Small Mercies


Mercy remembers living with her mother and what happened after she died. She recalls the words and actions of Uncle Clifton, and how Aunty Mary and Aunty Flora rescued her. She worries that the home they’ve provided her will disappear. After all aren’t social services’ visits to be feared? Mrs Pruitt and Mrs Griesel are concerned about Mercy’s lack of social interaction and avoidance of extra-curricular activities. They are confused by Aunt Mary’s notes- ‘bone in her leg‘, ‘collywobbles‘? However, Aunty Mary is concerned about Mercy’s education only, not her social interaction.

There is a lot to be concerned about. Aunty Flora is forgetful, the house is falling apart, and it seems they need a lodger’s rent. Who could take up the garden cottage? Maybe not Dr Waku, the Senegalese doctor of protection? What about Mr Singh, with his stories of Mohandas, who once spent ‘a night in the waiting room at the Pietermaritzburg Station after he’d been chucked off the train’. What does Mohandas have to do with financial pressures, the threat of a contractor’s development, Aunty Flora’s decline, social services, and  a false accusation at school? Mercy is deluged by worries.

Yet, Mercy is resourceful. She listens to Aunty Mary and attends to her home and setting. Furthermore she has the number of her classmates and her teacher. She recognises Olive’s desperate need for friendship, and Beatrice’s untrustworthiness. Somehow, Mercy can paddle her own canoe, or can she? Maybe she’s about to find out that the people around her can be depended upon, that she is their cradle and responsibility and family. ‘Small Mercies‘ is a superb, powerful, loving and positive story that Bookwagon is proud to recommend.

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Small Mercies

Bridget Kone

(Walker Books)

Small Mercies‘ are important to cling to when life’s tough. Mercy has enough to worry about, from Mrs Pruitt’s national folk dancing, speaking about a hero before the class, the raffle ticket target and parents’ evening. The last on the list relates to home, and home is the first item of worry on Mercy’s list. What if Mrs Naidoo, the social worker decides that Mercy should move from Aunt Mary and Aunt Flo’s house. It’s the only home that Mercy has ever felt. She can remember her mother, and then Aunty Kathleen and Uncle Clifford and what he did and said. With Aunty Mary and Aunty Flora it is different; she’s loved.
However home is bare and worried. The electricity needs replacing and grocery money is tight. Aunty Flora is lost and Aunty Mary is talking about getting a lodger. Then, there’s next door and the looming presence of the ‘big sweat mark’, Mr Craven. He has plans for the house and land. It seems he won’t be held back by anyone or anything. Thando advises Mercy, ‘Just keep it loose, Not so tense‘. Somehow it’s all too much…
The vocabulary and the feelings are so familiar. It’s not just a Southern Hemisphere/ SANZA thing. Somehow, Bridget Krone has hitched us into Mercy’s perspective so we feel the heat, hear the bees, and smell Aunty Flora’s rotten eggs. Bookwagon is proud to introduce a new South African title, after Jaco Jacobs’ A Good Day for Climbing Trees. However, this is unique, and quite wonderful, more in the vain of Caterpillar Summer. Welcome aboard the wagon ‘Small Mercies‘. What a beautiful story!


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