The Mercy Seat

Elizabeth H. Winthrop. Grove, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2818-8
Winthrop (The Why of Things) grapples with the ravages of Jim Crow in Louisiana in this staggering multivoiced novel set during World War II. African-American Willie Jones is set to be executed at midnight after being wrongly convicted of the rape of a young white woman. Over the course of Willie’s final day, Winthrop cycles through the perspectives of a host of local characters in short, powerful chapters. Willie’s father, Frank, rushes to see Willie before the execution date, carrying with him Willie’s headstone, which he will never pay off. District Attorney Polly regrets his role in seeking the death penalty, which he was forced to do after local men kidnapped his son as a warning. Father Hanigan disguises his failing faith as he attempts to comfort Willie. Lane, the prison trustee driving the truck containing the electric chair that will be used to execute Willie, proves more honorable than the loathsome, alcoholic guard. Ora frets about her soldier son’s safety while her husband Dale struggles to tell her about the letter informing them of his death. Winthrop’s survey of these divergent lives compounds their individual pain into a withering critique of a cancerous society. This potent novel about prejudice and the constraints of challenging the status quo will move and captivate readers, especially those looking for socially conscious historical fiction. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM Partners. (May)
Reviewed on: 02/26/2018
Release date: 05/08/2018
Open Ebook - 240 pages - 978-0-8021-6568-8
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-8021-2961-1
Library Binding - 345 pages - 978-1-4328-5609-0
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