Works of Mercy, by Sally Thomas
Paperback | 270pp | Publication Date: August 30, 2022
Kirsty Sain, aging housekeeper for the newly arrived young priest, assumes that despite this personnel change in her rural parish, her own solitary rounds will proceed as always. She will go to Mass, clean the rectory, go home again. She will keep herself to herself in the safely-hedged present and coexist in detente with the past. When a hairless, eyeless kitten is thrust upon her, an unlikely deterrent to the mice invading her house, she declares, “I am not going to love that thing.” She has spent a lifetime armoring herself against the risks of affection. But between the hapless Father Schuyler, who teeters on the edge of breakdown, and the crises of the Malkins, a parish family whose cheerful chaos erupts in tragedy, Kirsty finds her own wounds broken open. Drawn against her will into the sufferings of these vulnerable lives, she returns to an old hero, the Elizabethan poet-priest Robert Southwell, whose “Mary Magdalen’s Funeral Tears” provides a skeleton key to her own locked heart. In Southwell’s words, “love is the fire” that renders all things new.
"I am always hoping to find novels like this one, but so rarely do I find them. What a gift to spend time with Kirsty, whose story is both ordinary and luminous, as a story like this reminds me every life must be. Thomas's writing is wry, clear-eyed, restrained, and above all, beautiful. This is a debut novel, which is a terrible shame for anyone (like me) who'd have liked to go out and devour five more of her novels right away, but what marvellous news for the American literary landscape."
—Natalie Morrill, author of The Ghost Keeper, Winner of the HarperCollins/UBC Prize for Best New Fiction
"In Works of Mercy, we have been given a book that believes on every page, but never once preaches. Large in spiritual vision, deep and assured in literary execution, Thomas’s slow-burning debut deserves to be set next to fiction by Cather and Berry. This is a rare and precious treasure from a rare and precious talent."
—Paul J. Pastor, author of Bower Lodge: Poems
Sally Thomas is the author of a poetry collection, Motherland, and co-editor of Christian Poetry in America Since 1940: An Anthology. She serves as Associate Poetry Editor for the New York Sun