By Kiran Millwood Hargrave
The women in an Arctic village must survive a sinister threat after all the men are wiped out by a catastrophic storm in this "gripping novel inspired by a real-life witch hunt. . . . Beautiful and chilling" (Madeline Miller, bestselling author of Circe).
When the women take over, is it sorcery or power?
Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Magnusdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the skies break into a sudden and reckless storm. All forty of the village’s men were at sea, including Maren’s father and brother, and all forty are drowned in the otherworldly disaster.
For the women left behind, survival means defying the strict rules of the island. They fish, hunt, and butcher reindeer—which they never did while the men were alive. But the foundation of this new feminine frontier begins to crack with the arrival of Absalom Cornet, a man sent from Scotland to root out alleged witchcraft. Cornet brings with him the threat of danger—and a pretty, young Norwegian wife named Ursa.
As Maren and Ursa are drawn to one another in ways that surprise them both, the island begins to close in on them, with Absalom's iron rule threatening Vardø's very existence.
"Hargrave spares the reader no gory details, whether of birth, miscarriage or the scent of a body burning at the stake. The Mercies is among the best novels I've read in years. In addition to its beautiful writing, its subject matter is both enduring and timely. . . . Four hundred years after the events The Mercies portrays, we need stories . . . to remind us of the dangers of being swept up in a maelstrom of demagogy. For such a novel to center on a cast of powerful women characters seems as appropriate to its historical context as it is to our time."―Emily Barton, New York Times Book Review
"Elegant and chilling . . . an absorbing account of women finding power and grace and love even under the most harrowing circumstances."―USA Today
"The Mercies smolders more intensely than a pyre, whirling history's ashes defiantly into the wind."―NPR.org
"Spun from real-life events, this lyrical novel charts the aftermath of a fatal storm in a 17th century Norwegian fishing village: a town almost exclusively composed of women and girls, and the violent witch-burning newcomer hell-bent on their conversion."―Vanity Fair