Excerpted from The Miracle of Mercy Land by River Jordan. Copyright © 2010 by River Jordan. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
1. The novel opens with the birth ofMercy Land along the backwaters of Bittersweet Creek, a small, rural outcropping of people where she is raised, but the character later moves to a nearby city. Have you ever found yourself living in a place very different from the one you grew up in? Did you remain there or return “home” again? How did the change of place or the return home affect your life?
2. There is an undercurrent of the influence thatMercy’s mother and father had on her life by their steady presence and certain faith. However, another person in Bittersweet Creek also had a lot of input into her upbringing. How was Aunt Ida’s influence different from that ofMercy’s parents? How mightMercy’s life have turned out differently without Aunt Ida? Have you had a similar experience in your life?Were there other family members or friends who contributed to your life experience in a distinct way?
3. Part of Mercy Land’s moxie comes from her rural upbringing where she had the freedom to run and romp along the trees and creeks in a fearless kind of way. How was your childhood similar or different? Do you believe having a more sheltered life as a child might cause a person to be more hesitant or fearful of the unknown?
4. One thread running through the novel isMercy’s relationship with Doc. Perhaps in the beginning Doc was a bit of a hero, a larger-than-life character toMercy, who saw him and his wife, Opal, as a king and queen of Bay City. Throughout the story their relationship changes as he becomes her boss, her mentor, and ultimately her friend. Have you experienced relationships that have gone through stages or seasons of change? How have those changes affected the relationships?
5. When Doc’s book shows up, at firstMercy is hesitant to touch it.Why?Why does she change her mind? Do you think she ever really regretted seeing the book and wished that Doc had kept the secret to himself?
6. Mercy becomes dedicated to solving the riddle of the book, fulfilling that purpose, and it being returned to where it belonged. What characteristics does she possess that allow her to tread through such mystical, supernatural waters?
7. John Quincy’s appearance in Bay City stirs up conflicting emotions and revelations for Mercy.What stands out to you as the most prevalent internal conflict? As the story progresses, how does Mercy come to terms with these things?
8. The story is told through the eyes of three main characters: Mercy, Doc, and John Quincy.Whose voice resonates most with you? Did you enjoy hearing the story from one character’s point of view more than the others’? If so, why?
9. The novel is set a few years before World War II, in 1938. How did this time period affect your experiencing the characters, the setting, and the events?
10. The book reveals the paths that people have chosen—and the ones that they have left behind. Have you ever considered some of the choices you made in life to have been a major turning point for you? Do you think that your life would have been much different had you taken another road or that you would be exactly where you are at this point in your life regardless? Is life more a destiny created by our choices or an inherent fate that cannot be changed?
11. A strange woman shows up in Bay City in search of John Quincy. Ultimately, she knows about the book and wants
control of it. Who do you think Pricilla really is? If she were a symbolic representation for something, what do you believe that would be?
12. John Quincy eventually experiences deep changes, but they certainly weren’t the ones he was hoping for or expecting.
Do you think he ultimately makes a change for the better? When you have experienced changes or events in life that
have been different than you anticipated, was the outcome sometimes better than you expected? Have you learned things or built relationships through these unexpected turns of events?
13. Mercy comes to believe that the book is primarily a book of stories—one that illustrates clearly how those lives, those stories, interrelate and intersect. Do you believe that our choices affect not only our lives but also the lives of those around us? That even people we don’t know are affected by our choices?
14. The daily newspaper in Bay City plays a significant role in the novel. Why is it so important? How does it affect the story’s unfolding? Why do Doc and Mercy love the paper so much?
15. When you turn the last page of The Miracle of Mercy Land, what is the strongest impression the novel leaves with you? If you were to have one takeaway memory of the novel— something you could apply to your everyday world—what would it be?