Saturday, November 4, 2023

BOOK REVIEW: Toward the Corner of Mercy and Peace by Tracey D. Buchanan

Toward the Corner of Mercy and Peace by Tracey D. Buchanan is a beautifully poignant historical novel with a dash of quirky Southern humor. Set in the early 1950s in small-town Kentucky, the novel focuses on the prickly widow Mrs. Minerva Place. A church organist who supplements her income giving children piano lessons, Mrs. Place is self-contained and introverted. Yes, she has a tendency to eavesdrop and sometimes spy on her neighbors from behind her curtains but she isn’t nosy. She prefers solitude. However, her unusual hobby keeps bringing visitors into her home. Her hobby is visiting the local cemetery, researching its inhabitants, and writing their fictionalized biographies. Her visitors are the dead people she writes about.

To Minerva, these manifestations are very real. She talks to these people and the conversations inform her writing. Still, she recognizes that if anyone knew what she was up to, they would think her crazy.

To a historical novelist, this sounds like a perfectly wonderful hobby – except for the talking to ghosts part.

Minerva’s life takes a turn when a new family moves into her neighborhood: a young widower, Robert McAlpin, and his 6-year-old son George. Robert is a gentle ever-smiling man. George is a rambunctious child who has a habit of intruding into Minerva’s space. Interacting with the two (and with her dead visitors) causes Minerva to remember/relive the trauma and disappointments of her life, things that shaped the woman she came to be. A horrible accident brings everything to a head, and Minerva has to learn to accept forgiveness and to forgive in order to grow as a person. 

I’ve read several novels of curmudgeonly middle-aged men whose lives are transformed by quirky young neighbors, but this is the first book I’ve read where a somewhat cranky older woman has a renewal of spirit thanks to the friendship of a young man and a child. Readers will be rooting for Minerva every step of the way.

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