Mercy Among the Children

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Mercy Among the Children

by David Adams Richards

Doubleday Canada | August 21, 2001 | Trade Paperback

Mercy Among the Children is rated 4.1154 out of 5 by 26.
Mercy Among the Children received effusive praise from the critics, was nominated for a Governor General’s Award and won the Giller Prize. It was named one of 2000’s best books, became a national bestseller in hardcover for months, and would be published in the US and UK. It is seen, however, as being at odds with literary fashion for concerning itself with good and evil and the human freedom to choose between them — an approach that puts Richards, as Maclean’s magazine says, firmly in the tradition of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Author Wayne Johnston recounts hearing Richards read in 1983 and being struck by his unqualified love for every one of his characters, even though “it was not then fashionable to love your characters”. Pottersfield Portfolio editor Tony Tremblay calls Richards the most misunderstood Canadian writer of the century, and a “great moralist”, comparing him to Morley Callaghan, Kafka and Melville.

As a boy, Sydney Henderson thinks he has killed Connie Devlin when he pushes him from a roof for stealing his sandwich. He vows to God he will never again harm another if Connie survives. Connie walks away, laughing, and Sydney embarks upon a life of self-immolating goodness. In spite of having educated himself with such classics as Tolstoy and Marcus Aurelius, he is not taken seriously enough to enter university because of his background of dire poverty and abuse, which leads everyone to expect the worst of him. His saintly generosity of spirit is treated with suspicion and contempt, especially when he manages to win the love of beautiful Elly. Unwilling to harm another in thought or deed, or to defend himself against false accusations, he is exploited and tormented by others in this rural community, and finally implicated in the death of a 19-year-old boy.

Lyle Henderson knows his father is innocent, but is angry that the family has been ridiculed for years, and that his mother and sister suffer for it. He feels betrayed by his father’s passivity in the face of one blow after another, and unable to accept his belief in long-term salvation. Unlike his father, he cannot believe that evil will be punished in the end. While his father turns the other cheek, Lyle decides the right way is in fighting, and embarks on a morally empty life of stealing, drinking and violence.

A compassionate, powerful story of humanity confronting inhumanity, it is a culmination of Richards’ last seven books, beginning with Road to the Stilt House. It takes place in New Brunswick’s Miramichi Valley, like all of his novels so far, which has led some urban critics to misjudge his work as regional — a criticism leveled at Thomas Hardy, Joseph Conrad and Emily Bronte in their own day. Like his literary heroes, Richards aims to evoke universal human struggles through his depiction of the events of a small, rural place, where one person’s actions impact inevitably on others in a tragic web of interconnectedness. The setting is extremely important in Richards’ work, “because the characters come from the soil”; but as British Columbia author Jack Hodgins once told Richards, “every character you talk about is a character I''ve met here in Campbell River”.

