Have you ever felt like you've fallen into a story because the
descriptions and characters awaken your senses and take you to
another place and time? Sandra Dallas's NEW MERCIES provides this
experience for the reader.
Set in 1933 in Natchez, Mississippi, the story begins as Nora
Bondurant pulls up in a cab to view Avoca, her family's grand old
house. Nora has recently learned that she inherited Avoca. The cab
driver believes the house is haunted with ghosts and alive with the
goats that her aunt had raised there. As she walks into the house,
Nora meets the caretaker, Ezra.
Nora isn't sure whether or not to believe the cab driver's stories
because her father's family was unknown to her and her mother.
Added to the mystery of her father's background, Nora's aunt,
Amalia Bondurant, was murdered, and the neighbor who shot her
committed suicide. Their bodies were found together at Avoca.
As she acquaints herself with the town of Natchez, Nora learns more
about her newfound family and the society in which her aunt had
played a role. The town and its inhabitants begin to have their own
appeal for the independent Northerner. Will Nora sell Avoca? Will
she stay and become part of this Southern community?
She questions why her aunt was murdered. And why did the murderer
commit suicide? Are there family and community secrets surrounding
her aunt that led to these acts? Nora learns that Amalia Bondurant
lived the life of a Southern debutante, and yet Amalia supported
herself and the caretakers, Ezra and Aunt Polly, by raising goats
and selling their milk. How had she managed to survive all those
years? She was beautiful and well-loved, yet she had broken her
engagement to the man who later murdered her. Why was the
engagement broken? And what desperate act drove her former
fiancée to end both of their lives?
Nora's life in Denver, Colorado has had its share of misfortunes
too. She is well regarded in Denver society even though her
marriage ended in divorce, and her ex-husband was killed in an
airplane crash. Nora also discovers that her aunt knew all about
her, including her marriage and divorce. With the help of Ezra,
Aunt Polly and her aunt's friends, Nora solves the mystery of
Amalia's life. In the process, the sorrows in Nora's life take on a
Sandra Dallas is a gifted writer who can make history come alive
through her characters and their circumstances. She shows us how
women lived during a different time and how society's conventions
limited them and yet made them fiercely independent. Known for her
twists and turns in her previous stories, Dallas has delivered
Reviewed by Jennifer McCord on January 12, 2011