The Unraveling of Mercy Louis reads similarly to pieces I’ve read on the Salem Witch trials in how the town relates to it’s teenage girl population. Which (see what I did there?) is particularly disturbing when you realize it’s set in 1999. Mercy Louis lives in the south among the most thumpin’ of bible thumpers and her grandma, who raised her, is the head honcho thumper. Mercy and the rest of the girls in her town are all put under the microscope when a baby is found dead in a garbage bin. This is a town that has already seen a lot of tragedy and this case seems to send everybody out of the realm of reason and empathy and into finger pointing, anger, and confusion.
One of the things I particularly liked about this story is that it was told alternately by Mercy Louis and a girl that is the manager on her basketball team, Illa. The alternating narrators help keep the story in perspective. It would be easy to get sucked into Mercy or Illa’s personal story and wonder why everybody else isn’t just catching on to what’s really going on with her. Since we get both stories we see exactly how easy it is for them, and any other person, really, to hide some of the harsher realities of their life from people they see every day.
It was actually a little bit hard for me to get through the story, not because it was a bad story or poorly written, it was a great story and very well written, but because it seemed so hopeless and sad for such a long time. These high school girls are dealing with very adult, very real problems, but they are high school girls. No matter the how bad the situation, their options are limited at best. I tend to get very emotionally involved in the stories I read so when it’s as heartbreaking as this one I have to take many breaks, most of which involve watching Friends on Netflix.
Despite my personal problems with reading sad stories, I do believe this is a worthwhile read. It takes on some pretty major moral gray area and shows the radical, and rather ineffective, ways of dealing with it. if nothing else, this story helps to remind us that you never truly know what could be happening in a persons life.