By: Amy Jo Burns
Narrator: Maria Liatis
Publisher: Celadon Books
Publication Date: 01/02/2024
My Rating: 3.5 Stars
A roofing family’s bonds of loyalty are tested when they uncover a long-hidden secret at the heart of their blue-collar town—from Amy Jo Burns, author of the critically acclaimed novel Shiner
It’s 1990 and seventeen-year-old Marley West is blazing into the river valley town of Mercury, Pennsylvania. A perpetual loner, she seeks a place at someone’s table and a family of her own. The first thing she sees when she arrives in town is three men standing on a rooftop. Their silhouettes blot out the sun.
The Joseph brothers become Marley’s whole world before she can blink. Soon, she is young wife to one, The One Who Got Away to another, and adopted mother to them all. As their own mother fades away and their roofing business crumbles under the weight of their unwieldy father’s inflated ego, Marley steps in to shepherd these unruly men. Years later, an eerie discovery in the church attic causes old wounds to resurface and suddenly the family’s survival hangs in the balance. With Marley as their light, the Joseph brothers must decide whether they can save the family they’ve always known—or whether together they can build something stronger in its place.
Amy Jo Burns' latest novel, MERCURY , is a moving, character-driven family drama that explores dark family secrets in this rural, blue-collar, small-town life when family loyalties are tested and a young woman in search of her place in the world.
Set in 1990, seventeen-year-old Marley West and her mom, Ruth, arrive in Mercury, Pennsylvania. Having moved around, Marley is excited to settle down. Will this be the place of her dreams?
When she arrives, she sees three men standing on a roof. Meet the Joseph family, long-time town residents who own a roofing company, JOSEPH & SONS ROOFING. The father and sons, Baylor, Waylon, and Shay, with parents Mick and Elise. A highly dysfunctional family.
Marley becomes involved with Baylor Joseph and sits at the table at Joseph's home. Marley steps in to help these unruly men and family.
The family is hiding dark secrets. When Elise dies, the secrets rise to the surface. When a secret in the church attic is revealed years later, it may be enough to bring the Joseph family and all they’ve built down permanently.
The Joseph brothers must decide whether they can save the family they’ve always known―or whether together they can build something stronger in its place.
MERCURY is a deeply complex book exploring sibling rivalry and family loyalties. From past to present, a gripping family saga and strong character study with thought-provoking questions make for an ideal book club pick for further discussions, from themes of family grace, love, and forgiveness.
A slow-burn family saga/coming-of-age—one of working-class struggles, family dynamics, belonging, scars, loss, dreams, and desires.
I was not a fan of the audiobook narrated by Maria Liatis. I may have enjoyed reading the book more versus the audio.
@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks
Pub Date: Jan 2, 2024
My Rating: 3.5 Stars
“Mercury shimmers with authenticity. Amy Jo Burns is a big-time talent whose beautiful and honest prose elevates love, even when plumbing the darker realities of family. Equal parts gripping page-turner and wise character study. Tears streamed down my face as I turned the last page. An instant favorite.”
―Matthew Quick, New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook and We
Are the Light
"Mercury is that rare and marvelous novel that offers us the combination of unforgettable characters, tender prose, page-turning narrative, and the escape of an immersive world. Burns has gifted us with a family saga replete with the subtle moments that make us human, that take our breath away, and that gut us with feeling. Among many, Burns asks the important question ― how does one become oneself while also living in a family that consumes? When we meet the Joseph family, we, just as Marley, want to sit at the dinner table with the matriarch and four complicated men without yet understanding the consequences of joining them. With textured and lush prose, Burns exposes the private desires and secrets living below the roofline of their collective lives. When a leak appears in the town’s church bell tower, what has been hidden is exposed in a breath-holding unfolding. I am in love with Marley and the Joseph family, and I miss them already."
―Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Book of Flora Lea
"It just doesn’t get any better than this when it comes to a story about what it means to be family, whether it’s the one you’re born into or the one you create. From the moment I started Amy Jo Burns’s new book I couldn’t put it down―even though I didn’t want it to end. You will fall in love with these beautifully drawn, unforgettable characters, who remind us of the strength of family bonds, and the importance of grace and forgiveness."
―Tracey Lange, the New York Times bestselling author of We Are the Brennans
"Mercury is part family saga, part mystery, and 100% unputdownable. As the secrets piled up and discoveries were made, I read faster and faster, eager to unravel the web Amy Jo Burns so masterfully wove. Surprising and true, Mercury reminds us of the importance of love and forgiveness."
―Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle and The Book That Matters Most
"Mercury pushes the family saga into a deep, rugged, beautiful territory that astonished me.
This novel refuses to villainize or deify any character, but complicates and confronts the contradictory truths that everyone born into or brought into a family is heartbroken, seen deeply, misunderstood, and loved by one another, all at once. Mercury is a story to be savored and studied on a line level, but also epic in its scope and ambition. I have never read a novel that so generously and intimately reveals each and every character’s deepest wants, most tender scars, and fiercest refusals to stay in the lanes our families steer us into.
Burns shows, in acutely observed moments, the brutality of work and what we have to show for it at the end of the days and years of ache and labor, the realness and depth of young love hanging on through grief, the seismic changes of growing up, and how the moments we are bravest and most vulnerable change our trajectories forever."
―Katie Runde, author of The Shore
"In her new novel Mercury, Amy Jo Burns writes passionately about the hard realities of work and money, sex and love and what happens when you don’t notice that your mother has come home without her shoes. Long after I finished reading, I found myself thinking about her complicated characters and especially about the amazing Marley, a heroine for all seasons who can fix a roof, do the accounts, home school a brother in law, make a family. What a lovely, satisfying novel."
―Margot Livesey, author of The Road from Belhaven
"Mercury, by Amy Jo Burns, is a beautiful, heartfelt novel about the Joseph family of Mercury, Pennsylvania. Burns skillfully employs the omniscient point-of-view as we spend time with multiple characters, exploring what it means to be part of a family, and how the narrative of a family develops and changes over time. We get to know the Josephs intimately―roofer Mick and his wife Elise, and their three sons, Waylon, Baylor, and Shea. But the character who lights up this book is Marley, the woman who will fiercely love the Joseph family and provide a way forward for them all."
―Laura Spence-Ash, author of Beyond That, the Sea
"[Burns] keeps up the tension with multiple plot twists involving secrets about the town and the Josephs, and she portrays Marley’s working-class struggles as a young mother with precision. Once again, Burns delivers a satisfying portrait of life on the margins." ―Publishers Weekly
"Well-drawn, engaging characters and a vivid setting make this is a compelling study of family dynamics."
"With clear, luminous prose, able to plumb the complementary and contrasting depths of masculine and feminine energy, emotion, and ambition, Mercury is a delight."
"Amy Jo Burns straddles genres in the family drama, finessing them all."
―The Minneapolis Star Tribune
PEOPLE Magazine's Book of the Week “An exquisitely observed tale about blood bonds and the toll of secrets.”
“Burns’s second novel introduces the Josephs, a roofing family in Mercury, Pa., who ― along with a young woman in search of her own place in the world ― find themselves at an inflection point forged by long-ago choices.”
―The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Amy Jo Burns is the author of the memoir Cinderland and the novel Shiner, which was a Barnes & Noble Discover Pick, NPR Best Book of the year, a Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club selection, and “told in language as incandescent as smoldering coal,” according to The New York Times. Her writing has appeared in The Paris Review Daily, Tin House, Elle, Good Housekeeping, Ploughshares, Electric Literature, Literary Hub, and the anthology Not That Bad.
Her next novel, Mercury, is forthcoming in January 2024. You can find her on Instagram at @burnsamyjo. WEBSITE