Cover Image: Mercy Street

Mercy Street

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Member Reviews

Mercy Street (2022) contains the powerful dynamic of a character driven storyline that highlights a woman’s right to choose amid the forces of fierce opposition. Written by award winning NYT bestselling author Jennifer Haigh-- who has previously written six books that showcase her exemplary skills in popular contemporary and women's fiction.

Located just southeast of Boston Commons among modern gleaming steel office towers and parking garages—the “Options Clinic” aka “Mercy Street” offered female teens/women a range of counseling healthcare services related to various physical and mental health conditions, addiction and recovery, including STD/pregnancy testing and family planning services. It was difficult to tell the difference between the pro-Life movement demonstrators and sign carrying protestors from the bystanders-- all were regarded as a nuisance “Please Mother, Don’t Kill Your Baby.” was often heard by clients and staff entering the clinic that was monitored by a vigilant Security guard.

As the director of the (non-profit) clinic, Claudia regularly answered hotline calls, counseled clients, trained new staff and managed volunteers in addition to other administrative duties. “How can you continue to do this work?” Claudia was frequently asked as she found ways to manage the high stress environment and the anxiety and insomnia symptoms that plagued her: she smoked copious amounts of weed, showing up at all hours (unannounced) at her dealer Timmy’s apartment, and maintained supportive relationships with her distracted emotionally unavailable boyfriend Stuart, and her devoted former husband Phil. 
Claudia, haunted by poverty and rejection, was raised in (rural) Clayburn, Maine in a single-wide mobile home. Deb, her weary chain smoking indifferent single mother supplemented her low wage employment by taking in “fosters.” Since Deb was about as maternal as a garage door, the care of the children rested on Claudia. Soon her teen life was consumed by routines of feeding, dressing, bathing, and before/after school childcare. When Claudia’s acceptance letter to Stirling College arrived, Deb insisted “that she (Claudia) was no better than anyone else!” Claudia’s master’s degree in social work would be her ticket far away for a better life, or so it seemed.

Along with Claudia, the Mercy Street Options Clinic was connected to various unusual questionable characters: Timmy and Claudia while stoned, watched the familiar reassuring drone of giant screen TV in his filthy apartment. Timmy realized he would need to find a new means to pay child support after Marijuana was legalized in Massachusetts. 
To Claudia’s dismay, Nicolette, the last “foster” became her quasi-sister. Deb fully embraced Nicolette, especially after she became an unwed single mother at age 17.  Glowing entries and photos were posted on Facebook of their newfound mother-daughter relationship.
Anthony was a devout Irish Catholic that attended Mass daily at St. Dymphna’s, he suffered from brain trauma, was on a disability, and lived in the basement at his mother’s house. Anthony was ordered on a mission to monitor the conditions outside the Mercy Street clinic. 
Victor, aka Excelsior11, a survivalist Vietnam veteran, was consumed with hatred for (white) women had extreme beliefs that such wicked females had violated their divine purpose to bear (white) children, robbing men of their progeny. Victor followed "Straight Nation" talk radio and lived in rural Pennsylvania.
Some of the unsavory characters seemed to have severe mental conditions, and capable of radical violence.  
A sense of foreboding and fear that something terrible was about to happen dominates part of the book—even (years) after the body of “Baby Doe” sealed in a plastic trash bag washed up on a shoreline near Boston. This story is absolutely unforgettable!   **With thanks to HarperCollins Publishing via NetGalley for the DDC for the purpose of review.
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Mercy Street is the home of a women's clinic in Boston, a clinic where women can get abortions while protestors make their viewpoints known outside. Claudia has worked at Mercy Street for quite some time. She answers calls and counsels women. While not at work, she hangs out with Timmy, her pot dealer. He is a friendly guy who loves pot and chats with all his customers but never learns their full names or who they really are as people. The other characters are Anthony who is often outside of the clinic making his thoughts know and Victor, a truck driver who is also anti-abortion.

Mercy Street is pretty much the glue in this story. All the characters, which are very different are connected in some way. They are an interesting lot, and readers will probably not like most of them. They all have a voice, but will you like what they have to say? Are the characters representative of our society? Are the caricatures? I believe it is up to readers to decide.

Haigh's writing is the real star here. This is a character driven novel and although I enjoyed the book, I didn't love it. But I was impressed with her writing.

Other readers are enjoying this more than I did, so please read their reviews as well.


Thank you to Ecco and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.
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This is an author coming into her stride. Compelling and intense. It's a story that needs to be read now. Strong and powerful. The characters are vivid and complex. A stunning book from beginning to end. Happy reading!
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If you are looking for your next book club selection, stop whatever you are doing and pick up Mercy Street. This was a complex and nuanced look at contemporary issues that was both very readable and very discussable. Even if your views differ, this is one to be devoured.
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Set against the backdrop of a Boston women's clinic, Haigh brings empathy and love to the complicated world that is women's reproductive care in the United States. At times saddening, the story is full of hope and reminders of the strength of women. 

