MERCY'S MILL by Betty Levin

MERCY'S MILL

Age Range: 12 & up
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Distressed by the move to a historic Massachusetts mill her mother and stepfather Roger are restoring, and by their apparent favoritism toward foster sister Janey (5), Sarah (12) becomes involved in the dramas of two of the mill's earlier occupants: 17th-century Mercy, robbed of the mill by a wicked uncle after her mother, an accused witch, died in prison; and Jethro (14), runaway slave. Both are travelers in time: Jethro knew Mercy in the 19th century, to which she somehow fled; now Jethro, having escaped a slave hunter, turns up in the present (with Mercy's crow) during a January thunderstorm. Like Mercy and Janey, who turns out to have been an abused child, he finds sanctuary. Levin, an intelligent writer whose other fine, thoughtful novels include Brother Moose (1990), weaves an intricate web here. Mercy's elusive long-ago story is told in brief, poetic vignettes: bittersweet memories of her parents and darker glimpses culminating when her uncle rapes her. Jethro, befriended by Sarah and making a life in the present, is concerned about Mercy's ultimate fate, but readers may be most interested in Sarah, who--with the help of an exemplary social worker--is growing in sympathy and understanding for her family. In the end Roger (another abused child who's overcome his past) voices Levin's theme: ``No one can change what's happened. The past is always here. But we can do something about the present and maybe about the future.'' Not always easy to follow, but provocative, compelling, and rich in characters and ideas. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: Sept. 16th, 1992
ISBN: 0-688-11122-X
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Greenwillow
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1992




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