Monday, September 29, 2008

II Interesting Interview - Susan Meissner

The Shape of Mercy

Susan Meissner's newest book, The Shape of Mercy, is a blend of contemporary and historical fiction, mystery and romance. Set in present day Santa Barbara and also in colonial America during the Salem Witch Trials, the book follows a young college student as she transcribes the diary of a young woman falsely accused of witchcraft in 1692.

Donita: What is this story about?
Susan: "The story in a nutshell is this: Lauren Durough is a West Coast English major at the proverbial age of discovery. Sheltered in her growing up years by family wealth, she is just beginning to grasp how people judge other people by what they want to believe about them, and particularly for her, how the poor view the wealthy. When she opts out of her family's financial support, she takes on a job as a literary assistant to Abigail Boyles, an 83-year-old reclusive East Coast transplant. Abigail tasks Lauren with transcribing the diary of her ancestor, Mercy Hayworth, hanged for witchcraft in 17th-century Massachusetts. The lives of these two very different women converge as they jointly piece together the life - and death - of a third woman, Mercy Hayworth, who lived three hundred years earlier, and who also struggled against undeserved cultural stigmatization, but lost."

Donita: I've heard the title is more complex than just a straight forward declaration.
Susan: "Yes, the title has dual meaning. Those who testified against the accused in Salem in 1692 often claimed their tormentors 'took shape' in their bedrooms and tortured them as they slept. My fictional character Mercy was also accused of taking shape and torturing another young girl of the Village. She was innocent of course, as all those accused were, but in her last act before death, she shows that love has a shape. And its shape is mercy."

Let's stop in mid interview and see one important, inciteful review:
Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review and offered these insights. "Meissner's newest novel is potentially life-changing, the kind of inspirational fiction that prompts readers to call up old friends, lost loves or fallen-away family members to tell them that all is forgiven and that life is too short for holding grudges. Achingly romantic, the novel features the legacy of Mercy Hayworth-a young woman convicted during the Salem witch trials-whose words reach out from the past to forever transform the lives of two present-day women. These book lovers-Abigail Boyles, elderly, bitter and frail, and Lauren "Lars" Durough, wealthy, earnest and young-become unlikely friends, drawn together over the untimely death of Mercy, whose precious diary is all that remains of her too short life. And what a diary! Mercy's words not only beguile but help Abigail and Lars together face life's hardest struggles about where true meaning is found, which dreams are worth chasing and which only lead to emptiness, and why faith and hope are essential on life's difficult path. Meissner's prose is exquisite and she is a stunning storyteller."
Donita: The theme of this story is bigger than most Women's Fiction.
Susan: "The concept behind The Shape of Mercy stayed with me long after I finished it. I know I am often guilty of the same weakness my protagonist had to discover - and admit - about herself. She, like me, like so many, judge better than we love. And we let fear dictate how much love we will extend and to whom we will extend it. Not always, not in every circumstance. But it happens often enough to know I might have easily kept my quivering mouth shut had I lived in Salem in 1692. I might've said nothing when the Village marched to Gallows Hill to watch the accused hang. We tend to fear what we can't comprehend. And we tend to understand only what we want to."
Donita: That sounds pretty bleak.
Susan: "There is a shimmering ray of hope, however. And it actually permeated all of 1692 Salem, though it hasn't garnered the same spotlight as the delusions of frightened and empowered people. The innocents who were hanged as witches refused to confess an allegiance to the Devil. Refused to the point of death. I find that remarkable and magnificent. It fills me with hope to consider that while we have the capacity to judge when we should show mercy, we also have the capacity to embrace Truth for all we're worth - even if it means we give up everything for it. It wasn't all darkness and deception in 1692 Salem. There was light there, too. It flickered every time the noose was pulled tight on the throat of one who would not give up on God and everything holy and good."
You can learn more about Susan and her books at The book is available at bookstores everywhere and online.

Friday, September 26, 2008

CAW! CAW! Chapter a Week

A Culdee Creek Christmas
By Kathleen Morgan

DEEP AMID THE WINTER SNOW, TWO LIVES ARE WAITING FOR REBIRTH. Both have been scarred by loss and misunderstanding. Both are yearning for a fresh start. As Christmas approaches, can these two hearts find the strength to forgive and the grace to heal? Or will they allow circumstances to send them along different paths?
One Perfect Gift is the heartwarming and tender story you will cherish this Christmas.