The story follows counselor Claudia as she counsels women seeking abortion care and navigating the roadblocks of care. In this clinic, Claudia appears to have it all pulled together but the reality is that she is struggling to navigate the pressures of her job, family, and relationships amidst continued threats for her work. We see Claudia as she struggles to maintain her equilibrium as her work brings her into contact with bizarre men seeking to protect the world against the sins of the clinic. 

Haigh's writing is incredibly poignant and compelling. This is not a plot driven story, but more of a character study of people living their lives and the way their lives intersect at different points. The consequences of our decisions and how we choose to move forward. 

This book will likely draw a very specific audience that I am probably very representative of (white, liberal woman), but I do hope that it reaches a wider audience. It really highlights the complexities of making reproductive choices, the heartbreaking and very real situations that lead women to seek abortion care, and the systems in place that make it almost impossible for find care now. There are moments that were very emotional and anger inducing, but its all in service to the story. The 4 star rating is really only reflective of the fact that I wish that it didn't meander in certain sections, but it's still an incredible story! 

If you are a fan of complex character driven stories, then add Haigh to your list!

Thank you to Ecco Press and Netgalley for early access to the title in exchange for my honest review.
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This is an interesting book.  The main character, Claudia, is from a small town in Maine.  After being one of the few from her town to leave the state from college, and following a brief failed marriage to her college boyfriend, Claudia is now a counselor at at a women's health clinic in Boston.  Claudia has worked at this clinic for more than a decade and, in that time, found the work hard but fulfilling.  Recently, though, protests of the clinic's work have grown more intense.  Claudia responds by increasingly frequenting her pot dealer, who provides her some much needed friendship in addition to his product.  Timmy's customers include people of all ages and backgrounds, including a former high school classmate who is himself one of the clinic's protestors.  Through these various characters and others in their orbit, the author explores the individual dimensions of the current political moment.  

Highly recommended.
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I chose the book mainly for the setting. With that said, I have nothing favorable to write. Poor character development, static language, odd ending. The book just didn’t flow. It was as though the author wanted to keep you at arm’s reach. I got the sense that the author felt this was an important topic but wasn’t willing to show her self in the narration.
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If you like quality character studies, even if you don't like some of the characters, this is the book for you! In it we get to know four very different people and find out what motivates them and what holds them back. For that, it is a good book. However, I feel like something major was left out of the plot. After leading up to an encounter of some kind, the book shyly turns away and provides a lukewarm ending. Even saying that Mercy Street is the center of the stories is a bit of a push as the connections are incredibly lose. It was frightening to see how some of the main characters in the story developed. It is very believable and scary. It was also nice to see how some characters were able to make positive changes by the end of the book. Like I said, as a story there isn't much, but if you like deep dives into people, this is a good choice!
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Claudie has been working at the Mercy Street Clinic for almost ten years. Mercy street is in the middle of the city in an area that used to be the Red Light district, but with gentrification, the block has changed. Women in need of assistance frequent Mercy Street daily as do vocal protestors. As passionate as Claudia is about the work that she does, there are people out there as passionate as taking the clinic down. She manages her anxiety with pot from her dealer, Timothy, who, like Mercy Street, includes a hodge podge of characters with various belief systems. 
This engrossing book is a look at issues of women’s health, ideologies and polarization, a book that really resonates in today’s climate. Thank you to Ecco and NetGalley for the advanced review copy.
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Thanks to Netgalley and Ecco for the ebook. In her early forties, Claudia has been working at Mercy Street, a clinic in Boston, for about a decade, having escaped an unhappy upbringing in rural Maine, a job at a fashion magazine in New York City and a marriage with a man she’s still friends with. Claudia is greeted by protestors every morning outside the clinic and finds solace more and more in Timmy’s apartment. Timmy being the dealer who sells her pot. The protesters start to seem to be even more of a threat as someone sets up a website to try and shame the women who come there and there’s a real feeling in the air of possible future violence.
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Compulsively readable look at the people connected with a fictional abortion clinic in Boston.

Claudia manages the clinic and we come to understand her past and her choices quite deeply. There is also Timmy, her weed dealer, and Anthony, another one of his customers. And Victor, who meets Anthony online and is a frequent clinic protester.

Besides being very disturbed by Victor, I loved diving into these characters. I felt an intensity building before the end so I was a little surprised by the quieter conclusion but was not disappointed.
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This novel is about Claudia, who has run the clinic on Mercy Street for years, during the winter Boston was hit by snowstorm after snowstorm. She's never been afraid and sometimes argues with the protestors who stake out the entrance and yell at the women attempting to access the clinic's many services. She has a weed dealer named Timmy she visits now and again. Timmy fell into the job a long time ago and now that his son is a teenager, he's thinking that it's past time for him to start a legitimate business and make a life where his son could come and live with him. Anthony also visits Timmy. He hasn't been the same since a workplace accident put him on disability, but the weed helps with the vertigo and the headaches. Anthony found a place to belong in his local church and a priest has him running an anti-abortion website for him. He has a friend he only knows by his internet name, and who has asked him to take pictures of women entering the clinic on Mercy Street for him. 

