The venture ahead could leave their friendship behind.
Made a safe-haven after the Civil War, Ironwood Plantation is a refuge of equality for former slaves. But twenty years and a new generation later, they have become an isolated community with little contact with the rest of the world.
Mercy Carpenter is everything the world thinks she shouldn’t be. Educated and adventurous, she longs to make a life for herself beyond the beautiful prison of Ironwood. When she secretly submits an article to the Boston Globe under a man’s name and receives an enthusiastic response and an offer for employment, she’s determined to take advantage of the opportunity. But she isn’t prepared for a startling world that won’t accept her color or her gender, and her ambitions soon land her in grave danger.
The privileged daughter of a plantation owner and an aspiring suffragette, Faith Harper is determined not to marry. Especially not her father’s opportunistic new business partner. She doesn’t want any man telling her what to do, least of all the annoyingly chivalrous Nolan Watson. But when Mercy goes missing, Faith will do anything to find her best friend, even if it means trusting a man she doesn’t understand. In a time where prejudices try to define them, Mercy and Faith must push the boundaries of their beliefs and trust in the God who holds the keys to freedom.
A small description at the beginning made me wonder if the girls’ relationship was like that of Tiana and Charlotte in Disney’s movie The Princess and the Frog. While Faith is a rich girl, that is the main similarity she has to Charlotte besides being sheltered.
Faith and Mercy grew up together almost like sisters. They are both well read and passionate about women’s rights. Mercy chafes at her lack of opportunities.
Despite feeling trapped in the safety at Ironwood Plantation due to the prejudices that remain in the surrounding area, Mercy is sure people in the North see people of color as equals. Mercy hates to go against her parents’ advice but feels an overwhelming desire to use her God-given talent for writing.
She uses nearly all her money to travel by train to accept employment offered her, under pen name Mr. Fredrick Mercy, by the Boston Globe without further inquiry. Mercy arrives in Boston nearly penniless but full of hope.
It didn’t matter. Because among all the other things she knew, she knew what she wanted, and if God alone was the only one that supported her, then so be it.
Before Mercy leaves, she quarrels with her dear friend Faith. This was one of my least favorite parts of the book. I dislike what feels like forced misunderstandings in a book and there are a lot. However, they are realistic. I’ve come to realize it’s way too easy to misunderstand even a best friend or spouse. The trick is to pray for help to soften our hearts and forgive quickly.
Unfortunately, Mercy thinks Faith is now prejudiced against her ability to succeed because of Mercy’s color. Faith is just being realistic that people are not as fair minded as Mercy believes so she won’t receive a fair chance. Mercy is also jealous of Faith’s opportunities because she is white
Mercy quickly finds out how unkind people can be outside of Ironwood. She is accused of horrible things and the newspaper editor refuses to employ her. She is now stuck in Boston without a place to stay or means of support.
She turned her face to the sky. Thank you, Lord, for light. Her heart burned. And I am so sorry for what I’ve done. Help me, please.
Everyone at Ironwood becomes frantic when they realize Mercy secretly left home. Mr. Harper travels to Boston with his daughter Faith to find Mercy despite an injured knee. His employee Nolan Watson, whom Faith is determined to keep at a distance because of more misunderstandings and her suffragist sentiments, accompanies them to aid them.
Faith and Nolan learn girls have been mysteriously disappearing from the streets of Boston. Could Mercy have been one of them? Nolan continues to aid Faith as they search for Mercy from the newspaper offices, to a church, the docks, and beyond. In the meantime, some of the misunderstandings begin to be resolved.
She stepped away, and Mr. Watson grumbled something, then gripped her elbow and eased her behind him. He worked his way through the throng of travelers, opening a clear path for her. She hated to admit it, but allowing him to lead her through the crowd was easier than having people bump into her.
Mercy falls in and out of so much danger she feels like a failure. She begins to wonder why God has abandoned her. She used to feel His influence and hear His voice. We see God has not abandoned her though. She meets with good people, an older African-American woman with her adopted Spanish son, Jed. Hezzie is a remarkable woman.
“What did you follow that brought you to Boston?”
