Title: Finding Mercie
Author: Blaine Yorgason
Just a warning. This is not going to be nice. As honest as possible, but decidedly not nice.
If this book had been a paperback instead of a digital copy, I think I would have actually thrown it at the wall a few times. I was excited to see a book with LDS characters set in Chicago, and especially a novel with non-white LDS protagonists, so I had high hopes for Finding Mercie, but it was problematic for me on so many levels. When Hector Lopez finds a bleeding, frozen little girl on a Chicago street corner and rushes her to the hospital, the police initially suspect him, which forces them to examine his life a little more closely.
In Yorgason's defense, I think Hector's character is pretty interesting. He's charitable and spiritual to a fault, and that sometimes results in him having an inflexible world view. He's also very hard on himself. The other characters in the book, however, don't work as well. When the book opens, Hector's teenage son, Raul (literally a choir boy), and his girlfriend learn that they're expecting a baby. Both are good, active LDS kids who only slipped once. They had sex, and immediately (within a few hours) were in the bishop's office confessing their sin. Both of the teenagers go through a period of self-flagellation, and the girlfriend, in particular, has a lengthy passage where she basically compares herself to Bathsheba for not always being as modest in dress and attitude as she should be. There are times when I feel like passages from bad church slideshows from the 1970s have been dropped right into the book and this is one of them. Hector's girlfriend, Liliana, is also perplexingly inflexible. I have a hard time seeing Liliana and Hector having a successful marriage, despite what the angels say.
The book includes a lot of dreams and scenes where angels take care of Mercie (the girl Hector rescued). Call me a skeptic, but these scenes did not work for me. Hector seemed to base his life on these dreams, and even the police found themselves following the directives of the angels.
I think that the main problem of the book is that there were so many characters and storylines and some of them weren't wrapped up at all (how did Hector get his money? what is the prognosis of his illness? what's going to happen to the good-turned-bad-turned-good police officer? what's the deal with the dead teacher?) and others wrapped up a little too neatly. For example, there are 9 million people in the Chicago Metro area, but one bad guy was responsible for all the bad in the whole book. It felt completely unrealistic to have at least three different attacks perpetrated by the same baddie. It almost felt as if the bad acts were predetermined and predestined, because there was so much hokey spiritual stuff in the rest of the book.
Finally, while I admire Yorgason's attempt to capture the dialect of the Hispanic characters and the teen characters, both came off in a way that felt false and rubbed me the wrong way. And the village of Schamburg, which is an important location in the book, is consistently spelled wrong throughout. A good editor would have helped immensely on this project.