Friday, October 06, 2006

Where Mercy Flows, by Karen Harter

Karen Harter
ISBN: 0-7862-8616-4
Book # 06-145

Samantha Dodd left home with her boyfriend right out of high school, yet another bad decision in a young life filled with them. Fast forward seven years, and Samantha is on her way back home to Washington state. Sick in body and spirit, and with a young son to care for, Samantha has no choice but to turn to her parents and the younger sister she's never measured up to. TJ's appearance is proof of Samantha's irresponsibility, but she hopes that her parents will accept their grandson and love him despite his parentage.

Not much has changed in Samantha's hometown. Some people are thinner, some aren't; some remember her hellion ways fondly, and others resent her reappearance. None of that matters when Samantha realizes her husband is back in town, too. Sammy has spent five years looking for Tim, hoping to mend her fences with him, or, if that's not possible, to receive his forgiveness for wronging him. Meanwhile, Donnie, the best friend of Samantha's childhood, has made it clear that he's been waiting for Sam to see him as other than her youthful playmate. Worse yet, the Judge, Sam's stern, unforgiving father, still disapproves of Samantha and her reckless past. As Samantha's medical condition deteriorates, her personal life disintegrates exponentially, while the people who love her search for a way to motivate Sam to fight for her life.

Karen Harter has written an inspirational novel that is eminently readable, with a likable heroine and hero and a worthy supporting cast. Sam's struggle to earn her father's love is clearly a metaphor for her spiritual floundering. As we get to know the Judge better, his harsh, black and white view of the world seems to mellow and make more sense in an admirably uncompromising way. TJ is adorable, and Harter hits just the right tone for this young character, making him emiently believable. Readers will smile through their tears as Donnie tries shock therapy to get through to Samantha, and the Judge gradually breaks down the wall between himself and his errant daughter. Ultimately, WHERE MERCY FLOWS is touching and triumphant, although not, perhaps, in a way readers will expect.

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