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The Mercy of Thin Air: A Novel
by Ronlyn Domingue

Published: 2006-06-01
Paperback : 336 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 1 of 2 members
New Orleans, 1920s. Raziela Nolan is in the throes of a magnificent love affair when she dies in a tragic accident. In an instant, she leaves behind her one true love and her dream of becoming a doctor -- but somehow, she still remains. Immediately after her death, Razi chooses to stay ...
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New Orleans, 1920s. Raziela Nolan is in the throes of a magnificent love affair when she dies in a tragic accident. In an instant, she leaves behind her one true love and her dream of becoming a doctor -- but somehow, she still remains. Immediately after her death, Razi chooses to stay between -- a realm that exists after life and before whatever lies beyond it.

From this remarkable vantage point, Razi narrates the stories of her lost love, Andrew, and the relationship of Amy and Scott, a couple whose house she haunts almost seventy-five years later. The Mercy of Thin Air entwines these two fateful and redemptive love stories that echo across three generations. From ambitious, forward-thinking Razi, who illegally slips birth control guides into library books; to hip Web designer Amy, who begins to fall off the edge of grief; to Eugenia, caught between since the Civil War, the characters in this wondrous novel sing with life. Evoking the power of love, memory, and time, The Mercy of Thin Air culminates in a startling finish that will leave readers breathless.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


Chapter One

Simon Beeker had been dead four months.

I did not know this when I approached his house for a belated visit. Because I was no longer in the habit of skimming obituaries, I missed the announcement.

The last time I had seen Simon, in early 1991, he was seventy-four. He sat in his crimson study, his elbows angled on the arms of a worn leather chair. I watched him turn the pages of a new biography -- the spine crepitated under his grip -- and noticed his eyes taking in each paragraph, quick and hungry. That quality had never changed about him. As a boy, he had been a collector of knowledge who sneaked into Andrew's room to read books a page at a time between odd jobs. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

From the Publisher:

1. The narrative structure of The Mercy of Thin Air alternates between the past and the present. How does this structure build suspense and pique a reader's curiosity about what will happen next? What insight do you get into the lives of Razi and the other characters because of the way the story is told?

2. How did Razi defy the conventions of society in the 1920s? If she had lived, do you think she would have fulfilled her dream of becoming a doctor, or set aside that ambition for marriage and motherhood? Given the time period, would it have been realistic for her to have done both?

3. Although she doesn't know it until after his death, Amy shares a pivotal experience with her grandfather. How did Amy reevaluate her life after she learned what happened to Poppa Fin? Does Amy come to better understand her grandfather after what she discovers about him?

4. Razi tells us, "Most of the ones who stayed between opted for the unknown -- what was beyond -- within weeks after their deaths." Why has Razi chosen to stay between decades after her death? What makes her decide it's finally time to go beyond?

5. Discuss Razi's friendship with Twolly. What is significant about the novel's ending, when Razi is at Twolly's bedside?

6. For years, Razi followed the life of a man she assumed to be her Andrew O'Connell. On some level, did she know he was the wrong person? She says, "I had never questioned whether I tracked the right person because -- in name, action, and deed -- the man had led the life I expected my Andrew to have, the life he had planned." Razi assumes that Andrew would carry along with the plans he had made before she died. Did she underestimate the impact her death would have on Andrew?

7. How have relationships between men and women changed in the last hundred years, as illustrated in this book? Is it startling to see how limiting women's roles really were less than a century ago? Why do you suppose the author chose to set the earlier part of the story in the 1920s instead of in another time period?

8. When Andrew asks Razi if she would consider becoming a nurse instead of a doctor, is he in a sense stifling the very qualities that attracted him to her in the first place? If they had married, how do you think their relationship would have changed?

9. Neither Amy nor Scott "attempted to find the humility, or courage, to make amends. The silence, more than their physical separation, grew in its power to keep them apart for good." Would Amy and Scott have reconciled if not for Razi's intervention?

10. Once Razi had "learned to maneuver through the world without a body," she felt it was her duty "to help others adjust to our translucent realm." What motivates her to assist others in making the transition? Is it a continuation of how she acted in her previous life?

11.How do the five senses factor into the story, particularly smell and touch?

12. At the estate sale at Simon Beeker's home, Razi is drawn to Andrew's bookcase, which leads her to follow Amy and Scott to their home. Was it really Amy to whom Razi felt connected? In what ways are Razi and Amy alike?

13. Emmaline, Simon, and Andrew had unique relationships with one another. Why did Andrew show such concern for Emmaline and Simon? What motivated Simon to keep in touch with Andrew? What issues of race and class were revealed through these characters?

14. What stood out the most for you in this story? What, if anything, did you find yourself remembering days after you finished reading the book?

15. What are your thoughts on whether there is a between realm, a place where a spirit lingers after the body has died? Have you had experiences with paranormal phenomena?

16. The Mercy of Thin Air is Ronlyn Domingue's first novel. What makes you interested in reading her future work? Does this book remind you of other novels you've read? In what ways?

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Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Amy H. (see profile) 12/01/22

  "The Mercy of Thin Air"by Susan L. (see profile) 05/16/11

The first half was unbearably slow with too many characters involved in the plot. The parallel stories of Amy and Scott and Rasi and Andrew finally fell into place in the second half but the whole premise... (read more)

  "Love story"by Kathy E. (see profile) 02/19/10

This book flowed well and was easy to read. The story of a young woman who dies and spends 80 years as a ghost. The characters were believable.

  "A woman dies at a young age and then lives as a ghost caught in between worlds."by Tiffany A. (see profile) 11/17/08

I really enjoyed this book and so did everyone in our book club. It was very interesting and promoted a lot of good discussion.

  "Great first novel - solid characters and plot."by Holly L. (see profile) 10/19/08

This is a story of a life cut off, just as it was beginning to take shape. You will mourn the loss of Razi's life and love, along with her, her friends and family. Get ready.

The story

... (read more)

  "A very good and unsual book about a subject that is often difficult to write about"by Jan F. (see profile) 10/18/08

I really liked this book. It was a story about ghosts, unrequited loves, and taking on political movements that were not popular at the time. A very good first novel.

  "Story of woman stuck "between two worlds" spanning 60 years."by tammi h. (see profile) 03/06/07

Beautifully written. All but one of us really enjoyed this read. A different take on what happens after you die as in "The Lovely Bones" or "The Five People You Meet in Heaven". Enjoyed all the descrpitions... (read more)

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