Author: Sharlene MacLaren
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: February 7, 2023
Publisher: Whitaker House
It’s 1955, when scandalous affairs are never talked about, divorce is rare, a wife is a “homemaker” more often than not, and every Christian home displays its family Bible front and center. Certainly, a well-respected pastor in the conservative city of Muskegon, Michigan, would never be caught in the middle of a heinous secret that could ruin his career and break up his beautiful marriage and family. Or would he?
When Henry Griffin was stationed in occupied Japan in the mid-1940s, he met Rina Hamada, a Japanese woman who fell head over heels for him. