A novel that seeks to erase the hard won narrative of good vs evil, The Merciful by Jon Sealy is an epic undertaking.
Sealy’s novel revolves around the death of a nineteen-year-old who is hit by a driver along a dark country road in South Carolina. Instead of setting up the typical, good-person-bad-person dichotomy, though, Sealy instead takes the route of forcing the reader to question what the very terms “good” and “bad” mean. Does “good” mean doing what is right? Does “bad” imply moral misgivings? Is someone made good simply for being the so-called victim of a crime, and the perpetrator of that crime bad for simply being the enactor of that crime, even if it was committed by accident? Sealy forces the reader to face all of these questions and more as he takes us on a crusade to prove the world is not entirely black and white.
Rather than narrating The Merciful from the perspective of say the driver of the car and the family of the dead girl, Sealy instead introduces a whole host of characters as storytellers. Everyone from the driver to the driver’s old college roommate make appearances as key players in the novel. Each character offers a unique perspective, often a diehard belief in one point of view of the case or the other, and a reminder that every argument has more than one side.
Sealy has a unique ability to keep the words flying off the page, the momentum never sagging despite the drawn-out court case, the large cast of characters, and the repetitive nature of the message he seeks to get across. It’s easy to pick up the book and put it down a day or two later, finished, the characters fresh in your mind, the poignancy of the novel almost intimate insofar as you are constantly reminded that it could have been you. It could have been you who hit and killed a bicyclist and paid the ultimate price. It could have been you who was hit. It could have been you who lost your daughter, your lover, your life.
The Merciful is a book that will keep you reading and might even help you escape the everyday worries of our current time.
Forthcoming from Haywire Books in January 2020, you can preorder a copy of The Merciful by Jon Sealy from your local independent bookstore today.
FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.