The venture ahead could leave their friendship behind.
Made a safe-haven after the Civil War, Ironwood Plantation is a refuge of equality for former slaves. But twenty years and a new generation later, they have become an isolated community with little contact with the rest of the world.
Mercy Carpenter is everything the world thinks she shouldn’t be. Educated and adventurous, she longs to make a life for herself beyond the beautiful prison of Ironwood. When she secretly submits an article to the Boston Globe under a man’s name and receives an enthusiastic response and an offer for employment, she’s determined to take advantage of the opportunity. But she isn’t prepared for a startling world that won’t accept her color or her gender, and her ambitions soon land her in grave danger.
The privileged daughter of a plantation owner and an aspiring suffragette, Faith Harper is determined not to marry. Especially not her father’s opportunistic new business partner. She doesn’t want any man telling her what to do, least of all the annoyingly chivalrous Nolan Watson. But when Mercy goes missing, Faith will do anything to find her best friend, even if it means trusting a man she doesn’t understand. In a time where prejudices try to define them, Mercy and Faith must push the boundaries of their beliefs and trust in the God who holds the keys to freedom.
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Award winning author of seven historical novels, Stephenia H. McGee writes stories of faith, hope, and healing set in the Deep South. When she's not twirling around in hoop skirts, reading, or sipping sweet tea on the front porch, she's a homeschool mom of two boys, writer, dreamer, and husband spoiler. Stephenia lives in Mississippi with her sons, handsome hubby, three dogs, and one anti-social cat. Visit her at www.StepheniaMcGee.com for books and updates.
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Stephenia McGee’s books have been on my to-read list for quite a while, and I jumped at the chance to read and review “Missing Mercy.” Although I have not read the first two books in this series and would recommend reading them in order to establish the full background of this saga, I was able to enjoy this one without feeling lost. Far from being an ordinary historical fiction book, “Missing Mercy” grafts novel ideas into a time period that is generally less written about, lending it a unique air.
Opening in Oakville, Mississippi in 1887, “Missing Mercy” draws readers into a fascinating world. I have not read anything quite like it before, particularly in a realistic setting, and I definitely want to go back and read the first two books in order to delve deeper into Ironwood! This utopic plantation serves as a safe place for former slaves to live among the white family who owns the land, and while idyllic, it is also notably insulated. As such, when Mercy Carpenter comes of age, she desires to venture into the outside world despite her parents’ objections. Her dream of becoming a journalist seems within reach after the “Boston Globe” offers her a job, not realizing that she is a woman or a Negro, but she is in for a rude and perilous awakening away from the confines of Ironwood. Her best friend, Faith Harper, tries unsuccessfully to warn her, but she also has her own struggles, with parents determined to see her married. In a time when women are expected to be docile homemakers, Faith kicks against the goads, preferring to read as much as she can and learn her father’s shipping business. Despite being white, she is not truly free, either.
This novel examines a plethora of issues plaguing America in the wake of the Civil War and its aftermath. The utopia, of course, does not stem the aspirations of the generation born after the War. It is human nature to challenge authority figures, and I am reminded of the folly of youth and of the adults; in a manner of speaking, they are all talking but not listening to each other. Because there is no initial reconciliation between both viewpoints, people get hurt. Sadly this reflects the state of many of us who are Christians today, and the Church as a whole as well. Division becomes more frequent, when we should be focusing on unity. Within the novel, this division occurs on multiple levels, leading to disillusionment and danger. As Mercy discovers, the Northern sentiments toward people of color were often hostile despite their stance during the Civil War, a stark reminder that people are imperfect and that racism has deep roots. Only God can change a person’s heart, and as Mercy and Faith come to learn, we have to rely on Him for all things. Galatians 5:13-14 summarizes the central message of this book: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Historical fiction readers, those interested in post-Reconstruction society and utopian communities, fans of stories with strong female protagonists, and anyone in search of a wonderful inspirational series will not want to miss out on “Missing Mercy” and the rest of the Ironwood Plantation Family Saga. There are discussion questions at the end of the book to facilitate book club conversations or private reflection.
I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.