Little Mercies was actually the very first book I got at BEA, and I was so excited to receive a signed copy right from the author. I’ve read Gudenkauf’s other novels The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden, both of which I liked, so I couldn’t wait to open up something else by her. I’m definitely a sucker for these kinds of adult contemporary thriller-ish books, so I was pretty sure that I was going to like Little Mercies. And I definitely did!
I flipped through the first couple of chapters, very interested, and then there was a huge surprising thing that happened, and I was completely riveted from that moment on. I’ve never read a book specifically about the thing that happens (which I’m not going to spoil for you guys), but have always been very morbidly intrigued by the idea, and the lives of this type of person. It’s very controversial and I loved how Gudenkauf so agilely strutted the tightrope-thin line of morality on this issue. Even after everything that happened, I was surprisingly able to relate very well to the main character, and found myself whole-heartedly rooting for her throughout.
I also really enjoyed that the other chapters were narrated by a little girl. Her thoughts were fun to read, although sometimes very sad, and made me really appreciate the kind of work that a women like Ellen, as a social worker, does every day. Jenny’s moments spent with a waitress that she meets were also quite endearing — I very much enjoyed the sweet familial relationships in this novel.
While most of the book had me on the edge of my seat and completely satisfied, the ending didn’t quite do it for me. I won’t go into details, but it just wasn’t the type of ending that I normally like for a book like this. It didn’t seem to quite fit the story, and I had a hard time really believing that it was a realistic turnout. I also wasn’t a fan of the big “twist” in the end. Although I didn’t see it coming, which I always appreciate, it just wasn’t that huge of an “ah-hah” moment for me. It was more like, “Okay…so what?” which was kind of disappointing.
One kind of weird note…I mention in my review of Gudenkauf’s previous novel, These Things Hidden, that I was surprised that she didn’t give any recognition to the fact that one of her characters was clearly autistic. While it wasn’t quite as egregious in Little Mercies, again I felt like one of the children in the book obviously had some kind of developmental problem, and I was really confused as to why that was never explained. I mean, at one point it’s mentioned that she’s 10 years old, “gifted,” and skipped a grade, yet she’s bringing home picture books from the library and can’t read a cookbook? Why was this not discussed further? I wasn’t even going to bring it up in this review, since it’s a fairly small problem that barely affected me while reading the book. But having gone back and realized that I had almost the exact same problem in a previous book of hers? That’s just weird. I really wish I knew what was up with that.
Overall, though, Little Mercies was an intriguing, fast-paced read that would be a great addition to your beach bag this summer! The topic hits close to home for busy on-the-go moms and really makes you think about taking a second to breathe and enjoy the little moments and small blessings in life. This book has a great message and is one that I really enjoyed. I can’t wait to see what Gudenkauf writes about next!