Mercy Synopsis: William Saint is dying of cancer. On most days death seems like a humane alternative to the treatment. Stricken with fever, William is rushed to Mercy—notorious as a place to send the sickest of the poor and uninsured to be forgotten—and finds the hospital in even worse condition than his previous visit. The grounds are unkempt, the foundation is cracking, and like the wild mushrooms sprouting from fissures of decay around it, something is growing inside the hospital. Something dark. It’s feeding on the sickness and sustaining itself on the staff, changing them. And now it wants Willie.-Goodreads
Mercy and I disagreed a few times. While I absolutely love poetic language when it comes to describing horrible things, I also have the attention span of a gnat. So, in some of the more descriptive parts of this book, I found myself admiring the pretty language, and then having to go back and re-read it because the words were nice, but I’d lost track of the point to what I was reading. Actually, that happened more than I’d actually care to admit. However, that’s no slight on Dunham’s writing. It’s just not a style of writing that I have an easy time reading for extended periods of time. Mercy is, quite actually, extremely beautifully written. I felt/saw a lot of the things that happened to William during his stay. I winced instinctively when he was attacked by the linear accelerator, felt repulsed when he encountered the deceased, and generally just wanted to smack the stubborn out of him.
Isn’t it odd how two different authors can write about the same basic idea and yet you’ll really like one whereas the other has you rolling your eyes at the ridiculousness contained therein? Both Mercy and Delirium (by Lauren Oliver) address love as a sickness/disease, but where in Delirium I found myself going “Oh geeze. Give me a freaking break,” I found myself nodding in agreement when it was talked about in Mercy.
Some of my favorite lines in Mercy had to do with both love and life.
“He needed her more than he loved her.”
“The heart wasn’t made to love. It was given to you to hurt. It’s the source of all agony of the spirit.”
“Life was an addiction, and he felt desperate for every second. But would it mean anything?” – T. Fox Dunham, Mercy
I felt each of these statements so strongly that I ended up pausing for a few minutes after reading them, and just reflecting on the truth in them.
In Dunham’s notes, he talks about how he is a survivor of cancer himself, and I think that I figured that even before I finished the book. Dealing with a chronic pain disease means that its easier to recognize the truth in statements written by someone who also has experienced the sort of pain that feels like it’s rotting your bones.
Mercy is wonderful/horrible and beautiful/sick. Its fevered exaggerations alongside shouted sanity that will make you lose yourself in the slipstream of vivid descriptions and noxious horror, then force you to plummet to earth when the moments of truth rip the beauty away to see the ugly underneath. It feels like a much longer read than it actually is (not that that’s a bad thing in this case), and I have very little to critique about it, except for the fact that the epilogue felt like it cheapened the story a little bit. I won’t say what it was for obvious reasons, but I found myself frowning and wishing that I had stopped reading before I hit those last few pages. I guess that’s the way it is with stories and with diseases, though. They hardly ever just come to a complete stop.