When 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.
Eve 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 appearances?
Sweet Mercy opens with the main character, Eve, and her grandson, Sean, arriving at the Marryat Island Ballroom and Lodge to recover a keepsake of Eve's that had been left in the attic years before. Sean asks Eve to tell him about the summer she came to the lodge, and the reader is taken back 50 years earlier to when Eve and her parents moved to Mercy, Ohio. The pace at the beginning of the story was a bit slow, but after awhile I was sucked in, and I couldn't wait to find out who Eve's heart belonged to.
I found the historical aspects of the story so intriguing. You always hear about crime and corruption in places like Chicago and New York, but my eyes were opened to how widespread crime was during Prohibition. That said, I would have loved to see some notes at the end of the book to separate fact from fiction.
The moral dilemma Eve was faced with was so difficult. I really felt for her and her father. And in some ways I felt for some of the people who broke the law as a way to support their families. There are a few good lessons to be learned in Sweet Mercy, and one that really stood out to me is that there is good in everyone.
I really liked the characters, and was glad that the readers were given a little summary at the end about what had happened to most of the characters after the summer of 1931.
I loved the ending of Sweet Mercy! Eve ended up with just the right man for her, and I was so pleased to catch a glimpse of how happy she still was 50 years later.
Jones pushed his hat back a notch and looked over his shoulder after the two boats. “The Little Miami meets up with the Ohio River not too far from here,” he said. “That’s probably where they’re headed.”
“Funny that they’re taking a bunch of castor oil down the Ohio River.”
Jones turned again to look at me. I couldn’t see his eyes but somehow I sensed they held amusement. My suspicions were confirmed when he shook his head and laughed. “Castor oil, nothing,” he muttered. “They’re hauling moonshine.”
For a moment I was speechless. I frowned and wondered whether I had heard him right. “Moonshine?”
“Sure. People like them are up and down this river all the time.”
It can’t be, I thought. This was Ohio, after all, birthplace of the Temperance Movement. I knew; I had done the research; I had won first place in the essay contest. “Are you sure?”
“Of course I’m sure.”
“Don’t they know moonshine is illegal?”
Jones laughed again, louder this time. “You’re kidding, right?”
“I’m not kidding, Jones. I can’t believe they’re hauling that stuff right out here in the open. They could be arrested and go to prison. They should be arrested.”
“Yeah? And who’s going to turn them in? You?”
Ann Tatlock is the author of the Christy-Award winning novel Promises to Keep. She has also won the Midwest Independent Publishers Association "Book of the Year" in fiction for both All the Way Home and I'll Watch the Moon. Her novel Things We Once Held Dear received a starred review from Library Journal and Publishers Weekly calls her "one of Christian fiction's better wordsmiths, and her lovely prose reminds readers why it is a joy to savor her stories." Ann lives with her husband and daughter in Asheville, North Carolina.
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