Wednesday, April 29

The Mercy Rule - Perri Klass

Pediatrician Lucy Weiss works for the state, assessing parents whose children are in foster care. It's work that's close to her heart, because Lucy was brought up in the system herself after her mother died. Her own children are deeply loved and live an upper-middle class lifestyle of soccer lessons and beach side holidays.
Lucy reflects on her upbringing, from her barely remembered parents to the abuse of a foster-sibling, and her eventual adoption, and observes her own parenting. She worries about her children, prickly adolescent Isabel and first grader Freddy (who they're hoping is only very-eccentric-and-very-bright) and her marriage (to Greg, an academic), and she worries about her patients.
The Mercy Rule is a beautiful, sparse slice of life. I'm usually annoyed by novels that lack an arc, but though The Mercy Rule is essentially a sequence of linked vignettes I thoroughly enjoyed the reading experience. Freddy is captivating, and Lucy's encounter with a similarly precocious child on a plane trip was particularly well written. The home setting is contrasted with Lucy's professional experiences, particularly those dealing with the mothers she feels bonded to, women whose circumstances will never change despite the support and encouragement Lucy gives.
The narrative third person voice is authentic and crystalline, and the writing is lucid and subtle.I only wish I'd reviewed this a little closer to when I read it, so that my review could be more useful. - Alex

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