The Tolling of Mercedes Bell

The Tolling of Mercedes Bell: a novel by Jennifer Dwight. Berkeley: She Writes Press, 2016. 
394 pages. *****

Mercedes Bell, recently widowed, thinks she has finally found a job that will give her security and provide a better life for her and her daughter. Working as a paralegal in the prestigious firm of Crenshaw, Slayne & McDonough, she meets and falls in love with Jack Soutane, a handsome, smooth-talking lawyer. It's the 1980s and AIDS, crack and violence are in the news. Even though Jack seems too good to be true and colleagues and friends hint that he may not be what he seems to be, Mercedes is swept off her feet and marries him. The reality is different from the fantasy which Mercedes discovers soon after their honeymoon when Jack's behavior becomes erratic. Mercedes could not have predicted the horror that awaits her.

Dwight tells a compelling tale that probably was true for many during the 1980s. With grit and determination Mercedes is a strong woman who is protective of her daughter and does what she needs to in order to keep both of them safe. Jack, the villain in the story, is a man trying to make sense of the times and circumstances in which he lives. While not sympathetic to the choices he made, having lived during the 80s, I understand. Hopefully, we have learned and grown as a society, sometimes, I'm not sure. Thank you, Dwight, for bringing an issue into the light in all its horror and consequences. Jack's solution to his problem is cold-hearted and abhorrent and Dwight expertly portrays his deceit.  I had a difficult time writing this review because I loved it and was unsettled by the plot at the same time. This is a book that will be talked about and is one that will haunt you. Read it and recommend it to your friends, you will have a lot to discuss when done.

I received a copy of this book for a review.

Jennifer Dwight was born into a U.S. Air Force family who was stationed throughout the U.S. and Asia during her youth, before settling in Colorado. In Asia, she was first exposed to ancient cultures and eastern religions, which sparked her lifelong interest in how peoples' beliefs shape their lives.

This is her first novel. She lives with her husband, Robert W. Duffy , and their little black dog, Jackie Beane, in Northern California. To learn more about Jennifer Dwight.

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