Book Review: Small Mercies

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Small Mercies was a title included in our list of books we really wanted to read in 2015.  You’ll see it listed here in our 2015 Reading Wish List (3rd row down, last book on your far right). So when Penguin/Viking publishers asked if they could send a copy for review, we jumped all over it. 

Small Mercies: Presented through multiple points of view, Small Mercies explores the conflicts and deep attachments that exist within families. Heart-wrenching and profoundly relatable, Joyce’s debut is a love letter to Staten Island and a deeply affecting portrait of an American family.    

Small Mercies was included in our wish list because it was described as a “startling and tender portrait of one family struggling to make peace with their son’s death.” And one where as it is mentioned above, is told from multiple points of view. A winning Hoarder combination right? Unfortunately, for me, no, not so much. 🙁 Small Mercies was was a story with a solid premise but is terribly mired by the over and excessive and abundant (getting the hint?)use of the F-word and in its many iterations. Many. Abundant usage.

The mention also as a love letter to Staten Island is one that the publisher doesn’t want you to miss, and they provide a map of it, to be included in the review. Below, the map is included for your reference. So, in the first few pages I let the F-Bombs ride, this is supposed to be taking place on Staten Island right? However, it quickly becomes a terrible distraction and if you skim over every page, as I did, you will find the word used everywhere, sometimes 3 to 4 times in the same paragraph. Had this book received that controversial book cleaning app there would hardly be words left on the page! It was excessive and significant and a major distraction. It also demonstrated very poor writing, in my opinion.

Parts of the story, or some of the perspectives of the family members were also quite silly and even, offensive. One family member has affairs 10 years after the death of his brother on 9/11? No. Sorry. I absolutely show no sympathy or regard for that nonsense. That’s a piss poor excuse for cheating on your wife. Silliness ensued with the aggressively overt and tawdry sex talk, which of course was limited to using only the F-word to signify those sex acts. The result came across as incredibly crass, crude and obnoxious.

While the characters of the mother and the wife were, or could have been, a believable aspect to this story and for their inability to move on, overall this novel remains terribly flawed due to the stilted, short and basic sentences and the lame, stilted one-word conversations. Couple all of this with the ridiculous over-use of F-bombs dropping everywhere throughout this story, and something which held so much promise for me, finally did me in. Unfortunate. Terribly, terribly unfortunate. I wanted to read this story. Actually, I really wanted to like this story. I cannot, or will not, offer an apology for rating this book poorly. It only angered me when I realized I spent time trying to find something akin to sympathy for this family, and also that I used up precious reading time.

(Sure, some may consider me uptight or a prude or something, but a solid read for me never relies on base and tawdry sex talk, and especially one with a stilted, limited and base vocabulary that considers only one word, the F-word, to be a noun, adjective and verb. I was shocked upon closing the cover on this book to discover Mr. Joyce attended Harvard and practiced law. )

Small Mercies_Staten Island Map

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