Mercy Street defies expectations.
When the cantankerous George – increasingly apathetic since the death of his wife three years ago – is rescued from a group of young hooligans by nineteen-year-old single mother Angie, the grateful George offers to one day return the favour, not quite expecting that day to come around so soon. Because mere weeks later, Angie shows up at his home on Mercy Street with her five-year-old daughter, asking to stay with him, just until she can get back on her feet. What else can George do but oblige – she saved his life after all. It is here when author Tess Evans dangles a formulaic scenario: readers will assume the trio will form an unlikely familial unit, suffer some sort of setback that threatens to dismantle everything, but ultimately realise they belong together; that this unlikely composite of personalities is all the family they need.
But Evans skews from that setup very quickly. Just as Angie, George, and young Rory are settling in, the young mother takes off without even a goodbye, just a note indicating she needs time to herself, but will return, eventually. George is left with a five-year-old girl, and having never been a parent, enters complete a complete unknown. Thankfully he has a officious sister, Shirley, as an advisor; so too Redgum, his mate from the local pub. Other allies pop up as well; Angie’s best friend, Bree; and the neighbours he’d barely said a word to previously. With their help, George acclimates to life as a single parent – begins enjoying it, in fact, more than he’d care to admit, or think about – which makes the threat of Angie’s return all the more catastrophic. Indeed, when Angie decides to return from her sabbatical, George is forced into unthinkable action, begging readers to ponder over where young Rory belongs: with her mother, despite her obvious failings; or with George, a man well into his seventies.
Mercy Street is a novel that begs discussion. For every reader who agrees with George’s decision, others will surely the contradictory opinion. Evans remains a neutral narrator, despite the novel following George’s perspective for the most part. Understated and self-assured, Mercy Street is a thought-provoking read told with such grace and elegance. Sweet, funny, and poignant, this is fine Australian novel and shouldn’t be missed.
Imprint: HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd
Publish Date: 1-Jan-2016
Country of Publication: Australia