Format: Trade Paperback

Published: August 21, 2001

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385259956

ISBN - 13: 9780385259958

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Heartwrenching and beautiful I picked up this book because I had to read something for my English class and I must say, its extraordinary. My expecatations for this novel were low; restricted to limited Canadian authors in my school library made me think of this novel as juvenile. I was greatly mistaken. The characters contained so much depth. "Sydney Henderson is a passive man" is an understatement. He's a pushover to the last degree. The first half of the novel focuses on him and his morals and ideals in life. You can't help but think "He's a complete coward" at some point in the novel. His son Lyle, can't disagree more with his father. He rebels, and discards his father's teachings. This novel shows the two sides of man and how each and every one of us has the ability to do the right thing but are unable to. Richards presents the story in the most beautiful way. It has been a long time since I last cried while reading. The only thing I disliked was the underlining of religious preaching in his texts which made me pull away slightly. I dont reccomend this to anyone simply because it is a heavy read and taxing on the heart.
Date published: 2010-09-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Like seeing a car accident... Another Canada Reads 2009 contender (I recently blogged about another one called The Outlander) that I read for my book club. But unlike The Outlander, I did not care for this one. Taking place in rural New Brunswick during the 1980’s and 90’s, the story follows the Henderson family as they eke out a meager living from trapping and working for the local bigwig, Leo McVicer. Sidney Henderson and Connie Devlin were twelve when they were shoveling snow off the roof of the local church and began arguing and the ensuing fight resulted in Connie falling and Sydney thinking that he’s dead. He wasn’t but in the time it took for Sydney to realize Connie was okay, Sydney promised God that he would never do another thing to harm another human. Making that promise was much harder to live with than it seemed at the time. The rest of the book deals with the challenges Sydney, his wife and children face as they deal with the repercussions of this oath. I read this novel for my book club – there’s no way I’d have finished it otherwise. It’s so bleak – it’s worse than depressing. I can take the poverty, but the child abuse and neglect, no. The characters were at various times cowardly, weak-kneed, fundamentally evil, selfish, spineless, pathetic, helpless, etc. The few that did do something kind for another person seemed to be motivated by guilt rather than any altruistic sensibility. And really, do bad things actually happen that often to people or are they offset even occasionally by good things? This book won the Giller Prize in 2000. Those judges must love wallowing in misery. Don’t get me wrong – the writing is good and the story is told well. But it’s like constantly picking the scab from a wound – it never gets better and sometimes even becomes infected, but you can’t stop picking even if it’s painful. Well, this whole book was one gaping wound. But hey, some people just love this kind of book – I’m just not one of them.
Date published: 2009-04-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Humanity so real it hurts. This remarkable novel is one of the most profoundly sad and difficult fiction reads I've encountered in a long time. I would remind myself that it was a work of fiction, and feel grateful. Richards creates characters that evoke empathy in ways that were completely unexpected. Yes, I felt empathy with the unfortunate Hendersons -- Sydney the father who made a pact never to knowingly "hurt" only to scar his young son Lyle in ways he never truly understood. And Lyle, the boy so determined to become different than his father, and yet was so like him he hid himself away. But I also empathized with those characters whose behaviours were abominable -- which surprised me and I credit that to the exemplary story-telling skills that Richards employs. This book made me feel ashamed -- ashamed of the many times I overlook poverty in my own community and ashamed of the complacency with which I accept my comfortable lifestyle as deserved. A truly remarkable novel.
Date published: 2009-03-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Evil is as evil does Having picked up far too many books at the library on my last visit, I thought I wasn’t going to have the opportunity to finish Mercy Among the Children before its due date, but I made it a priority once hearing it was a Canada Reads 2009 selection. I will happily pay the late fees when entertained with such thought provoking and affecting storytelling as this. Our narrator, Lyle Henderson, has the misfortune of being a descendent of a father and grand-father who have been outcasts in their small New Brunswick town for decades. Poverty, alcohol and condemnation have all been sources of ridicule and embarrassment that these men have had to endure. Lyle’s father, Sydney, a compassionate, stoic and righteous man, lives his life under the “turn the other cheek,” philosophy, and has faith in the fact that those who attempt to hurt him or his family, will eventually hurt themselves. This is a tough pill to swallow for Lyle, who sees his dad’s inability to protect or stand up for the family as pacifism, and ultimately neglect. His eventual recourse is to become a renegade, as he starts to detest all the propriety and weakness that his father seems governed by. I would often find myself in a tizzy after reading the incessant small-town gossip and lies that run rampant throughout, and in disgust would throw the book down and pace my living room shouting obscenities at the ruthless and diabolical nature of the characters Richards has expertly presented us with. I would ferociously plead for Saint-Sydney to grow a spine and reject the false accusations made of him. As another one of his philosophies is never to beg the truth of anyone that wouldn’t understand it, for him justice was something that could only be obtained through patience, and waiting for others to self-destruct, not participating in injurious revenge. It was these instilled moral convictions versus a teenagers need be accepted and feel safe within the morally corrupt society around him, that ignited the internal battle between good and evil that Lyle found himself struggling with throughout this complex, tragic, and tightly woven tale. Although you won’t find any perfectly ‘happy endings’ here, there are ponderous messages relating to spirituality, the essence of bravery, the possibility of redemption in spite of affliction, and the importance of truth, that leave me feeling challenged and inspired, no matter how lamentable the outcomes. I look forward to reading more of David Adams Richards’ work. www.booksnakereviews.blogspot.com
