I can’t decide if it’s ironic or completely obvious that this blog would be so difficult to write.
Perhaps I needed to wait until a quiet dawn. When the sky lightens moment, by moment, imperceptible at first and all of a sudden there it is. Daybreak.
Mercy, in many ways, is about letting go. The title suggests it, the act of mercy suggests it, and the painting itself is a manifestation of it, both in its creation and when Carly has to part with it.
The best thing about letting go of Mercy, of sending the book into the world, is the way it comes back to me from the readers. One morning when I was walking down the street a reader pulled up in her car and shouted gleefully, “I need to know who bought the painting! Where is Mercy?”
It was the spontaneous topic of many of the book clubs I attended. A few people in different book clubs thought Michael may have bought it. Someone always refuted that, saying it would have ruined things if he had. The beauty of art is that either interpretation works because it lives in the imagination of the reader.
Having the author there may seem as though it would settle things, but how does one person settle the mind of another’s imagination? It can’t be done. In a quantum existence, both things occurred.
During one book club I attended, in Pleasantville New York, I had the privilege of meeting 14 women who had been friends for many years. They had met on the baseball fields when their sons were small. Their boys grew up to be men, the women remained friends, and six years ago, as a way to retain their connection, they began a book club. The women let go of their chil
dren, but they deepened their friendship.
During the book discussion the topic of letting go came up as it invariably does with Mercy. The woman who hosted the book club was in the throes of post-hurricane Maria. Her mother at 87 years old did not want to leave her life-long home and had chosen to remain. Our hostess understood that she had to let go of the idea that she needed to bring her mother to the comfort and safety of her own home.
I remember looking around at the Halloween pumpkins she had welcoming us at the front door, the circle of light emanating from carefully placed lamps, the dining table laden with food the women had cooked for one another. I understood that although this was such a place of warmth and caring, her mother didn’t want to let go of her own home. It was courageous of both of them, the mother who chose to stay and the daughter who knew she had to let her.
When women tell me what resonated with them in this book, I recognize that everything I had to let go of in order to write Mercy and each woman has given me something precious in return, a piece of themselves, until Mercy has formed a new mosaic, one that lives in our collective imagination, shared by all of us, unique to each of us.
Rebecca Chianese is an author living and working in New York. She is the author of two screenplays, “Daffodil Hill” and “Waltzing With My Father” which were accepted into the Hudson Valley Reading Series. Her plays, “The Session” and “That’s Life” were both produced off-broadway in NYC. Mercy is her first novel.
Rebecca was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She lives with her husband and children in the Historical Hudson Valley. Her love of reading began with the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza and she has been writing as long as she was able to hold a pencil. Walking along the Hudson River is where most of her characters come to life and boss her around until she tells their stories.