Search >>
Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Pulitzer Prize for Biography
Pulitzer Prize for History
Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction
National Book Critics Circle Award
National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction
National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography
National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction
National Book Award
National Book Award for Fiction
National Book Award for Nonfiction
Man Booker Prize
Man Booker Prize
New York Times Best Books
New York Times Best Fiction Books of the Year
New York Times Best Nonfiction Books of the Year
LA Times Book Prize
LA Times Book Prize for Fiction
TIME Magazine Best Books
TIME Magazine Best Fiction Books of the Year
TIME Magazine Best Nonfiction Books of the Year
Amazon.com Best Books
Amazon.com Best Books of the Year
ALA Notable Books
ALA Notable Books - Fiction
ALA Notable Books - Nonfiction
PEN/Faulkner Award
Pen/Faulkner Award
100 Best Novels
The Novel 100: The 100 Greatest Novels of All Time
Modern Library 100 Best Novels of the Century
FAW Best Books of the Year
Best Books of the Decade
Best Books of 2016
Best Books of 2015
Best Books of 2014
Best Books of 2013
Best Books of 2012
Best Books of 2011
Best Books of 2010
Best Books of 2009
Best Books of 2008
Best Books of 2007
Best Books of 2006
Best Books of 2005
Best Books of 2004
Best Books of 2003
Best Books of 2002
Best Books of 2001
Best Books of 2000
Best Books of 1999
Best Books of 1998
Best Books of 1997
Author Honors
New Yorker 20 Under 40 (2010)
New Yorker Twenty Best Young Fiction Writers in America (1999)
Granta Best of Young American Novelists (2007)
Granta Best of Young American Novelists (1996)
Granta Best of Young British Novelists (2003)
MacArthur Fellows in Fiction
National Book Foundation 5 Under 35

The Mercy Seat
RILLA ASKEW

The Mercy Seat by Rilla Askew
11 reviews (1997) (448p)
PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist

Visit this book's Amazon.com page >>


Book Description
A clairvoyant child whose gift makes her the object of a tug-of-war between Christians and Native Americans in 1880s Oklahoma ignites a blood feud between her father and her bootlegging uncle. A first novel. 25,000 first printing. Tour."


Amazon.com Review
The Mercy Seat is a powerful novel, rich with biblical allusions and authoritative, haunting depictions of the landscape and life of the American West in the second half of the 19th century. The story begins as a young girl, Mattie, is called from sleep to help her father prepare for her family's flight from their Kentucky home, its pie safe and its oak bed frames. Reasons for their sudden departure are only slowly revealed and never completely explained.

The center of the evolving story is the conflict between Mattie's father and his brother. John Lodi is skilled in the art of blacksmithing and gun making; Fayette Lodi is anxious to use that skill to turn a profit for himself. Although the brothers travel west together and eventually settle in the same corner of Oklahoma in the valley of the San Bois Mountains, they have no shared ideas on how to create new lives for themselves or their families. Violence eventually erupts, but it goes beyond the two brothers to infect their wives, their children, and the very land they inhabit.

It is a story that mirrors that of Cain and Abel, yet its biblical echo is only one of the features which make this multilayered, beautifully crafted novel so enjoyable. There are hints of Faulkner, too, as Askew employs his technique of using a number of voices to tell the story: there is Mattie herself, mother before her time to her younger siblings, yet refusing to mature into a woman; there is Thula Henry, Choctaw woman who both understands Mattie's gifts and tries to exorcise her demons; and Grady Dewberry, loquacious son of John's employer recalling events that marked his childhood.

This is more than just a simple repositioning of the Snopes from Mississippi to Oklahoma, however. It is a vision of the settling of America with a deep and abiding appreciation for the combustible elements that participated in it. Evangelical preachers riding their circuits, Native Americans pushed farther and farther west, former slaves freed from their masters but not from prejudice, and white men on the run from the law of the more settled East, all figure prominently. Some patience is required as the central tragedy looms, but for the most part, the novel is poignant, gripping, and even heartbreaking. --K.A. Crouch


Rilla Askew Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 1  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 1  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 0  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 0  
National Book Award Wins 0  
National Book Award Nominations 0  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 1 The Mercy Seat ·  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award

BACK

Pulitzer Prize | National Book Critics Circle Award | National Book Award | PEN/Faulkner Award | Man Booker Prize | Contact