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Publisher's Summary

Told in alternating tales at once haunting and redemptive, A Tangled Mercy is a quintessentially American epic rooted in heartbreaking true events examining the harrowing depths of human brutality and betrayal, and our enduring hope for freedom and forgiveness.

After the sudden death of her troubled mother, struggling Harvard grad student Kate Drayton walks out on her lecture - and her entire New England life. Haunted by unanswered questions and her own uncertain future, she flees to Charleston, South Carolina, the place where her parents met, convinced it holds the key to understanding her fractured family and saving her career in academics. Kate is determined to unearth groundbreaking information on a failed 1822 slave revolt - the subject of her mother's own research.

Nearly two centuries earlier, Tom Russell, a gifted blacksmith and slave, grappled with a terrible choice: arm the uprising spearheaded by members of the fiercely independent African Methodist Episcopal Church or keep his own neck out of the noose and protect the woman he loves.

Kate's attempts to discover what drove her mother's dangerous obsession with Charleston's tumultuous history are derailed by a horrific massacre in the very same landmark church. In the unimaginable aftermath, Kate discovers a family she never knew existed as the city unites with a powerful message of hope and forgiveness for the world.

©2017 Joy Jordan-Lake (P)2017 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

What listeners say about A Tangled Mercy

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  • Anonymous User
  • 16-01-2019

A little slow but worth the read

Kate Drayton is reeling from the sudden death of her mother. There are so many things she doesn't understand about her and why she left Charleston never to return. On an impulse and driven by grief Kate abandons her classes at Harvard and runs off to Charleston to find out what she can about her mother's past. Unfortunately no one, not the cute kid Gabe, the powerful matriarch Rose, or the obnoxious lawyer Putt, will help her find any clues to her mother's past even though clearly some of them know something.
I really enjoyed this book. With a two caviots....First, It was slow going in the beginning and Second the big reveal at the end honestly could have been revealed the first day Kate was in Charleston. It felt like that piece of the story was dragged on needlessly just to time the incident at the Church at the end of the novel.
However there was so much that was done right. The characters were interesting and well developed. I loved Kate and how she was trying to deal with her mother's death. She was spunky and yet reserved. It was an interesting combination. I also thought some of the things she did were over the top and a bit crazy but they were also funny. The storyline was interesting and engaging. Honestly my favorite parts of the story was all the history that I got to learn. Unfortunately the historical characters didn't seem to pop off the pages as much as Kate, Gabe, and Rose. However I got to learn about a slave revolt in Charleston, gulla, and southern abolitionists. These were all things I had never learned of before.

PG - 13 hangings, baby birth, implied rape,

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  • Pam Pearson
  • 07-06-2018

Charleston Blessed

A Tangled Mercy reminded me how Blessed I am to have lived in Charleston for several years. It is a beautiful city with a unique culture and history. Although I didn't experience the prejudice identified in the book, I did experience the unique way in which the people of the city regardless of race and religion embraced one another. Unlike New England, they also welcomed people from the outside to enjoy what the city has to offer. A Tangled Mercy somehow brought the “special” of Charleston out and made me feel like I was there again walking along with Kate as she solved the mystery of history.

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  • Rona Branson
  • 15-12-2017

A good and hard story that inspires hope and change

I loved going on this journey to the past and the tie in to today and how time has assimilated and transformed the southern culture of today. Though some events may seem a little too convenient (like randomly meeting an unknown nephew on her first day in town), the story is compelling and believable. Well written with moments of great prose, this story takes the events of the past and today to help us all grow in compassion for our fellow human beings and to eliminate racism in our own hearts — even if and especially if we descend from a family who has a racist past. (Spoiler alert:) It does all tie up very neatly in the end, but with the nature and depth of the issues addressed, I for one was very glad to be left with hope to move forward!

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  • mlfarr
  • 14-12-2017

Couldn't finish. Seemed disjointed to me.

Maybe it is just me but I had a hard time following the storyline. It just didn't keep my attention. I do feel that there needed to be more background to the story at the first and the characters needed to be developed so you could relate to them.

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  • Tim Styer
  • 23-04-2018

outstanding story, and superb writing, narration

I'm not a big novel person. I thought this was one of the better novels I've read.

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  • NMwritergal
  • 05-11-2017

A tangled mess...

…that unravels far too slowly.

Five hours in to listening, I think only about 5 hours had passed in the book—granted it does go back and forth between 1822 (shorter chapters) and 2015—but not much happens. I’m 10 hours in, now listening on 1.5 speed and am still pretty bored. The writing is good, characters interesting enough but the story just drags along at a turtle's pace.

Kate shows up in Charleston trying to understand the past—both that of her estranged father (dead within the last year) and mother (dead within the past 3 weeks). She’s also looking into an 1822 slave revolt for her PhD program, which she thinks has something to do with her family. The first person she meets is a little kid who’s portrayed more like an eccentric adult with a very articulate and unusual way of speaking. As that scene went on and on, I wasn’t even sure if the boy was real or not. He is and is important to her finding the answers she needs.

In fact, in the first day Kate serendipitously (for the most part) runs into just about every person she needs to who can tell her about her parents. Only they won’t talk. The lawyer has legal reasons, the rest…who knows. It just seems annoying. Most of the people she meets can also help her with her research, because of course the old woman she meets in a coffee shop has a diary from her ancestor 200 years ago that isn’t in historical archives, and so on.

Also tiresome, is that Kate is always saying the wrong thing, the one thing that causes a person to stop talking. Because of course they have no intention of talking but seem to slip into some sort of reverie, starting to spill the first bit of some big secret but Kate says something to shut them up.

If I were reading on the page, I'd be skimming to get to the end to solve the various mysteries.

Re the narration: both audio narrators elevate the story.

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  • Alchemist585
  • 15-02-2021

Absolutely Beautiful & Powerful Novel.

I am at a loss for words to describe the effects this novel had on me. Every chapter, indeed every paragraph elicited strong and profound emotions that I confess brought me to tears countless times. I could not help but think of my maternal grandmother and her black African parents and how they ended up in North Africa.
There were also many lighthearted moments thanks to my favorite characters in the novel (Rose & Gabe). I pride myself on my stoicism, but I also cried when reading under a gilded moon. I can not wait for Joy's next novel.
I must also sincerely thank the performers. They did a superb job. Many times I decide against buying an audio book because of less acceptable performance. Again THANK YOU ALL AUTHOR & PERFOMERS.

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  • Bill Scarcliff
  • 15-02-2021

You’ll Be Captivated

Don’t start this book if there’s any chance you won’t have time to finish it. To the last word it will reach for your heart and hold it out for you to see. Simply beautiful in more ways than I can express here, and the research done to weave this story is remarkable. Thank you, Joy Jordan-Lake.

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  • Cyndi
  • 18-11-2020

Slow and painful

This story starts off slow, gradually becomes interesting, takes an unexpected u-turn then continues to travel southward at the speed of molasses in January all while listening to the most excruciatingly fake stereotypical southern accent. I eased the pain by increasing the reading speed to double time.

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  • Deedra L.
  • 08-01-2020

Read before your vacation

My wife is the librarian in the family so know this is from an amateur listener. I wanted to find a book that would help me prepare for a upcoming trip to Charleston. And what a trip it was! A big part of it was from listening to A Tangled Mercy. It’s tough to follow early, but wow what a wonderful book. It helps you appreciate early, how we built this country on the backs of slave labor. It breaks my heart, but the ending of this book helps me heal and shows how all the people of Charleston demonstrated true healing and forgiveness, which can change our lives. Thank you for this book:) we stayed in a B&B where our host Vaughn helped make the ending of the book so very real.

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