It's November 1933 when Jessica Ashmore steps off the train from Baltimore onto the high plains east of Colorado Springs, Colorado with her six-year-old daughter, Emma. Though hungry and penniless, Jessie finds solace in the fact that a nursing job awaits her in this remote outpost. But even the best-laid plans frequently have a way of falling apart.

Longings of the Heart
by Bonnie Leon
Revell Publishers

Will hidden secrets destroy the love they've built?
John and Hannah have survived betrayal and imprisonment.
Now Hannah reaches for a new beginning.
But will secrets from her past destroy the present?
John Bradshaw trusts in a new life. Instead, he discovers deception.
One evil heart lies waiting to tear their lives apart. Will evil triumph?
Or will their longing hearts find joy?
Don't miss this heartrending second book in the Sidney Cove series!
To read an excerpt of these new titles go to Chapter-a-Week and to join our deeper discussion of these and other titles go to Chapter-a-Week Chat at where authors and readers discuss new titles together.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

CAW! CAW! Chapter a Week

Winner Announcement First: Judy Johnston of Santa Maria, California, is the winner of our ten-pound box of books. Congratulations, Judy! There will be more drawings coming up so keep your eyes peeled and tell your friends about Chapter-a-Week.
Warmly, Traci DePree-moderator
The Queen of Sleepy Eye
(B&H Fiction ~ Pure Enjoyment, September 2008)
by Patti Hill

It's the summer of 1975, and Amy Monteiro believes it's high time her mother, Francie, the deposed queen of the 1958 Sleepy Eye Corn Festival lays aside her tiara and grows up. After all, Amy is California bound to college. Studious and focused, Amy is twilight to Francie's midnight beauty. Francie, gregarious as she is impetuous, can't imagine her life without Amy. Determined to detour her daughter's independence, Francie packs her beloved Pontiac Bonneville Sport Coupe, Jubilee Edition, and together they hit the open road. The journey becomes one unforgettable summer. Values clash. Belief sparks. Myths fade. A mother and daughter come to age.

"More than a coming-of-age tale, it's about life and loss, love and forgiveness, and discovering there is more to the world than what we see. In every way, it's a keeper."
--Susan May Warren, author of Finding Stefanie

By Kim Vogel Sawyer

Bestselling author Kim Vogel Sawyer's newest release follows up her award-winning
Waiting for Summer's Return. Using her Mennonite heritage for inspiration, Sawyer pens a story of a young man learning that he must step into his own future-and his own faith. With a style comparable to Janette Oke's, Where the Heart Leads is historically rich, immersing readers into the life and times of days gone by, and yet so relevant today.

To read an excerpt of these new titles go to Chapter-a-Week.

If you enjoy Chapter-a-Week take the time to tell a friend how to sign up. It's easy and free and a great way to find great books that fit each person's particular taste.

Friday, September 05, 2008

CAW! CAW! Chapter A Week

Bon App├ętit
By Sandra Byrd

The sequel to the Christy Award finalist, Let Them Eat Cake

Lexi Stuart is risking it all. Saying au revoir to the security of home, her job, and could-be boyfriend Dan, Lexi embarks on a culinary adventure in France to fulfill her life dream of becoming a pastry chef. Just when life seems set, though, the recipe goes awry and her life with God undergoes a major transformation as well. Now, she's got choices to make from the array in life's patisserie display window and just like at a bakery, choosing among delicious options is never easy.

"I was caught up in Lexi's tug-of-war between her charmed life in France with its possibility of romance, and the pull to Seattle where her family and a very special man long for her return. What a perfect story." -Deborah Raney, author of Remember to Forget and Leaving November

Stepping Into Sunlight
by Sharon Hinck, 2008
Bethany House Publishing

One tragic event.
One project of healing.
One step toward hope.

A story for every woman who has wondered where God is when life hurts.

Penny, a Navy chaplain's wife, witnesses a violent crime and struggles with post traumatic stress while her husband is on his first deployment. She designs a project to speed her recovery: doing one small, kind act for a different person each day. The results are sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, and often used by God in surprising ways.

"Sharon Hinck's authentic and endearing heroine is so convincing that I found myself praying for her!"
-Patti Hill, author of The Queen of Sleepy Eye

"Told with humor and lump-in-the-throat insight, Stepping Into Sunlight is a compelling story of learning to live again after trauma."
-Deborah Raney, author of A Vow to Cherish

To read an excerpt of these new titles go to Chapter-a-Week and to join our deeper discussion of these and other titles go to Chapter-a-Week Chat at where authors and readers discuss new titles together.
If you enjoy Chapter-a-Week take the time to tell a friend how to sign up. It's easy and free and a great way to find great books that fit each person's particular taste.