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Publisher's Summary

After the men in an Arctic Norwegian town are wiped out, the women must survive a sinister threat in this "perfectly told" 1600s parable of "a world gone mad" (Adriana Trigiani).

Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Magnusdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the sea break into a sudden and reckless storm. Forty fishermen, including her brother and father, are drowned and left broken on the rocks below. With the menfolk wiped out, the women of the tiny Arctic town of Vardø must fend for themselves.

Three years later, a stranger arrives on their shore. Absalom Cornet comes from Scotland, where he burned witches in the northern isles. He brings with him his young Norwegian wife, Ursa, who is both heady with her husband's authority and terrified by it. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa sees something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place untouched by God, and flooded with a mighty evil. 

As Maren and Ursa are drawn to one another in ways that surprise them both, the island begins to close in on them, with Absalom's iron rule threatening Vardø's very existence. Inspired by the real events of the Vardø storm and the 1621 witch trials, The Mercies is a story of love, evil, and obsession, set at the edge of civilization.

One of the Best Books of the Year - USA Today, Good Housekeeping

©2020 Kiran Millwood Hargrave (P)2020 Little, Brown & Company

Critic Reviews

"The Mercies is an exceptional work of historical fiction with a dramatic setting and perceptive insight into the rippling effects of extremism, as seen through the eyes of a carefully crafted cast of characters." (Bookpage)

"Kiran Millwood Hargrave's wonderful The Mercies is a mesmerizing, heart-wrenching novel which had me desperate for the women of Vardo to win through. A perfect book club choice." (AJ Pearce, author of Dear Mrs. Bird)

"The Mercies is both harrowing and beautiful. This is a book to be savored and read time and again." (Jenny Quintana, author of The Missing Girl)

What listeners say about The Mercies

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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The Mercies is a Strong and Moving Story, Not to be Missed

This novel ranks as one of the best I have read or heard on the subject of the persecution of so-called witches, set in any country. Not just for the author’s attention to detail and historical accuracy, which are also impressive and admirable, but because of her skill in taking historical material over 400 years old and making it seem so immediate and alive I found myself gritting my teeth and clenching my fists in anger at general human cruelty and stupidity one moment, and feeling love for the female protagonists as if I knew them and they were as dear to me as they became to each other. It also called to mind again the realization that we have not nearly come as far as we would like to think . . . A vivid, wrenching, stark, and beautiful story I cannot recommend highly enough to do it justice!

50 people found this helpful

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Thought I'd love it, but I couldn't even finish it

By all indications, this is exactly the sort of novel I should have loved. The subject matter, the seriousness, the careful characterization: all pointed toward this being a great fit for me. Instead I couldn't even finish it. Pacing was downright glacial, and after awhile I just got bored out of my mind. Pity.

49 people found this helpful

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Beautiful but dark

This is an insanely well written book. I felt transported to this far away, brutal place and time. It is quite remarkable to make characters like these so easy to understand, so easy to sympathize with. This was a beautiful story with certain elements which were so disturbing in such an indescribable way that that in and of itself makes this a rare gem. It almost reads like poetry in many ways. As hard as it was to listen to at certain moments, it is very, very well written and extremely entertaining. I don’t think I could listen to it again but I still highly recommend this one. Also it is somewhat based on true events which is as baffling as it is terrifying.

43 people found this helpful

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Sorry, just found it boring

The story line attracted me. The narrator was excellent. But, I couldn't "get into it." Life in a village like the one in this book must be very boring. Maybe that's the problem.

34 people found this helpful

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Beautifully written and narrated

If you loved the pacing and style of Circe, I think you'll love this one too.

29 people found this helpful

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  • GK
  • 04-29-20

Too slow to develop

The plot and setting are very interesting. But the writing is very unimaginative at times and the pace is glacial.

27 people found this helpful

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Chilling

This was well done and a very good read. The latter half was bone chilling and unforgettable. Performance was excellent.

19 people found this helpful

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OUTSTANDING

Just outstanding in every way. The story is so well researched and written the pages come alive. The narration might be the best I've heard. Fascinating and raw and honest and just so well done. Loved it.

14 people found this helpful

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Relevant today and well told

Great story with researched info at the end. Fantastic reader with great accents. Riveting story. Will look for more information on the Sami people and culture.

13 people found this helpful

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Superb

A beautifully written historical fiction page turner. Very intelligent and fascinating place and time - 17th century Scandanavia. Don't hesitate

10 people found this helpful