Monday, June 3, 2024

"Works of Mercy" by Sally Thomas

Sometimes it takes tragedy, the unusual, and the suffering of others t shock us out of our own worlds. 

Kirsty Sain is the 60-something housekeeper for the parish priest in Annesdale, North Carolina. She’s originally from the Shetland Islands, and how she ended up in Annesdale is only one of the stories being told in Works of Mercy, a novel by Sally Thomas.


Threading through the novel is also the story of her friendship with a local handyman who decides she needs a cat to take care of her mouse problem and finds her a blind one, her marriage, her affair with her college tutor, a church family experiencing a tragedy, and the problems of the new parish priest, who doesn’t seem to eat, preaches odd sermons, and looks like he might be on the edge of a breakdown. 


It’s a lot to pack in 261 pages, yet Thomas pulls it off, and she does so beautifully. The reader never loses the threads of these stories, as Thomas slowly but surely pulls them together. By the end of the novel, the stories that have fused together tells us a woman’s life rescued from self-centeredness and the cocoon she’s ben encased within. Not all of the narrative threads end happily, but that is also the point. Not all of life ends happily, and happiness is not really the point of it all. 


Sally Thomas

Thomas is a poet and fiction writer. She serves as the thesis advisor for the M.F. A. program at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. She’s published two poetry chapbooks and collection Motherland, with a second collection being published this year. Also being published in 2024 is a collection of short stories, The Blackbird and Other Stories. Thomas served as co-editor (with Micah Mattix) of the anthology Christian Poetry in America Since 1940. Her writing and poetry have appeared in numerous publications, including Plough QuarterlyNorth American AnglicanDappled ThingsFirst ThingsThe New YorkerThe New RepublicPublic DiscourseSouthern Poetry Review, and many others. With Joseph Bottum, Thomas is the co-editor of Poems Ancient and Modern, a poetry newsletter on Substack.


Works of Mercy is a simple, moving novel, inhabited by recognizable people who are so much like the people we know.


Some Monday Readings


Doreen Fletcher’s Spitalfields Paintings – Spitalfields Life.


Anne Elliott is Twenty-Seven – B.D. McClay at The Paris Review on Jane Austen.


Latin – poem and artwork by Sonja Benskin Mesher.


Please remember, terrorism is evil – Marcus Walker at The Critic Magazine.


‘You must punish the foes within your gates’ – Douglas Murray at The Free Press on the speech by Demosthenes.

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