Synopses & Reviews
“[An] eloquent, sorrowful novel....Readers of both Pat Conroy, on one hand, and Carson McCullers, on the other, will relish Newtons flawed characters and piquant portrayal of small town life.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“Under The Mercy Trees will take your breath away.”
—Robin Antalek, author of The Summer We Fell Apart
Heather Newtons Under the Mercy Trees is a beautifully rendered, heartbreaking first novel that heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice in Southern fiction. The poignant and unforgettable story of a man forced to face his troubled past when he returns to his small hometown in the mountains of North Carolina following the disappearance of his brother, Under the Mercy Trees adds the name Heather Newton to a sterling list of acclaimed authors in the Southern literary tradition that already includes Reynolds Price, Kaye Gibbons, Jill McCorkle, Clyde Edgerton, and Tom Franklin.
"Newton delivers a stirring debut novel told from the perspectives of four central characters embroiled in a family drama that spans generations and is riddled with defensive secrecy and emotional penury in equal measure. After the disappearance of Leon Owenby, his younger brother and central narrator, Martin, returns to the family's Willoby County, N.C., mountain town from his life as a destitute writer in New York City to aid in the search for Leon and support his other siblings. The year is 1986; Martin leaves behind his ex-lover, Dennis, and their many friends sick and dying from AIDS. Back home, he must face his painful past, his extended family to whom he is closeted, and his high school girlfriend (who still carries a torch for him). Many months of searching reveal more about the searchers than about Leon; the secrets and resentments in the Owenby family run deep and bubble to the surface unexpectedly. It's problematic that with so many family issues coming to light, Martin's sexuality is ignored and remains a secret, but Newton's use of multiple viewpoints and distinct voices is adept and lively, and helps to fill in the thin premise of Leon's disappearance. With many novels of this construction, a reader tends to favor one voice over the rest. Not so here; Newton delivers across the board with these characters, who run the gamut from perky to depressive, desperate to schizophrenic. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"I once stood at my grandfather's knee, watching him do tricks with rocks. Later I backpacked by myself in France. I married at twenty, became an attorney in a high-powered Atlanta law firm, then the mother of four. With one friend, I walk and talk; with another, I hike mountains and go to clubs in San Francisco. In Mary Gordon's novella, The Rest of Life
, the old woman Paola searches for the wick running through her life that makes her "the same person who was born, was a child, a girl, a young woman, a woman, and now she is old." Cynthia Newberry Martin, Contrary
(Read the entire Contrary review
Newton presents a beautifully rendered, heartbreaking first novel about a manforced to face his troubled past when he returns to his small hometown in themountains of North Carolina after his brother disappears.
Thirty years ago, Martin Owenby came to New York City with dreams of becoming a writer. Now his existence revolves around cheap Scotch and weekend flings with equally damaged men. When he learns that his older brother, Leon, has gone missing, he must return to the Owenby farm in Solace Fork, North Carolina, to assist in the search. But that means facing a past filled with regrets, the family that never understood him, the girl whose heart he broke, and the best friend who has faithfully kept the home fires burning. As the mystery surrounding Leon's disappearance deepens, so too does the weight of decades-long unresolved differences and unspoken feelings—forcing Martin to deal with the hardest lessons about home, duty, and love.
About the Author
Heather Newton's short stories have appeared in Crucible, Encore, Wellspring, and elsewhere She lives with her family in Asheville, North Carolina, where she is an attorney and mediator.