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Posted May 24, 2014
By Dawno,

Originally posted on my blog, ReadLove.

I’ve enjoyed several Michael Landon, Jr. features lately, namely his productions of the first two books in Beverly Lewis’ The Heritage of Lancaster County series, The Shunning and The Confession, and more recently, his work with Janette Oke’s When Calls The Heart. The latter has quickly become a favorite TV series in my house. So when I discovered he had a hand in writing Traces of Mercy, I had to read it!

Given Michael Landon’s, Jr.’s background in film, it’s only natural that he and Cindy Kelley would chose to thrust us immediately into the action. And that means straight into a Civil War battle in border state Missouri. We follow a Rebel sniper with eyes trained on one target after another, before something goes wrong when he encounters a Union soldier saying goodbye to a mortally wounded comrade who turns out to be the soldier’s little brother.

Soon the war ends, and we find that the sniper, who ends up being treated by the town doctor, is actually a woman. The doctor diagnoses her with amnesia, nurses her, and quickly grows fond of her. Because it wouldn’t be proper to keep this lady patient, whom he calls “Missy,” the good doctor takes her to live with nuns who are preparing to minister to children orphaned by the war. Drama ensues!

The beginning of the novel is gripping, and you’ll find yourself caring about this amnesiac woman, later dubbed “Mercy” by the nuns because of a Mercy Medallion she is wearing. Mercy is headstrong and independent, but disoriented by her lack of memories. Through portions of her thoughts as written in her journal, readers will come to sympathize with Mercy.

I like to think of Traces of Mercy as similar to Jane Austen but set in post-Civil War America rather than Victorian England. It has a flair for the dramatic, which if not taken too seriously, is refreshingly entertaining. Emotions run hot, those darned conventions like decorum and societal norms are inescapable, characters make mistakes and tell lies, while the plot ever thickens.

Themes center around showing mercy and giving forgiveness. Additionally, the consequences of dishonesty are examined as well as the importance of respecting others. When some of the characters take certain actions under the guise of revealing the truth, it turns out their actions don’t always stem from pure motives. Happily, most learn from their missteps. This is, after all, a Christian novel.

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