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The Unraveling of Mercy Louis

The Unraveling of Mercy Louis

A Novel

Book - 2015
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Winner of a 2016 Alex Award

Named a Best Book of 2015 by the Kansas City Star

In this intricate novel of psychological suspense, a fatal discovery near the high school ignites a witch-hunt in a Southeast Texas refinery town, unearthing communal and family secrets that threaten the lives of the town's girls.

In Port Sabine, the air is thick with oil, superstition reigns, and dreams hang on making a winning play. All eyes are on Mercy Louis, the star of the championship girls' basketball team. Mercy seems destined for greatness, but the road out of town is riddled with obstacles. There is her grandmother, Evelia, a strict evangelical who has visions of an imminent Rapture and sees herself as the keeper of Mercy's virtue. There are the cryptic letters from Charmaine, the mother who abandoned Mercy at birth. And then there's Travis, the boy who shakes the foundation of her faith.

At the periphery of Mercy's world floats team manager Illa Stark, a lonely wallflower whose days are spent caring for a depressed mother crippled in a refinery accident. Like the rest of the town, Illa is spellbound by Mercy's beauty and talent, but a note discovered in Mercy's gym locker reveals that her life may not be as perfect as it appears.

The last day of school brings the disturbing discovery, and as summer unfolds and the police investigate, every girl becomes a suspect. When Mercy collapses on the opening night of the season, Evelia prophesies that she is only the first to fall, and soon, other girls are afflicted by the mysterious condition, sending the town into a tailspin, and bringing Illa and Mercy together in an unexpected way.

Evocative and unsettling, The Unraveling of Mercy Louis charts the downfall of one town's golden girl while exploring the brutality and anxieties of girlhood in America.

Publisher: New York, N.Y. :, Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers,, [2015]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780062319098
Branch Call Number: FIC PARS
Characteristics: 320 pages ; 24 cm


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Cynthia_N May 08, 2016

A little too slow moving for me to really enjoy but it picked up the pace towards the end.

May 13, 2015

"The Unraveling of Mercy Louis" reminds me so much of Megan Abbott's "The Fever." As I read the book, I kept thinking it was as if the troubled teens from Abbott's novel were picked up and dropped off on the sweltering Gulf coast of Texas. Although I was drawn into Abbott's novel, I ultimately preferred Parssinen's take on the inner lives of teen girls (and the effects of a strange illness on both them and their town as a whole).

Parssinen's novel moves back and forth between the perspectives of Mercy, the town's golden girl and star athlete, and Illa Stark, the basketball team's manager who longingly watches Mercy from a distance. Both girls feel trapped in their lives--Mercy by a domineering, ultra-religious grandmother, and Illa, as the caretaker of her house-ridden mother. Both dream of a life beyond their small town. When a baby turns up dead in a dumpster in town, suspicion falls on the town's teen girls. The ultra-religious of the town (including Mercy's grandma) feel that it's a sign of the impending doom of Y2K. Under the strain, Mercy starts to fall apart, and Illa struggles to help piece her back together.

It's hard to say just why Parssinen's novel was so much better of a read for me than Abbott's. I think it comes from the warmth and depth of Parssinen's writing. She presents straightforward storytelling, with complex, yet relatable characters. I felt like unlike Abbott's novel, where the writing-style left me feeling a bit disconnected, I instantly found myself interested in the lives of Mercy and Illla on a level that made me want to follow them beyond this book.

I would recommend this story to anyone interested in coming-of-age and thriller-lite type books.


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