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The Mercies
by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Published: 2020-02-11
Hardcover : 352 pages
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After the men in an Arctic Norwegian town are wiped out, the women must survive a sinister threat in this "perfectly told" 1600s parable of "a world gone mad" (Adriana Trigiani).
Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Magnusdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the sea ...
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Introduction

After the men in an Arctic Norwegian town are wiped out, the women must survive a sinister threat in this "perfectly told" 1600s parable of "a world gone mad" (Adriana Trigiani).

Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Magnusdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the sea break into a sudden and reckless storm. Forty fishermen, including her brother and father, are drowned and left broken on the rocks below. With the menfolk wiped out, the women of the tiny Arctic town of Vardø must fend for themselves.

Three years later, a stranger arrives on their shore. Absalom Cornet comes from Scotland, where he burned witches in the northern isles. He brings with him his young Norwegian wife, Ursa, who is both heady with her husband's authority and terrified by it. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa sees something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place untouched by God, and flooded with a mighty evil. As Maren and Ursa are drawn to one another in ways that surprise them both, the island begins to close in on them, with Absalom's iron rule threatening Vardø's very existence.

Inspired by the real events of the Vardø storm and the 1621 witch trials, The Mercies is a story of love, evil, and obsession, set at the edge of civilization.
One of the Best Books of the Year (Good Housekeeping)

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of February 2020: It’s 1617 and there isn’t much that is not unforgiving when it comes to the far-flung and frigid town of Vardø, Norway, including the sea that surrounds it, which swallows the majority of its male population in an epic storm while they’re out fishing. The women are forced to fend for themselves or starve, but in a world where gender roles are prescribed and biblical patriarchy reigns, starving would be more acceptable than doing the “men’s work” necessary to survive. For the few that deem this option impractical, the fact that they are able to do so with relative ease means that witchcraft must be involved! And the pious are only too willing to bite the hands that are feeding them, and cooperate with the man recruited to restore the natural order of things. It’s a good thing Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s The Mercies is so beautifully written, it balances the brutality of what unfolds, but doesn’t blunt the impact of a cautionary tale that is surprisingly relevant for its historical setting. A page-turner that is infuriating, baleful, but full of stubborn hope, you won’t cry mercy before finishing it. —Erin Kodicek, Amazon Book Review

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