The women in an Arctic village must survive a sinister threat after all the men are wiped out by a catastrophic storm in this “gripping novel inspired by a real-life witch hunt. . . . Beautiful and chilling” (Madeline Miller, bestselling author of Circe). When the women take over, is it sorcery or power? Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Magnusdatter stands on the craggy … Twenty-year-old Maren Magnusdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the skies break into a sudden and reckless storm. All forty of the village’s men were at sea, including Maren’s father and brother, and all forty are drowned in the otherworldly disaster.
For the women left behind, survival means defying the strict rules of the island. They fish, hunt, and butcher reindeer–which they never did while the men were alive. But the foundation of this new feminine frontier begins to crack with the arrival of Absalom Cornet, a man sent from Scotland to root out alleged witchcraft. Cornet brings with him the threat of danger–and a pretty, young Norwegian wife named Ursa.
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 VardÃ¸’s very existence.
“The Mercies has a pull as sure as the tide. It totally swept me away to VardÃ¸, where grief struck islanders stand tall in the shadow of religious persecution and witch burnings. It’s a beautifully intimate story of friendship, love and hope. A haunting ode to self-reliant and quietly defiant women.” (Douglas Stuart, Booker Prize winning author of Shuggie Bain)
Every once in a while, a modern day parable, perfectly told, reflects all that could happen in a world gone mad. Kiran Millwood Hargrave has written a novel for our times with artistry and skill.
Maren Bergendsatter is shaken just like the rest of the village of Finnmark, Norway when the forty fisherman men folk die at sea, including her brother and father. They survive barely and are going about living their lives when Scottish Commisioner Absalom Cornet arrives with his Norwegian wife Ursa to do a census of who is following the churches beliefs.
Ursa was married off to Absalom and she dreads everyday of her marriage. Absalom has a coldness to him that has Ursa feeling stifled and unprepared to be a wife in the small village she seeks help from Maren. Maren and Ursa quickly become friends even though Absalom is always near but both have feelings for one another that reaches another level.
When it is revealed that Absalom is there to find the witches who he believes cursed the men to their deaths, everything changes. Ursa has to stand by her husband even if she believes he is wrong and dread becomes a daily feeling when a couple of the women are accused and stand trial for witch craft.
Intense read that is a haunting story of how a couple of people can steer a community into accusations that have no merit. I thought the whole story was written beautifully and was anxious to see what would happen to the characters you begin to care for. A completely different read for me and I was spellbound with every moment of the story.
The Mercies took my breath away. A beautifully rendered portrait of a community, a landscape, and a relationship. I read it with equal parts hope and dread. Kiran has masterfully built up an incredible claustrophobic atmosphere, shot through with delicate intimacy.
With her characteristic tenderness and prose that tides between the carnal and the sublime, Kiran Millwood Hargrave illuminates one of the darkest chapters of our history. In The Mercies, she sweeps us to a place that dazzles and reeks and chills to the bone, where the hearts of women roar louder than storms. She is an outstanding talent, and wherever her imagination sails next, I will follow.
Inspired by a storm in 1617 in Finnmark, Norway and the subsequent witch trials, THE MERCIES is a surprisingly current, and heart-wrenching novel about a community of women you’ll not soon forget.
A beautiful, powerful read.
Beautiful in its controlled fury, haunting, sensuous.
Gorgeous. Its haunting, oppressive, and full of a beautiful sort of melancholy. It shows women at their best and worst; it shows how we support and destroy one another in equal measure. But, as is always the case, it shows us rise above.
I loved The Mercies. It opened up a completely new chapter of history to me, and I loved the way it told its story in such beautiful language. I won’t forget this story of these women in a Norway I knew little about. A searing historical novel.
A book not only for our times but for any time in which people have loved and raged and wondered if there was more. Millwood Hargrave is a whirlwind, storm-building talent.
The Mercies is storytelling at its most masterful. This is an exquisite tale of sisterhood, of love, of courage and of what happens when communities turn on each other. It is everything I could have desired in a book: beguiling plotting, stunning prose, and a profound understanding of human nature. I have nothing short of awe for Kiran Millwood Hargrave and all she has accomplished here. I raged, I laughed, I cried. I urge you to read this novel.
The Mercies is both harrowing and beautiful. Through mesmerizing prose, Kiran Millwood Hargrave depicts the brutality of life for women on an isolated island in 1620 Norway during the witch trials. Yet amidst this horror and within the punishing landscape, she creates a set of brilliant characters and a moving love story full of tenderness and hope. This is a book to be savored and read time and again.