The Mercy Seat

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Product Details

$26.00  $24.18
Grove Press
Publish Date
5.8 X 8.3 X 1.1 inches | 0.95 pounds

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About the Author

Elizabeth H. Winthrop is the author of three novels: Fireworks, December, and, The Why of Things She was the recipient of the Schaeffer Writing Fellowship at the University of California at Irvine where she earned her MFA. She lives with her husband and daughter in Massachusetts, where she is Assistant Professor of English/Creative Writing at Endicott College.


Praise for The Mercy Seat

"Artful and succinctly poetic...A worthy novel that gathers great power as it rolls on propelled by its many voices."--New York Times Book Review

"The Mercy Seat is a choral reckoning with our human cruelty and with the modesty of our very real and resisting grace--and this excellent writer's best novel yet."--Joshua Ferris

"The Mercy Seat is a miracle of a novel, with rapid-fire sentences that grab you and propel you to the next page. It's the kind of book that makes you want to get out a pencil and diagram its structure and figure out why it's so compelling... It's a breakout. It's a wonder."--Dallas Morning News

"Suspenseful and highly nuanced, Winthrop's novel raises profound questions about truth and justice, and with great sensitivity traces the town's tangled web of relationships that underscore how power and influence played out in a Deep South tinderbox."--The National Book Review

"The Mercy Seat is a tense and haunting novel that doesn't shy away from darkness but remains hopeful, even beautiful, and painfully moving as all the various narratives wrap up in a powerful conclusion."--BookBrowse (Editor's Choice)

"The Mercy Seat may prompt some readers to research the historical precedents inspiring the story, but in this case, the novel may be even greater than the sum of its parts, as Winthrop uses historical details to craft a narrative of immense emotional impact and relevance to today's world."--Bookreporter

"Remarkable...This is a novel filled with cruelty and dread, baying mobs and ugly terminology. However, Winthrop tempers the gloom and the hate with gestures of kindness, instances of resolve and redemption and unexpected outcomes. As her characters embark on their own journeys, physical and emotional, they surprise and move us...Winthrop's brilliantly orchestrated voices, evocative detail and almost unbearable narrative tension add up to an exceptional reading experience."--Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Beautifully crafted."

"I recommend [The Mercy Seat] for the moral weight of its narrative and the calm, yet insistent drive of her prose. Evocative of To Kill a Mockingbird, the book narrates events leading up to the quasi-public execution of an 18-year-old accused rapist in 1943 Louisiana. It's based on a couple of horrible true stories. And it resonates."--Arkansas Democrat Gazette

"The lives of these characters mesh in the events surrounding the execution, and their points of view cycle through short chapters that build tension as midnight draws near. Winthrop's carefully structured novel is a nuanced, absorbing, atmospheric examination of how racism tears at the whole of society."--Booklist (starred review)

"In this spare, taut novel, the separate stories of the people around an execution join together to form a portrait of a town, a mentality, a moment in time. This is a compelling, sorrowful read, deeply perceptive and wonderfully full of grace."--Andrew Solomon

"In her new novel, Elizabeth Winthrop writes with a moral certainty equaled by the lucid confidence of her prose. Starkly beautiful, unflinchingly honest and stretched taut across the hours of a single, terrible night, The Mercy Seat opens with a flatbed bearing a deadly cargo and never for an instant lets off the gas, chapters flashing by like fence posts on one of Winthrop's rural Louisiana highways. The trip is dark and human and complex and there is very little mercy at the end of the road. A remarkable novel by an immensely talented writer."--Michael Knight

"This taut, deft novel asks us to look, and to look hard, and our willingness is profoundly honored."--Michelle Latiolais

"Please celebrate Winthrop's audacious determination to walk through the narrative minefield of this account of an electrocution in the Deep South during the Gothic worst of Jim Crow times. Winthrop redeems her daring by lovely discipline and dignity, by the care she lavishes on each of her rounded characters. The Mercy Seat is truly a bravura performance."--Geoffrey Wolff

Praise for The Why of Things

"A fast-paced, entertaining summer read."--People (3 out of 4 stars)

"Keenly observed...richly drawn....[Winthrop]'s message, as complex as it is simple, is that the unendurable can and will be endured only if one chooses to go on."--New York Times Book Review

"With insight, respect and luminous clarity, Elizabeth Hartley Winthrop plumbs the afterlife of grief: the futile attempts to reconcile old habits and perceptions to the relentless questions that trail behind any unspeakable loss. This haunting, shimmering novel reminds us how all of us know our families: with unimaginable intimacy, and hardly at all."--Andrew Solomon, National Book Award-winning author of Far from the Tree

"Once again, Elizabeth Winthrop conjures light from a dark place in her beautifully constructed, touching novel The Why of Things... The book starts and ends at the same quarry's edge, but a quarry changed. Winthrop's quiet magic makes the water's mutable darkness bearable and better--nothing to be afraid of, a substance of possibilities."--Christine Schutt author of Pure Hollywood