lines of the Fight to Protect Abortion in America.

- I have to credit Mercy Street with teaching me about the close relationship between white supremacy and the anti-abortion movement. Beforehand, I always assumed that the anti-abortion movement was founded on religious principles.

The bad:

- Mercy Street is a difficult read, as several chapters are told from the POV of misogynistic characters with drawn-out storylines. I felt that the author was trying to humanize anti-abortion protestors in a way or at least shed light on their thoughts, but the execution was off.

- In the end, Mercy Street felt like it was trying to do too much in the span of 300+ pages. If the chapters were only dedicated to the POV of Claudia, I may have liked this book a lot more.
Was this review helpful?
I really wanted to like this book, but I just didn't. I love the fact that the author took on the issues in this novel, but my reading experience was one of "speed up, slow down," depending which characters had center stage at different times.
Was this review helpful?
I had hoped to like this book much better than I did. I just felt that it strayed away from the main point too often and that information was not all the entertaining. It delved too deep into the lives of too many side characters for my liking.

Premise was an abortion clinic on Mercy Street in Boston Massachusetts. At the clinic counseling was going on, but outside the clinic there are threats. Claudia counsels women, Timmy sells pot, Anthony follows the instruction of someone else online and Victor Prine wants to eliminate white women from aborting their children. These lives all intersect.

I commend Haigh for taking on such a prominent subject, but wish she had written from the point of view of the women seeking and/or getting an abortion, instead of outside characters well on the peripheral.
Was this review helpful?
People's reasons for visiting Mercy Street vary.  Some who find themselves on Mercy Street are looking for help, guidance, and compassion.  Others are seeking to shame and intercede.  Just what is located on Mercy Street that is capable of so much division?  Why, an abortion clinic ... what else?  Jennifer Haigh's new literary novel tells the story of four people whose lives connect through the clinic on Mercy Street, and serves as a social commentary on one of the most divisive issues of all time.

The clinic at Mercy Street is at the center of this introspective, reflective novel.  The story follows Claudia, a counselor at the clinic, which provides female reproductive health in addition to abortions, much like a Planned Parenthood clinic; Timmy, Claudia's weed dealer, who is trying to grow his drug business while attempting to mend his strained relationship with his son; Anthony, a client of Timmy's and also a devoted Catholic, who spends his free time protesting outside the Mercy Street clinic and photographing women who enter and exit its doors; and Victor, a zealot who runs an anti-abortion website where he attempts to shame women seeking abortions by posting their photos online.  The lives of these four characters intersect in various ways, building this story and demonstrating how women's reproductive health affects people on various levels, regardless of gender or proximity to the issue.  

Haigh's Mercy Street ended up being something quite different from what I expected.  What I expected was a  novel situated inside the Mercy Street clinic, with the employees and patients battling backlash from outside protestors.  What I got was something much more poetic and nuanced in nature.  Mercy Street borders on highbrow, placing an American slice of life under a microscope, and exposing all there is to see.  Much more about the choices people make and what drives them to do so, Mercy Street keeps abortion in the background without being solely about the issue.

Mercy Street slowly meanders through the lives of its four characters, describing their daily ins and outs while also providing clues about their past.  As we get closer to these characters, we learn what makes them tick and we also discover that we are all much closer to the issues revolving around reproduction than we may realize at first glance.

