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Friday, July 31, 2015

Small Mercies: A Novel

I can't remember where I read a great review of Eddie Joyce's Small Mercies, but I did and thank goodness for that.

The Amendola family of Staten Island were a typical New York City family. Three strapping Irish boys, a family of firefighters, and natives who, as children, could never see themselves leaving the Island. All with Manhattan as their backdrop. The youngest, Bobby, was lost on September 11; the oldest, Peter, got lost in corporate America; and Franky got lost in booze. When Tina, Bobby's widow, meets someone new a decade later, someone who could make her happy but still never replace her high school sweetheart, the family must decide to come together or be forever fractured by events out of their control.

This novel really blew me away. I guess it's fair to say that I didn't know what to expect going into it, only that I read a good review somewhere. I found it to be a bit of an underhanded weeper, so thanks, Eddie. I wasn't expecting to be so moved, but I found myself constantly rooting for Tina. I wanted her to find love again, and I want her family to love that she is in love again. I could only imagine how hard it was for Bobby's family to take Tina falling in love again -- but how long, really, was she supposed to wait? Is ten years not enough? Is a lifetime even enough? Each family deal's with Tina's news differently, and each suffers their own inner demons, both about Bobby's death and having to do with their own lives.

I hated Franky, but I hated him for making his family hurt. Addiction is a disease that will kill everyone you love, and seeing Franky at the bottom of his spiral was killer on me as a reader. I hated him for that. I hated that he chose the waitress in the restaurant, and I hated how he treated his only friend. I hated how he viewed Tina, and I hated how he looked at his parents. But that's what makes such a great character. He was real, and that's a huge credit to Joyce's ability to create characters. He did the same with Peter and Bobby, a character who spends the book dead but is so alive in so many ways to everyone else. I wanted to strangle Peter for cheating on his wife and ending up in the most precarious of positions. I wanted to throttle him even as I, the reader, am privy to the series of events that led up to it. I watched it happen, and I was powerless to stop it.

Come to Small Mercies for the characters. Stay for the heartbreak.

For purchase below.

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