“Mercy’s Rain: An Appalachian Novel” Cindy K. Sproles

Rated 3 stars *** 2015. Kregel Publications. 263 pp.

MercysRainMercy lives on the side of a mountain in rural Tennessee with her father, the local Pastor, and mother. She and her mother have spent their lives being physically, mentally and emotionally abused by her father. Demons reside in his soul, which encourage him to kill, torture, and beat anyone who crosses his will without a morsel of regret.

Mercy is 19 years old when she witnesses her father kill an innocent man, and participates in his death through the mountain’s code of justice. After her mother sends her away, Mercy wanders the mountain in search of redemption and finding a purpose for her life. As she struggles to understand her role in God’s plan, Mercy continually hardens her heart as she seeks forgiveness for her role in her father’s death.

As I read, I was aghast at the many awful ways the Pastor abused his wife and daughter in the name of God and religion. It is with deep shame that I note this type of behavior is probably happening all over the world. I found it quite unfortunate that Pastor’s flock allowed his spiritual leadership over them to close their eyes to his behavior, leaving Mercy and her mother completely under his thumb of control.

What really annoyed me about “Mercy’s Rain” was Mercy. It seemed as if every single chapter she begged the Lord to show her what to do or how to act, filling the pages with a litany of complaints and questions. When God answered, Mercy spent time thanking him for helping her to “get it” then spent the next chapter complaining about the exact same thing she’d been thanking Him for doing for her in the last chapter. She was a ridiculous merry-go-round of grievances, and quickly grew tiresome. I think Sproles could have gotten her point across about Mercy needing mercy and forgiveness in half of the 263 pages it took to drag us through her whining.

Despite Mercy’s inability to make a decision with her life, I will recommend “Mercy’s Rain” only because it shows the importance of knowing you are not alone when facing trials and tribulations, and that abused women need to seek help immediately.

Recommended for Adults.

I received a complimentary copy of “Mercy’s Rain” from LibraryThing.com in exchange for an honest review.

“The Drowned Forest” Kristopher Reisz

Rated 3 stars *** 2014. Flux. (229 pp.)

TheDrownedForestJane misses her best friend Holly, who drowned while they were horsing around on the tire swing by the river. They’d played with the swing thousands of times, but no one expected Holly to drown doing an easy back flip. Unable to contain her grief, Jane talks to Holly in her mind and spends all her time praying. She is sure God will help but, as time passes and no answer comes, she finds her faith falling away.

She and Tyler, Holly’s boyfriend, spot Holly’s promise ring after a giant catfish spits it onto the shore. However, no one will believe that Holly is the one who wrote “Help!” on it, neither will they believe that her soul is trapped in the river in the body of a mud person.

Angry because neither her Pastor nor parents will believe her, Jane runs away from home. She and Tyler decide to do their own investigative work to find out how to free Holly’s spirit, while Holly keeps returning to haunt, and kill, anything she touches. As Jane’s faith in God disappears she gains new faith in the power of music, hoping it will be the key to setting Holly free.

Recommended for ages 12-16.

“Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story” Ken and Joni Eareckson Tada with Larry Libby

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published April 2, 2013. Zondervan. 185 pp. Includes Resources and Notes.

Joni&KenIn 1967, when Joni was 17 years old, she dove off a floating raft and broke her neck. Her story of life as a quadriplegic was told in her 1976 book “Joni.”

In “Joni & Ken,” readers are introduced to Ken Tada, the man who would become Joni’s husband. We read about their courtship and marriage as they spare no punches in telling of tough times faced and battles fought to keep their marriage together. Whether struggling with caring for someone with quadriplegia, facing weakness from the effects of cancer and chemotherapy, or glorying in shared victories, Joni and Ken get their strength from God. Their love for each other shines through, enabling them to face whatever lies before them.

“Joni & Ken” speaks to all adult readers, especially married couples, reminding them of God’s Love, Strength and Faithfulness, and how He will never give them more than they can handle.

“A girl named Mister” Nikki Grimes

Zondervan Books, 2010. 223 pp.

A Girl named MisterIn poetic verse, Nikki Grimes tells the story of Mister, a young girl who gets pregnant shortly before her 14th birthday. Despite her promise to keep pure until marriage, she falls for Trey. Their one time together leaves her pregnant and afraid, especially when Trey refuses to acknowledge it as his own. Terrified to tell her mother, Mister tries to hide her growing belly and finds comfort in the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Using Biblical accounts and poetic license Grimes tells Mary’s story. Fearful of retribution from her family and neighbors since she and Joseph are not married, she hides her pregnancy believing no one would understand she’d been visited by an angel and told she would become miraculously pregnant with the Son of God.

These two stories of young, unwed, teenage mothers in vastly different circumstances and worlds are interwoven to create “A girl named Mister.” Mister wonders how her unborn child will change her life, while Mary does the same. Faith, hope and love combine to give both young women strength to deal with their situations. “A girl named Mister” is a good read for those 12 and older.