Date published: 2009-02-27
Rated 1 out of 5 by from The worst book I have ever read. I don't say that lightly. I don't even have a novel that is looking in from second place. I read constantly, but this is the first time I feel visceral anger at a novel. Every time someone was about to do something cruel to the Hendersons, there is a 5 page introspection as to why they are going to do it. And I still never understand their motivations. I have been trying to find a friend willing to read this book in order to find out if it is just me. Unfortunately, I think I have made my prejudices against this book to clear and nobody wants to.
Date published: 2009-02-05
Rated 1 out of 5 by from This book was absolutely ATROCIOUS BY FAR THE WORST BOOK I HAVE EVER READ!!! The entire novel consists of a whiney brat complaining about all of the "tragedies" in his life. This book should be burned. I would pay money if i could un-read the book!
Date published: 2008-11-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Much Deserving of Five Stars! From start to finish, I could find no fault with this book. It quickly pulls the reader into its wonderfully woven web of deceit and hardships, love and hate, regret and redemption. Set in a time when the Catholic Church still looms ever present and ever powerful, a classic struggle of good verses evil plays out between the Hendersons and the Pits; the Lumber Lord McVicer and the little men who struggle to make a living. The manufactured lies ran rampant against the one man, Sydney Henderson, who is truly good; a man who has sworn a pact with God, never to harm another soul. I found it incredulous that these small town people (especially those in authority) were more than willing to believe the worst about one of their own. No matter what Sydney does to help his fellow neighbours, he is continually beaten down like a clown punching bag. Even when his own life and the heart of his family are threatened, Sydney remains true to his pact. Though the lines between good and evil are well defined, the more you get to know and understand the characters who reside in this book, the more you will care about them, even the most retched and hateful of the lot. The Henderson children: Lyle, Autumn, and little Percy, will linger long after you put this book to rest.
Date published: 2008-07-19
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Interesting... The writing in itself was quite decent and kept your interest. However the storyline itself was miserable beyond all reckoning.
Date published: 2008-07-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from THE BEST BOOK EVER! I have read a lot of fiction, and this book is without a doubt the absolutely best novel I have ever read in my life! I thought Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird was unrivalled, but Mercy Among The Children beats even that! It is the saddest, most touching, and best-written novel I have ever come across; and it will change the way you see and treat people. It is extremely thought-provoking, and did I mention - VERY sad... But an absolutely astoundingly amazingly brilliantly excellent book. I give it six stars.
Date published: 2007-06-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Mercy Among the Children Wow. This book was so full of small town friction. I found it hard to accept that Sydney wouldn't stand up to the rest of the town. His family suffered so much! I can't even imagine what that kind of poverty would be like, in this decade. Sad and frustrating but it was a satisfying read...
Date published: 2005-09-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thought provoking The anger and sorrow in this book is a little overwhelming. I found it refreshing for the hero not to be leading a charmed life. This is a story of how people live and how we treat each other. I admired the courage of Sidney for standing by his pact with God but felt a lot of sadness for the suffering of his family. For part of this book I felt anger toward Sidney and sadness for Lyle's suffering but over time I found myself feeling admiration for a man who stood by his word. All he had for his family was the strength of his integrity. This book is well worth every minute you spend reading it. It is the kind of book you really never want to end.
Date published: 2005-07-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just finished Like 'Fall on your knees', I had to keep reminding myself this was fiction or I wouldn't have made it through. Nonetheless, it made me cry, the characters are the embodiment of us all. Amazing writing style. When I've recovered, I will go back for more.
Date published: 2004-08-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Hardy lives again - in New Brunswick! One of the back cover reviews of this book compares it to Thomas Hardy. How true! I was annoyed that the Henderson family seemed incapable of fighting back - father was convinced that all would work out according to God's plan. Well, I agree with the son, Lyle. Father was a fool. A good man, even perhaps a saint but a fool none the less. The book is interesting and worth reading, but be prepared for sadness and grief. I found that there were, like Hardy. too many co-incidences. Read Far from the Madding Crowd or Jude the Obscure and you will. I think, agree with me.
Date published: 2003-12-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredible I have put this novel on the top of my list. What an incredibly talented writer Richards is! Sydney invaded my thoughts for a long time after I had closed the book, and is a character I will never forget. I was so moved by this story, and often found myself weeping for the pain endured by Sydney and his family. Richards has given us a true depiction of how humanity can be so cruel, and yet how personal conviction can withstand unrelenting persecution. A beautiful story.
Date published: 2003-05-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Witness human nature at its best and its worst In this Giller Prize-winner, narrator Lyle Henderson tells the story of his family in small-town NB. As a child, his father Sydney vowed to God that he would never harm a soul and he holds true to that promise. Others see this as mere weakness and pity him or see it as an opportunity to take advantage of him. Witnessing this as a child, Lyle takes a different and more aggressive attitude towards the world, and we witness how it all works out for both of them. An intriguing writing style and fascinating characters. Both story and characters are drawn differently than I'm used to, but it was nice to have something different as a challenge, and it was still incredibly realistic and interesting. The narration by Lyle is also different. Can a book be depressing and uplifting at one time? Read Mercy Among the Children to find out!