Mercy Street will appeal to readers who enjoy character-driven novels that profile people from all walks of American life.  While none of the characters in this novel are particularly likeable, there is something to learn from each of them, which is why this book will best be enjoyed by those who want to better understand humanity in all its shades.
Was this review helpful?
DNF around 9% - this is just too slow for me to enjoy right now.  I love the concept, and I'm sure it's a me issue, not a book issue, but it's not working for me right now.
Was this review helpful?
Mercy Street is a woman’s health/abortion clinic in Boston. The story tells about 4 people; a female counselor at the clinic, her pot dealer, and two other men who try to disrupt the clinic’s activities. I thought it was heading toward a violent end but it more just explored some lonely lives. Claudia, the counselor, was by far the most endearing character to me. #mercystreet #jenniferhaigh #bookstagram #lovetoread #booksbooksbooks #tbr #bookblogger #booklover #readersofinstagram #bookreview #bookrecommendations #bookloversofinstagram
Was this review helpful?
I hadn't read any of Jennifer Haigh's books in the past, but her books were recommended to me by a friend who has similar taste in books. I'm so glad I read this one! This was an interesting look into an abortion clinic and the various cast of characters involved in the story. I liked how Haigh wrote with empathy about each of the characters, and helped me to understand them better. I will look forward to trying her other books.
Was this review helpful?
I found Mercy Street a bit of a Pandora’s box. Patrons in some cases desperate to find a solution to unwanted and unneeded pregnancies. Right to life zealots , who preach online anonymously. Claudia has embraced a passion to give aid at a time when everything comes into question. She offers solace and compassion in a city , lack8n* in the time or energy to comfort. But even good people need refuge and Claudia finds it in a person dealing with his own personal demons. Things come to a head and lives are changed , when a radical believes he is not being heard and only he is right.
Was this review helpful?
Told with a realistic voice, Mercy Street is a timely novel beautifully written and thought provoking.  

Jennifer Haigh tells the story from varying points of view expertly woven together. An abortion clinic in Boston is the setting for this insightful take on a strong emotional topic with many perspectives. From Claudia, a long-time employee at the clinic, to Victor Prine, an antiabortion crusader manipulating his cause via an online presence, to Anthony a daily protestor at the Clinic and Timmy, a drug dealer, the characters’ lives cross at the Mercy Street clinic. The tension builds as protestors gather each day filling the clinic’s staff and patients with increasing anxiety and fear. 

Haigh never shies away from covering controversial topics in her novels. Mercy Street also tackles the polarizing subject of abortion by illustrating differing points of view with beautiful writing. A perfect novel to stimulate discussion, ideal for book clubs. 

Thanks to Netgalley and Ecco publishers for the opportunity to review this novel in return for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
A book that represents the current times perfectly.  A Women’s Center in Boston that serves women for all medical needs.  Claudia is a counselor there where she if forced to have difficult conversations every day.  She must also face protestors day in and day out.  To round out this story your other main characters are a drug dealer, a religious zealot and somewhat of a middleman.  

I was completely invested in the story and the characters and wanted to spend more time with them,  

In today’s climate the narrative is quite jarring with all perspectives being shared on this very decisive topic.  I don’t think this a book that will change your mind about anything but interesting to see not just one side.  My concern is that this is a book for right now, not sure how this will hold up in the short term.  That does not stop me from loving it any less.
Was this review helpful?
Smart, timely, and perhaps even a little suspenseful, Jennifer Haigh's latest brings several disparate characters to life around one very contentious topic - abortion. Beyond it though, she offers a compelling glimpse into the minds of Americans and American life, creating sympathetic characters despite the ugliest of motives. I found Mercy Street to be completely unputdownable from beginning to end. It's an important novel to add to the canon of today's American novels, it sparked thoughtful and insightful conversations with my book club and I hope people find it eye and mind opening.
Was this review helpful?
Jennifer Haigh is one of my favorite authors and I will read anything she writes. "Faith" is one of the best books I've ever read, and I've recommended it to so many people. I was so excited when "Mercy Street" came out! As a rule, I try not to read the synopses of novels because I don't want to spoil the plot points. However, I did see that this was about abortion, and I had to put it off for several months as it's a personally triggering subject for me. After some time had passed, I was ready to read it, and I'm glad I did. I enjoyed learning about the logistics of operating a women's clinic, and was interested in the backstories of the different characters in the novel. (Even including the protesters, whom I don't have a lot of empathy for in real life.) I was expecting something Big to happen in the end, but also was (mostly) satisfied by the ways each character moved on with their lives. The only person I don't think really was wrapped up was Timmy; I don't think we heard from him again. All in all, "Mercy Street" didn't disappoint.
Was this review helpful?
Set in and around a women's health clinic in Boston, Mercy Street covers some very tough subjects like abortion and radicalization in a very readable, relatable way.  All of the characters are so well written and it's fascinating to watch each one's trajectory.  Rather than focusing on the clinic's patients, the book's main character is Claudia, a long-time counselor and those in her life including her friendly neighborhood weed dealer. The subject matter is controversial, but the characters are so intricate and real, that they and the novel is very relatable.  This would be a great book group read.
Was this review helpful?
Fantastic, thought-provoking, current-event issues, and more. This book really doesn't need many more good reviews - it seems to already be buzzing and rightly so!
Was this review helpful?
Current Hot Topic

I always harangue that if men could get pregnant, the horrific laws (especially those that are emerging), abortion would be a wondrous and customary ritual.  Women become pregnant and if the sanctimonious powers do not approve, they are not always allowed to decide what to do since they “fell” pregnant.  Haigh uses some old-time words which make sense with the outdated rulings.

