I’m a Sucker for…The Unraveling of Mercy Louis by Keija Parssinen

March 19, 2015 Books to Read, Fiction, Southern Fiction 18

Unraveling of Mercy Louis, Keija ParssinenFiction – Southern
Released March 10, 2015
341 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: eGalley provided by the publisher via Edelweiss

Plot Summary

“In this intricate novel of psychological suspense, a fatal discovery near the high school ignites a witch-hunt in a Southeast Texas refinery town, unearthing communal and family secrets that threaten the lives of the town’s girls”, including Mercy Louis, the star of the local high school’s state championship contender girl’s basketball team. – quotes from Amazon

My Thoughts

The Unraveling of Mercy Louis is one of those books that is incredibly hard to categorize…which is a good thing in my view! It’s a mash-up of coming of age, suspense, sports, economic tension, Southern culture (it’s set in Texas, but feels more like Louisiana), and religion gone wrong…all gorgeously written. It completely surprised me and I loved it, mainly because it included five things that I’m a total sucker for…

Sports Books (especially those starring female athletes)

I love how Parssinen treats this high school girl’s basketball team just like a Texas high school football team (for those not aware, Texas high school football stars are treated like gods). They are aggressive, intensely coached, and are the stars of the small town of Port Sabine, which shuts down for every one of the girls’ games. Mercy is focused on getting a college scholarship and celebrated as a local hero, while she struggles with balancing her urge to relax and be happy with the intensity and singular focus required by the team. Plus, there are some great sports quotes:

Cocky, we’ve been called, and I wouldn’t disagree. You don’t win championships by apologizing for yourself the way some girls feel the need to do.

Books About High School

Parssinen’s portrayal of high school is honest, nuanced, avoids the pitfall of cheesiness, and the primary characters are dealing with serious issues (not just dramatic high school B.S.). The story is told from two perspectives. Mercy gives you the inside perspective of a visible BWOC, while Illa (the basketball team’s manager) gives you the view from a less prominent outsider.

Things that Remind me of Friday Night Lights (the TV series)

Championship high school sports team? Check. Tiny town in Texas? Check. Said championship team as great source of hope for said tiny town? Check. Oil centric, but somewhat desperate economic circumstances? Check. Realistic portrayal of high school? Check. All Port Sabine, Texas is missing is RIGGINS!

Southern Eccentricity

Port Sabine is a bit quirky in a bayou version of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil kind of way. There are odd, small-town customs, like the “Purity Ball”, where young girls publicly promise to remain pure until marriage. Lucille, the town “crazy”, lives in the woods practicing herbal medicine. And, Mercy’s grandmother and guardian, Maw Maw, is over the top religious, has frequent visions, and thinks the world is going to end on December 31, 1999 (a few months away from the timing of the story).

This slightly mystical background gives the story a sense of foreboding…as if everything will combust at any minute. I’m not usually a fan of any type of mysticism, but I liked it here since it’s not the central focus.

Great Writing

When those forty-seven people died in the refinery blast three years ago, Jesus and God and the Holy Ghost, as well as the other trinity of small-town life – drink and smoke and talk – left people comfortless, so Mercy became the town’s beacon.

Such a funny thing, shame, that in the scramble to avoid it, you forget who has the right to shame you in the first place.

The Unraveling of Mercy Louis is a quirky, suspenseful, yet substantive book that is going on my Book Club Recommendations List and will be on my Summer Reading list coming in May (click here for last year’s list).

You May Also Like:

Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal
My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh
The Fever by Megan Abbott

18 Responses to “I’m a Sucker for…The Unraveling of Mercy Louis by Keija Parssinen”

  1. Becca Lostinbooks

    This is probably not a book for me as I don’t really get into books involving sports (though it is not a hard and fast rule) and Friday Night Lights was ridiculous to me. I cannot imagine getting into a high school sport that much and I played high school sports. This is a cool review though. I like the way you set it up.

    • admin

      Oh no – we may not be able to be friends anymore because of your feelings about Friday Night Lights! Ha – just kidding 🙂 But, I do think it was the best show to ever be on TV.

      Thanks on the review!

  2. Kay

    I think I’m going to have to try this one. And, yes, we here in Texas are all about the sports, particularly football. Especially in the small towns. Sometimes, it’s kind of all they have. Wondering if the town is based on Port Aransas. I do like the way you listed various components. Nice job.

  3. Donna @ OnDBookshelf

    I am really looking forward to reading this! While football is my preferred sport, I remember a lot of high school basketball games back in the day (our basketball team was always way better than football). Love that it’s a female sports related book.

  4. April

    I really enjoyed this book! I look forward to more from Parssinen. I like her writing style. And I agree, her Texas felt a lot like Louisiana, NOLA specifically. A few times I caught myself going back to double check where we were. Haha.

    • admin

      I think Port Sabine is located right near New Orleans, so probably why the culture spills over. But, I agree…I kept mentally tricking myself. The big thing that kept it grounded in Texas for me was the oil refinery.

    • admin

      Thank you – and you definitely need to give FNL a try! It’s off the air now, but I’m sure you can get it on demand or netflix!

  5. Anita

    I’ve got this one on my shelf. I love this review format! Is it new? I’ve been so out of it with this broken arm. Mostly reading, not writing and not reading blogs. Great review…pulling me in to read this one sooner.

  6. Tara @ Running 'N' Reading

    Yep, I think I’m going to have to read this one! FYI, Port Sabine is not an actual town; the author is using a combination of the city Port Arthur, Texas and Sabine Pass, the waterway that leads to Port Arthur and Port Neches which are HUGE oil refinery areas. Every major (and some minor) oil company has a hub in this area. This is right along the Texas/Louisiana border and, yes, there are most certainly people who practice some interesting “medicinal” treatments and “drink and smoke and talk” is definitely the prominent “Trinity” – ha! I grew up in this area; it’s definitely unique. My high school football team had a HUGE rivalry with the Port Neches-Groves (known as PNG) team; that was always a fun game!

    • admin

      This is awesome – thanks for sharing! I love hearing all the behind the scenes since I’m not familiar with this area. And love knowing the setting was pretty true to life for the area..if not based on an actual town.

      And, yes, you should definitely read it!

  7. Katie @ Doing Dewey

    I’ve only heard great things about this book! I’m not a huge fan of sports, so I haven’t read many books where they play a large role, but I like the way you describe the sports in this book and I’d be willing to give that a try.

    • admin

      Definitely give this one a try..there is SO much else going on in this one other than sports. But, it is a cool backdrop.

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