Date published: 2002-11-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent This is a very good book. One word of advice - go back and read the beginning when you're done. It ties everything together very nicely.
Date published: 2002-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Bravo An excellent choice for Heather's Picks. I recommend it to everyone I talk to. When you try to paraphrase it for someone it sounds very depressing (father of very poor family is falsely accused of several things and the book deals with the effect this has on the family). For some strange reason I found it uplifting and very filling, as though I'd just pulled myself away from the table after a wonderful meal. I'm glad Heather pointed it out to me!
Date published: 2002-10-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Touching Description of Humanity This book paints a tragic picture of how a family can be destroyed by a hatefull society. Wonderful novel, one of the most touching i have ever experienced.
Date published: 2002-08-14
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Very Challenging Read This was a book chosen for our book club. I was actually looking forward to this book because I had read the cover before. The last time I felt this worn out reading was in high school. If you are able to pass this one up. It may be award winning but it was the longest read of my life.
Date published: 2002-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It's got it all. I'm using this book for my M.A. thesis at Acadia University, and I've read it three times, now. It's got everything! Richards so poingantly describes the sort of problems we all must deal with in our lives: finding and keeping love, growing old, fitting in. Essentially, this book, like much of Richards's fiction is essentially about holding onto the humanity, the inherent goodness, that we all possess, in the face of the hardships we face as we grow: bureaucratic red tape, political and personal agendas that stereotype and underestimate us. Richards does this so well: I honestly laughed and cried at the characters and the not-so-simple (but very well-done) twists of fate. Read this book now, so that when the movie comes out (I predict) you'll be able to say "The book was way better."
Date published: 2001-03-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Touching This book was wonderful! It had me in tears. It had me shaking my head and nodding my head. I was truly touched. I won't go into many details, because that would spoil it for everyone else, but the descriptions were fabulous.
Date published: 2001-02-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mercy Among the Children - a satiating read This is the first book by David Adams Richards that I have read - an oversight that I intend to rectify in short order. The story line and various characters depict several of kinds of love: agape, storag, eros and philia. Furthermore, important issues of ethics and moral conduct are addressed. Responsibility of how one deals with various moral and ethical codes and their conflict is heartwarmingly addressed. Often times, at life's crossroads, we take easy routes; Sydney Henderson, on the other hand opts for the morally responsible and correct choices. Sydney suspects that the cost of his actions might end up costing him dearly, yet he perceivers, for he remains guilt free and secure in the knowledge that he does right and honourable things/deeds. His family too inherits this disposition; save his son Lyle. Lyle's actions and decisions offer a contrast to what Sydney might have done. Mr. Richards has managed to sound Maritime's chilling, winter appealing and inviting in its own right. His description has convinced me to go and visit Miramichi. Thank you Sir (not David Scone) for satiating my great appetite for good books. I shall use the book for my course work.
Date published: 2001-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mercy! What a read!!! I pride myself in reading novels of all types from love stories to horror stories and I must say this book was in a league of its own. This is the first book that had me crying out loud and stopping to reflect upon my own life and decisions made in it. I have passed on this book to my husband who will then pass on to my mother who also appreciate an excellent read that doesn't leave one brain dead. My only regret is that I didn't spend the extra $10.00 and order the autographed book!!! Thanks for the good read Mr.Richards
Date published: 2001-01-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant, Without Question While I read many books, there are few authors whose new hardcover releases I buy on sight. David Adams Richards is one of them. I didn't think Richards could top his last novel (the moving "Bay Of Love And Sorrows"), yet after the final page of "Mercy Among the Children" was read, I was a loss for words once again. Immediately, I wanted to send a letter to Richards and thank him for writing such a wonderful novel, a feeling I've never had upon finishing a book before. I felt that satisfied to have been able to relish in this work of art. Richards has a way of making you care deeply about his characters. Even if your plan is to step casually into his written world with full intentions of not caring, it doesn't matter. In short time you'll find your emotions firmly invested in the people who live in this saga. You will want to know where their story goes and what fate awaits them. Along the way, you will savor each and every page. I could go on and on, but I won't. Just buy this book. It's a great read that one won't soon forget.
Date published: 2000-12-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mercy Among the Children I couldn't put the book down. Although I sometimes found it difficult to keep track of all the characters and their interconnections, I was able to create a vivid mental image of each of them. I didn't find the book at all predictable and was surprised with each twist and turn. A very thought provoking book! Thank you Mr. Richards.
Date published: 2000-11-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The finest read I've had in a long time... I picked up a copy of this book after having listened to an excellent review about it on CBC Radio 1. Despite having some awareness about the content of the story, I was surprised at the twists and turns found within the plot. Richards weaves together a painfully beautiful story with believeable, richly developed, dynamic characters. One becomes a spider on the wall listening on conversations and slowly learning about what really is going on. I've been raving about this book to everyone who would listen to me since I read it. It has now won (or rather tied for) the Giller prize in Canadian literature and I am overjoyed that Richards is finally geting some recognition for his wonderful writing. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend "Mercy Among the Children."
Date published: 2000-11-08