“What?” They’d been quiet for so long that Mercy thought Hezzie had given up on conversation. She rubbed her temples. “What did I follow?”
“Was it God, your own desires, someone’s advice…?”
Hezzie has the four gospels memorized, talks with God (which is delightfully funny and realistic at times), and walks through life with peace despite trials. Hezzie reminds Mercy, God ‘puts us where we are supposed to be.’
…she was glad Hezzie could accept such disasters, she really was. It probably made circumstances much easier to bear.
Mercy wonders why God lets people die. Hezzie’s response reminds me of the Serenity Prayer:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Mercy eventually sees her life was blessed by her trials. God’s hand showed through the events to weave an intricate pattern. I’ve seen this too with my life. God is always present especially when we ask.
As I was writing this review, I heard a beautiful talk my husband was listening to. Even Jesus experienced physical and emotional pain when he was beaten, mocked and then crucified. He also experiences our sorrows and weeps with us. He knows perfectly what we feel as he felt it all in Gethsemane. He carries us through the storms when we pray for help. We can show our love by rejecting sin in our actions and keeping His commandments.
Please never give up after subsequent failures and consider yourself incapable of abandoning sins and overcoming addiction. Always strive to do your best…The scriptures teach that there is a way out of these situations—by inviting our Savior to help us to replace our stony hearts with new hearts.
Last year was one of the hardest of my life. But at the same time it was the most blessed. I believe we need to trust Him even through the hardships. Where would be the need for faith if life was always pleasant? We wouldn’t rely on Him much. I learned so much from all last year’s trials! I felt closer to Jesus as He helped me heal from my illnesses and sorrows. That is a blessing I could not give up for anything.
Jed is as remarkable as his mother, Hezzie. He has experienced racism from people of all colors who didn’t accept his mother’s and his difference in race. Yet he has not become bitter! Instead he dreams of unifying God’s church where people of all colors can worship together.
So, there is romance too! The relationships were realistic and sweet. I loved the insight that real love includes a genuine interest in the other person’s well-being.
When she looked back up at him, her eyes shimmered. Nolan stepped closer. The air between them seemed to crackle, and his chest tightened. Did her eyes say something more than her words?
She stared at him, then blinked rapidly. “Unless, of course, you’d rather not. Which, of course, I would understand given the… uh, frustrations I’ve caused you.”
Speaking of frustrating, I am convinced we can love our spouses through the hard times. Even when they do something frustrating or *irritating. When we work to remember the good times, forgive, and work with God as a couple things improve.
*Note: By ‘irritating’, I refer to generally misguided actions and misunderstandings not something physically harmful or dangerous.
Mercy previously saw taking care of a home and family as ordinary until she begins to see the bigger role God has for her and how her gifts fit. Mercy hasn’t been broken down by all her trials. She’s gained wisdom, courage, friends, and a new vision of her purpose in God’s plan.
Any task you’re given is important to Him. And what’s important to Him should be important to you.
With all the action, a hurricane, and other dangers the book was difficult to put down. There were some very funny moments, beautiful descriptions, and the recounting of a remarkable dream as well. The best quote of all perhaps: “He [God] won’t desert you.” It’s true! This was the first book I read in this series. I recommend reading this remarkable book!
I received a free advanced reader copy of this book. All opinions are completely my own.
About the Author
Award winning author of seven historical novels, Stephenia H. McGee writes stories of faith, hope, and healing set in the Deep South. When she’s not twirling around in hoop skirts, reading, or sipping sweet tea on the front porch, she’s a homeschool mom of two boys, writer, dreamer, and husband spoiler. Stephenia lives in Mississippi with her sons, handsome hubby, three dogs, and one anti-social cat.
Extras you may enjoy while reading this book:
Learn about and Support actual heroes fighting the modern sex slave trade
Operation Underground Railroad https://ourrescue.org
I enjoyed reading some of my grandparents old letters while writing this review that some relatives uploaded to Family Search. It reminded me of the fun intro and epilogue for Missing Mercy that switches from and to contemporary times with a discovered letter and journal.
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The Ironwood Plantation Family Saga: The Complete Series