Haigh does a great job with the structure of taking unconnected characters and gradually showing how they relate to one another and putting those characters on a collision course. And while the novel centers on a women's clinic and the people it serves, this isn't a book that exists to drive home a political point. The characters are all so believable and human, from the drug dealer to the guy with very unfortunate views about women. I've read a few of Haigh's novels now and I've enjoyed the thoughtful way she approaches polarizing subject matter in every one.
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Thank you Net Galley and thank you Ecco Books for this wondrously captivating new novel by Jennifer Haigh. I was mesmerized by the almost ethereal journey of Claudia, a middle aged woman navigating her job at a women’s health clinic on Mercy Street, a not great neighborhood in Boston. As the city is battered again and again by one nor’easter after another, Claudia goes through her own emotional and spiritual roller coaster. This book is astonishing. Bravo.
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Mercy Street is a clinic that helps women with many things, including abortions. Our story involves a counselor at the clinic, a protestor, and a local drug dealer.

This was a different type book than I was expecting but I still enjoyed it. It tells the story of a few characters, all very different, but all related in some way. While there are no huge, page-turning dramas, the story unfolds in a way that keeps you interested. You really get to know each character, love them or hate them.

“She took care of patients. The rest - the angry protesters, the threats and insults - didn’t touch her.”

Mercy Street comes out 2/1.
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Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC of this title. This book was engaging and well-written, but never truly grabbed my attention and compelled me to keep reading. That said, I liked it enough to finish. I love stories told from the perspective of different narrators, and this one was like watching a car crash in slow motion. So much anticipation for how their lives might ultimately come together. And I appreciated a subtle tale about the vital importance of abortion rights.
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I am a fan of Jennifer Haigh's and like her other books, I enjoyed her writing in Mercy Street. But this book left me with mixed feelings. It takes place in Boston, centers around a women's clinic, and we follow several characters whose lives are affected by that clinic. The chapters alternate between the characters and I didn't connect with the male characters very much. I most enjoyed Claudia and her story. The book addresses timely and divisive issues in a plausible way. Not my favorite Jennifer Haigh book, but I'm still a fan of her work.

Thank you to Ecco and NetGalley for this ARC.
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I love Jennifer Haigh's work and was so excited to read her newest book.  I have read almost everything she's written and her style of writing is very close to Jodi Picoult, though I never felt like she got the same recognition.  In this nuanced look at the pro-life, pro-choice debate, she takes her signature look at Bakerton, PA (a fictional town in Pennsylvania that she sets many stories in), as well as Boston MA.  As a cradle Catholic, I can also attest that her description of the Catholic church's parishioners is nearly spot-on no matter where you are in the country.  Her writing is phenomenal.

This story humanizes people, almost uncomfortably so.  It does make one question which side we sit on in the Pro-life/Pro-choice debate, as well as who deserves our humanity.  It also muddies the water of the true motivation for the Pro-life cause and asks who really has power over one's body.

I devoured this book and can't wait to read more from Jennifer Haigh.  I would say the ending was a little anti-climactic but I also think it fit so well with the dark and gritty circumstances that the characters find themselves in.
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I received a free ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve read almost every book from this author. I enjoy her writing style so much. She really has a way of making her characters so real and relatable. She made it easy to see and understand all the points of view, even if you didn’t quite agree with what they were thinking. 

3.5
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This novel's strongest point is the finely, drawn complex characters.  The plot, centered on abortion rights, is interesting as well, but the narrative told from multiple characters viewpoints is compelling as you are dropped into the life of these very diverse characters.  Enjoyable, recommended read.  Thank you NetGalley and publishers for providing a digital ARC for review..
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I love a book that has interesting and complicated characters - each with their own unique point of view that are slowly revealed as situations bring them hurtling together. There's a sense that something terrible or extraordinary will happen and you read on quickly to find out which it will be.

Mercy Street is exactly that sort of book. The characters are vivid, beginning with Claudia who works more than she lives her life, devoted to her planned -parenthood like clinic in Boston. She braves the protesters daily and keeps her cool as she counsels many women with questions or problems that very from life altering to the absurd. We also meet her dealer, her family, and various people who believe the Mercy Street Clinic should be closed forever.

As we get to know these characters, a variety of snow events hit Boston. The frigid atmosphere sets this truly beautiful. If you like great literature, plenty of points of view (including ones you do not agree with) then this slow burning, terrifically written book is for you! #Ecco #MercyStreet #JenniferHaigh #NetGalley
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