– More About This Product –

Mercy Among the Children

by David Adams Richards

Format: Trade Paperback

Published: August 21, 2001

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385259956

ISBN - 13: 9780385259958

Read from the Book

The small Catholic churches here are all the same, white clapboard drenched with snow or blistering under a northern sun, their interiors smelling of confessionals and pale statues of the Madonna. Our mother, Elly Henderson, took us to them all along our tract of road — thinking that solace would come. In November the lights shone after seven o''clock on the stained-glass windows. The windows show the crucifixion or one of the saints praying. The hills where those saints lived and dropped their blood look soft, distant and blue; the roads wind like purple ribbons toward the Mount of Olives. It is all so different from real nature with its roaring waters over valleys of harsh timber where I tore an inch and a half of skin from my calves. Or Miramichi bogs of cedar and tamarack and the pungent smell of wet moosehide as the wounded moose still bellows in dark wood. I often wanted to enter the world of the stained glass — to find myself walking along the purple road, with the Mount of Olives behind me. I suppose because I wanted to be good, and my mother wanted goodness for me. I wanted too to escape the obligation I had toward my own destiny, my family, my sister and brother who were more real to me than a herd of saints. My father''s name was Sydney Henderson. He was born in a shack off Highway 11, a highway only Maritimers could know — a strip of asphalt through stunted trees and wild dead fields against the edge of a cold sky. He did poorly in school but at
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From the Publisher

Mercy Among the Children received effusive praise from the critics, was nominated for a Governor General’s Award and won the Giller Prize. It was named one of 2000’s best books, became a national bestseller in hardcover for months, and would be published in the US and UK. It is seen, however, as being at odds with literary fashion for concerning itself with good and evil and the human freedom to choose between them — an approach that puts Richards, as Maclean’s magazine says, firmly in the tradition of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Author Wayne Johnston recounts hearing Richards read in 1983 and being struck by his unqualified love for every one of his characters, even though “it was not then fashionable to love your characters”. Pottersfield Portfolio editor Tony Tremblay calls Richards the most misunderstood Canadian writer of the century, and a “great moralist”, comparing him to Morley Callaghan, Kafka and Melville.

