Publisher: Random House of Canada
Received: Received a copy from Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review
Release Date: January 5, 2016
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The Crooked Heart of Mercy is a brave, funny and heartbreaking novel about faith and family, love and forgiveness, and how people survive unimaginable loss. It features an indelible trio of characters who could only come from the imagination of Billie Livingston. There's Ben, whose world we enter on the first page: he's a limo driver who, after he loses his son, finds himself locked up in a psych ward with a hole in his head he can't explain. His wife, Maggie, the other narrator of the story, is locked up in her own grief, unable to reach out to her husband. Then there is Maggie's brother, Francis, an unlikely priest with a drinking problem and only occasional interest in celibacy, whose latest fall from the wagon was caught on video and has gone viral as Drunk Priest Propositions Cop.
How they come together to heal each other's many wounds is the magic of this novel, as is its intensity, its wit, its deep sense of the absurd, and the surprising grace at its core.
A few years ago I saw this book that captured my attention, that book was One Good Hustle, and it was my introduction to Billie Livingston's writing. I was in love, yes there were a few little things about that book that took my attention away, but I loved how Billie could write such a story about people who are struggling and that are not necessarily heroic.
The Crooked Heart of Mercy is a much darker book than that one, and yet it is just as mesmerizing. This is a story about two very broken people who have suffered a great loss and Billie uses this story to show a back and forth about how this couple copes and how it has affected their lives and relationships. What I really loved about this book was how Billie Livingston is able to really make her readers feel for some very unlikeable characters. I really saw myself rooting for these two to get through and come out on top.
I have loved Billie Livingston's writing style for so long. She brings about characters that you can't help but care for and want to help them through their situations. This is a tough situation to write about and Billie takes a different approach for this book, she really brings out the negative aspects of these two characters... But it is that which helps them as well. It's the way that Billie brings these people together after they have been separated and shows that they need each other to truly heal which makes this book the beauty that it is.
Truly, Billie Livingston is an amazing storyteller who brings something different to the table and I will always look forward to what else she will bring to readers!