Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker
Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker is a story about two families from the small town of Titan Falls on the Androscoggin River in northern New Hampshire. This is a gripping character-driven story with touches of magic realism and descriptions of the natural environment of the area. From the author’s descriptions, I felt as if I could not only see the river but smell it as well. The Snow family owns land on the steep ground of the riverbank outside of town on Devil’s Slide Road and has a reputation as ne’er do wells that live off the land. The wealthy and locally powerful McAllister family—husband Cal, wife June, and teen son Nate—operate the paper mill which is the major employer for the town. During autumn in the mid-1990s, nineteen-year-old Mercy Snow arrives at the Snow family land with her older brother Zeke and nine-year-old sister Hannah. Their estranged and now deceased father, Pruitt, had taken ownership of the land in the 1970s--twenty years after the previous owner Gert had gone missing. Mercy finds work with Hazel who owns sheep and makes artisanal yarn. Hazel had been abandoned by the river as a baby and still grieves the loss of her son. Then on the night before Thanksgiving while bringing the church youth group back from a neighboring town, the school bus driven by Hazel’s husband Fergus slides off the icy Devil’s Slide Road. Nate’s childhood friend Suzie is killed, and Fergus suffers brain damage. During the accident investigation, Gert’s remains are uncovered. Zeke’s truck is found crashed further up the road, and Zeke is blamed for the accident. June finds evidence that implicates her husband but chooses to make the Snow family the scapegoats. Mercy knows in her heart that Zeke was not at fault, but she faces a daunting task in clearing his name and keeping the family together. The characters are complex and flawed but likeable and realistic, and in the end some of them will find redemption as well as tragedy.