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Under the Mercy Trees by Heather Newton

Searching for Who We Are

A review by Cynthia Newberry Martin

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."

Bertie, however, one of four point-of-view characters in Heather Newton's debut novel, Under the Mercy Trees, prefers to focus on the mystery of how different we can be:

She pondered it at her kitchen table now. How one man could be many. First young and spirited, worth sampling at any cost. Then old, swaddled in sameness.
Martin, the main character, can be quite different. In New York, he's a gay man, while at home in North...


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