As a boy, Sydney Henderson thinks he has killed Connie Devlin when he pushes him from a roof for stealing his sandwich. He vows to God he will never again harm another if Connie survives. Connie walks away, laughing, and Sydney embarks upon a life of self-immolating goodness. In spite of having educated himself with such classics as Tolstoy and Marcus Aurelius, he is not taken seriously enough to enter university because of his background of dire poverty and abuse, which leads everyone to expect the worst of him. His saintly generosity of spirit is treated with suspicion and contempt, especially when he manages to win the love of beautiful Elly. Unwilling to harm another in thought or deed, or to defend himself against false accusations, he is exploited and tormented by others in this rural community, and finally implicated in the death of a 19-year-old boy.

Lyle Henderson knows his father is innocent, but is angry that the family has been ridiculed for years, and that his mother and sister suffer for it. He feels betrayed by his father’s passivity in the face of one blow after another, and unable to accept his belief in long-term salvation. Unlike his father, he cannot believe that evil will be punished in the end. While his father turns the other cheek, Lyle decides the right way is in fighting, and embarks on a morally empty life of stealing, drinking and violence.

A compassionate, powerful story of humanity confronting inhumanity, it is a culmination of Richards’ last seven books, beginning with Road to the Stilt House. It takes place in New Brunswick’s Miramichi Valley, like all of his novels so far, which has led some urban critics to misjudge his work as regional — a criticism leveled at Thomas Hardy, Joseph Conrad and Emily Bronte in their own day. Like his literary heroes, Richards aims to evoke universal human struggles through his depiction of the events of a small, rural place, where one person’s actions impact inevitably on others in a tragic web of interconnectedness. The setting is extremely important in Richards’ work, “because the characters come from the soil”; but as British Columbia author Jack Hodgins once told Richards, “every character you talk about is a character I''ve met here in Campbell River”.

From the Jacket

Believing he may have accidentally killed a friend, Sydney Henderson makes a pact with God. If God will spare the boy's life, Sydney will never again harm another human being.

In the years that follow, the self-educated, brilliant and now almost pathologically gentle Sydney holds true to his promise. Yet others in the small rural community in New Brunswick view Sydney's pacifism as an opportunity to exploit and torment the defenseless Hendersons. Tragedy strikes when a small boy dies as a result of an act of sabotage and revenge gone horribly wrong. It is a death for which Sydney is blamed. Guilty only of being different, Sydney refuses to defend himself and his family. Raised on the books his father has long collected, Sydney's son Lyle shares a deep respect for the power of words. But when he is forced to watch his family ridiculed and attacked, Lyle turns his back on God and literature, and adopts an aggressive strategy for protecting his mother, sister and brother. In the end it is Lyle who must decide what legacy his family's tragedy will hold. Amid the squalor of their lives, Sydney and Lyle demonstrate how humanity faces inhumanity, how lies and disappointments cannot and will never destroy truth or human greatness.

Written with the characteristic control, intelligence and compassion for which Richards has been widely acclaimed, Mercy Among the Children is a story set in a particular time and place, yet its message is universal.

