Saturday, January 3, 2009

Mercy

Mercy by Jodi Picoult

Give me a book of fiction and it's hard to pull me away from it. I read Mercy yesterday, from start to finish. I didn't have to stay up much past midnight to do it either, even though I didn't begin till the afternoon.

Picoult is a very good writer, though at least some of her books, including this one, are a bit steamier than I prefer. "Mercy" is something that is needed for more than one character of the story. Jamie has mercy on his beloved wife who is dying slowly and painfully from cancer and ends her life at her request. Cameron, Jamie's cousin, police chief of the town and titular laird of the Scottish clan that settled in this town generations ago cannot show mercy to Jamie because he must uphold the law. Allie, Cameron's wife, is overcome with mercy for Jamie and does what she can to help him. The judge shows mercy in the bail set for Jamie, but will the jury have mercy at the end of the trial? Should they?

Allie hires Mia to assist her in her floral shop but Allie's husband falls in love with Mia and Mia with him. What kind of mercy will Allie have when she finds out? Cam certainly isn't being merciful to his wife by having this affair. Mia leaves town with no forwarding address as a way of showing mercy to Allie and her marriage but can she stay away? Can Cam have mercy on Allie when he discovers how she reacted to the realization of his affair?

The story is about more than mercy. It's also about love. What would you be willing to do for the sake of or in the name of love? Would you kill? Would you lie, steal, cheat? Is it healthy for one marriage partner to be doing all the giving? What is love when it's extra-marital? Can there be a true foundation for extra-marital love? On what is that love based? Can it last?

There are times when I long for Pearl and wish she was still part of my life but this story answers that longing very well. I'm going to quote a passage from Mercy, but reading it could spoil the story for you so, for those who don't want it spoiled, I will make the text white, so you cannot see it. For those of you who want to read it, simply highlight the space below with your mouse.
He reached out for her. Cam felt full of Mia, ripe to bursting with her, and he didn't know how he could ever go back to living halfway. "I'm serious. You'd come away with me, wouldn't you?"

Mia felt her breath return to her. This was familiar, this was their game. "To Turkey. To Greenland. You name it," she said.

Cam shook his head. "I mean I'm going to leave--" Mia reached out to cover his mouth, but he said the word anyway, and it tangled obscenely in her fingers. "Allie."

Mia sat up, pulling the sheet with her so it left Cam bare and flaccid, exposed. "Don't say that," she murmured.

He rolled toward her, placing a hand on her leg. "What else could you possible want?"

You, she thought, the way you are. The life you have. She thought of Cam traveling with her in her rental car, Kafka [the cat] sleeping in his lap during the long stretches of driving. She tried to picture him working as a hired hand on big farms in the South, or dispatching delivery trucks in the cities, just to make ends meet. She tried to picture him without a name, without a position, without a family. She tried to picture him and she saw herself.

If Cam packed up his duffel bag and went home to Wheelock and filed for divorce, he would not be the man she had fallen in love with. If people passed him in the street without calling a greeting; if he slept beneath the stars with her and ate Chef Boyardee for three weeks because it was all he could afford, he would not be the man she'd fallen in love with. And how long would it take before he turned against her for taking away the criteria by which he'd always defined himself?

Sobering thoughts! It's one of the problems of adultery. The person you fall for is not the same person you would have if you and she/he left everything else behind for each other. Moses "chose ____ rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time" (Hebrews 11:25 NIV). "The pleasures of sin." They are very real. Both Cam and Mia were caught up in the ecstasy of being together and nothing had ever felt so good. But the pleasures of sin have a short life. They don't last. Are they worth it?

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