Synopses & Reviews
In 1920s New Orleans, Raziela Nolan's magnificent love affair is interrupted by her untimely and tragic death. Immediately after, she chooses to stay between a realm that exists after life and before whatever lies beyond it. From this remarkable vantage point, Razi narrates the story of her lost love as well as of the relationship of Amy and Scott, a young couple whose house she haunts seventy years later. It is their own troubled story that finally compels Razi to slowly unravel the mystery of what happened to her first and only passion, Andrew, and to confront a long-hidden secret.
The Mercy of Thin Air entwines two heartbreaking and redemptive love stories that echo across three generations and culminate in a finish that will leave readers breathless. It is a poignant and brilliant first novel that beautifully captures the nature of love and shows how it transcends all barriers even death.
"A gothically tinged historical take on The Lovely Bones, this debut novel manages to carve out some of its own territory. In late 1920s New Orleans, Raziela 'Razi' Nolan carries on a passionate college love affair with Andrew O'Connell (while planning to be a gynecologist). She desires immortality ('One lifetime isn't enough to make all the trouble of which I'm capable') and gets her wish when she slips poolside, dies and finds herself in a state 'between life and whatever comes next' in which she may observe the world she's left behind and even meddle mildly. As she learns the rules of 'the between' Razi finds it too painful to keep track of Andrew. But 70 years after her death in 1929, she is curious to know what happened to her beloved and is drawn to a young couple, Amy Richmond and Scott Duncan. Domingue captures the equally repressive and uninhibited culture of 1920s America, creates a convincing world of 'the between,' and gives nice shape to the loving but troubled relationship of Amy and Scott as Razi uncovers her connection to them. The novel lacks a fully distinctive voice, but is certainly several cuts above the genre mysteries and historicals it most resembles. 16-city author tour. (Sept. 13)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Debut novelist Domingue weaves a tapestry of lost spirits and misplaced
loves....Sweet, entertaining love stories that could have used a better ending." Kirkus Reviews
"[An] amazing first novel....Razi is so enchanting that readers will
gladly follow her anywhere. Filled with vivid descriptions of scents,
sounds, and marvelous human sensations that people take for granted and
that spirits can only wistfully recall, this is a novel that gets under
one's skin. Mere mortals can only hope that Domingue has more stories to
tell." Library Journal (Starred Review)
"Though Domingue gets a little bogged down in the intricate details of hidden family ties, the well-drawn characters of Razi and Amy ensure that this is an engaging tale." Booklist
"Ronlyn Domingue's debut novel is an ethereal and eternal love story
with images so luminous they lift off the paper. The Mercy of Thin Air
will haunt you long after the last page is turned." Paula Wall,
national bestselling author of The Rock Orchard
"In The Mercy of Thin Air, Raziela Nolan a ghost spins vivid
portraits of the world she left, and the world she isn't allowed to
join, reminding us that there is the finest of lines between present and
past, between life and death, between love and regret. This is that
rarest of first novels a truly original voice, and a truly original
story." Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of Vanishing
Acts and My Sister's Keeper
"With lucid supple prose, Ronlyn Domingue weaves a gossamer tale
suspended between two worlds. Readers will find it difficult to let go
of this moving debut by a remarkable talent well on her way to a
distinguished career." James Wilcox, author of Heavenly Days
"Like The Lovely Bones, Ronlyn Domingue's own first novel makes the
reader feel as if he's died and gone to heaven. The Mercy of Thin Air
should enjoy a similarly long and happy life." James Gordon Bennett,
author of The Moon Stops Here
"Luminous, wise, tender, passionate, and compassionate, this book is
special. Razi is a rare character, and her story opens like the petals
of a flower. She makes me understand, all over again, the redemptive
power of love. One to treasure." Posie Graeme-Evans, author of The
This first-time author offers a stunning, imaginative love story that tests the boundaries of time, grief, and death.
About the Author
Ronlyn Domingue has worked as a grassroots organizer, project manager, teacher, and grant writer. Her short stories have appeared in New England Review, Clackamas Literary Review, and New Delta Review. Born and raised in Louisiana, she lives there still with Todd Bourque and their cats. Visit her website at www.ronlyndomingue.com.
Reading Group Guide
Topics for Discussion
1. The narrative structure of The Mercy of Thin Air alternates between the past and the present. How does this structure build suspense and pique a reader's curiosity about what will happen next? What insight do you get into the lives of Razi and the other characters because of the way the story is told?
2. How did Razi defy the conventions of society in the 1920s? If she had lived, do you think she would have fulfilled her dream of becoming a doctor, or set aside that ambition for marriage and motherhood? Given the time period, would it have been realistic for her to have done both?
3. Although she doesn't know it until after his death, Amy shares a pivotal experience with her grandfather. How did Amy reevaluate her life after she learned what happened to Poppa Fin? Does Amy come to better understand her grandfather after what she discovers about him?
4. Razi tells us, "Most of the ones who stayed between opted for the unknown -- what was beyond -- within weeks after their deaths." Why has Razi chosen to stay between decades after her death? What makes her decide it's finally time to go beyond?
5. Discuss Razi's friendship with Twolly. What is significant about the novel's ending, when Razi is at Twolly's bedside?
6. For years, Razi followed the life of a man she assumed to be her Andrew O'Connell. On some level, did she know he was the wrong person? She says, "I had never questioned whether I tracked the right person because -- in name, action, and deed -- the man had led the life I expected my Andrew to have, the life he had planned." Razi assumes that Andrew would carry along with the plans he had made before she died. Did she underestimate the impact her death would have on Andrew?
7. How have relationships between men and women changed in the last hundred years, as illustrated in this book? Is it startling to see how limiting women's roles really were less than a century ago? Why do you suppose the author chose to set the earlier part of the story in the 1920s instead of in another time period?
8. When Andrew asks Razi if she would consider becoming a nurse instead of a doctor, is he in a sense stifling the very qualities that attracted him to her in the first place? If they had married, how do you think their relationship would have changed?
9. Neither Amy nor Scott "attempted to find the humility, or courage, to make amends. The silence, more than their physical separation, grew in its power to keep them apart for good." Would Amy and Scott have reconciled if not for Razi's intervention?
10. Once Razi had "learned to maneuver through the world without a body," she felt it was her duty "to help others adjust to our translucent realm." What motivates her to assist others in making the transition? Is it a continuation of how she acted in her previous life?
11.How do the five senses factor into the story, particularly smell and touch?
12. At the estate sale at Simon Beeker's home, Razi is drawn to Andrew's bookcase, which leads her to follow Amy and Scott to their home. Was it really Amy to whom Razi felt connected? In what ways are Razi and Amy alike?
13. Emmaline, Simon, and Andrew had unique relationships with one another. Why did Andrew show such concern for Emmaline and Simon? What motivated Simon to keep in touch with Andrew? What issues of race and class were revealed through these characters?
14. What stood out the most for you in this story? What, if anything, did you find yourself remembering days after you finished reading the book?
15. What are your thoughts on whether there is a between realm, a place where a spirit lingers after the body has died? Have you had experiences with paranormal phenomena?
16. The Mercy of Thin Air is Ronlyn Domingue's first novel. What makes you interested in reading her future work? Does this book remind you of other novels you've read? In what ways?