Claudia Birch, the main character, is in her 40’s and works as a counselor on Mercy Street.  She deals with pregnant women of all backgrounds who come to the clinic for help.  Claudia does not pass judgment; she asks them questions which help shape her opinion of their imminent needs.  Everything involves time during a new pregnancy, especially if the woman wants to abort.  During the novel, there is always a crowd outside to scorn and disdain the women seeking help and the employees who work at the women’s at this Boston’s women’s clinic.

Claudia was born to a seventeen-year- old woman, who did not want her.  Deb, rather than raise Claudia, took in foster children for money leaving Claudia to raise them while Deb also earned more money from an outside job.  Talk about “working the system,” Deb was a pro.

The story begins on Ash Wednesday as Claudia fields calls and interviews. She personally resents those women who can afford to delete their pregnancies without needing money or governments sanctions.  Claudia also takes umbrage with the addicts who do not care about their fetuses.  She sympathizes with those who are penniless and ill. The public protest lasts until Lent.

There is much irony in this excellent novel.  The men in the book are varied and mostly lowlifes, who represent the white supremacists who hate these women.  There is a wide acceptance that nothing impairs the life of the men who impregnated the women.  It’s so bad that the women continually say, “it was my fault.” There are some deviant men, virulent women-haters.  Their hate is to an extreme, cursing white women who are “outbred” by black and brown women.  These thoughts become action, despite their incoherence, they become fervent white supremacists.

I am not sure if Ms. Haigh meant for some of these characters and philosophies to reflect our current situation. I am sure the author is objective, and she certainly is a sharp observer of choices.

My gratitude to NetGalley and Ecco for this pre-published book.  All opinions expressed are my own.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for letting me read an ARC of this wonderful book: Mercy Street

I have not read anything by Jennifer Haigh and I wonder where I have been.  This gem of a book is full of beautifully written characters, and I mean characters in every sense of the word, There are four that populate this story and they couldn't be more different from each other.  Upon starting, it seems that Claudia who works at Mercy Street, a refuge for women to come discuss abortion and receive them if necessary, is the protagonist of this story. But three other personalities, all men, circle her world either in person or by internet
And, as one would think, there are dangers and threats of working in the world of female choice.
In spite of the theme and the polarisation of characters, this is not a depressing or 'down' book.  It buzzes with life and one feels that it accurately reflects the atmosphere of today.

I loved it--can you tell??
Was this review helpful?
𝗣𝗼𝘄𝗲𝗿𝗳𝘂𝗹. 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝘃𝗼𝗰𝗮𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗲. 𝗛𝗮𝘂𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴.

This book has haunted me, both during the days I read it and the 24 hours since finishing it. I cannot imagine a more provocative book to read in a book club or buddy read group this year. In Jennifer Haigh’s latest book, her first in six years (yes, I’ve read them all), she explores a cross-section of society during the historical Boston snows of 2015, centering the action on a women’s health clinic. The characters provide the axis to showcase the loneliness, desperation, deep longing for connection in America today. It is not only the six foot drifts that keep them apart; it is the online hate groups, the drugs that take them outside their lives, the loss of neighborhood focal points, the diaspora of families, the historical beliefs in white privilege and power that create division. Haigh gives us a bleak look of American society, where each character reflects a piece of the whole. My one wish was that the story had explored more female perspectives than the one lead, instead of the hate-filled men. But I wonder now if that wasn’t deliberate? When it comes to decisions about abortion, women ARE marginalized. It is a phalanx of white male judges and legislators who are making decisions about women’s bodies. Perhaps this is the message the author is telling us? I wonder what 2022 will bring us in the manner of advocacy over our own bodies?
Was this review helpful?