About the Author

David Adams Richards was born in 1950 in Newcastle, New Brunswick, the third of six children in a working-class family. Though he didn’t grow up as poor as Lyle, he knew something about feeling different in a rural community, having a “townie” father who owned a movie theatre and suffered from narcolepsy. He found his calling at the age of fourteen, after reading Oliver Twist , and embarked on a life of extraordinary purpose, which he says didn’t help the family finances: "Sometimes…I thought it would be better if I were a plumber, but I wouldn’t be very good." He studied literature at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, and while working on a second novel he attended an informal weekly writers workshop, known as the Ice House Gang for the converted storage room where they met. There he received encouragement from established writers including the late Alden Nowlan, whom he names as an important influence along with Faulkner, Pushkin, Dostoevsky and Emily Bronte. He published a book of poetry, Small Heroics , in the New Brunswick Chapbooks Series in 1972. When the first five chapters of The Coming of Winter won the Norma Epstein Prize for Creative Writing in 1973, he left university three credits short of his degree to write full-time; the book was published the following year, and translated into Russian. He and his wife Peggy, who had met at 17 and married at 21, spent several years travelling in Canada, Australia and Europe (
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Author Interviews

Can you tell us how you became a writer?

Read Oliver Twist when I was 14 — never wanted to do anything else after that.

What inspired you to write this particular book? Is there a story about the writing of this novel that begs to be told?

It’s a book with one question. When is turning against others necessary. It is a question asked by two people, Sydney and Lyle. And in their struggle all society is examined from top to bottom.

What is that you’re exploring in this book?

Many themes and many favourite characters. One of the major themes is how modern men and women have mistaken public opinion for truth, and have at times allowed this to diminish their better natures.

Are there any tips you would give a book club to better navigate their discussion of your book?

Realize that this is a study as much of love as hate, as much of joy as sorrow. Elly and Sydney are not the victims here – those who torment them and order their trial are.

Which authors have been most influential to your own writing?

Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Conrad, Bronte, Alden Nowlan, Alistair MacLeod, and many others.

If you weren’t writing, what would you want to be doing for a living? What are some of your other passions in life?

I’d be dead from over-fishing and over-hunting and over-curling.

If you could have written one book in history, what book would that be?

I can’t imagine writing War and Peace.

Editorial Reviews

"Richards is a painfully sharp observer, who possesses one of the most distinct and compelling voices in contemporary literature." — The Toronto Star "Richards has a wonderful ear for the cadence of the language, and his compassion for his poorest characters'' misery is infectious — the best of Richards'' work is dark in tone, both harshly realistic and lyrically sympathetic to the most disadvantaged members of society." — The Globe and Mail "At its best, Richards'' work has a touch of greatness, yielding up reminders, sharp as wood smoke on an autumn evening, of both the pity and the glory of being human." — Maclean''s "His voice is one of the most powerful and necessary to be found in Canadian fiction." — Ottawa Citizen "Wit and acuity mark out this Canadian writer of unaffected, unsentimental integrity." — The Observer (U.K.) " Mercy Among the Children is a major novel precisely because it disavows concern for the structure of things in any one place and time in favour of the structure of things for all places and times." — The Globe and Mail "David Adams Richards is perhaps the greatest Canadian writer alive ... Although Mercy Among the Children is unrelentingly tragic, as with most great tragedies the undertone is one of boundless hope." — Vancouver Sun "In its depth of feeling and fierce drive, Mercy Among the Children makes even the best of contemp
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Bookclub Guide

Can you tell us how you became a writer?

Read Oliver Twist when I was 14 — never wanted to do anything else after that.

What inspired you to write this particular book? Is there a story about the writing of this novel that begs to be told?

It’s a book with one question. When is turning against others necessary. It is a question asked by two people, Sydney and Lyle. And in their struggle all society is examined from top to bottom.

What is that you’re exploring in this book?

Many themes and many favourite characters. One of the major themes is how modern men and women have mistaken public opinion for truth, and have at times allowed this to diminish their better natures.

Are there any tips you would give a book club to better navigate their discussion of your book?

Realize that this is a study as much of love as hate, as much of joy as sorrow. Elly and Sydney are not the victims here – those who torment them and order their trial are.

Which authors have been most influential to your own writing?

Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Conrad, Bronte, Alden Nowlan, Alistair MacLeod, and many others.

If you weren’t writing, what would you want to be doing for a living? What are some of your other passions in life?

I’d be dead from over-fishing and over-hunting and over-curling.

If you could have written one book in history, what book would that be?

I can’t imagine writing War and Peace.
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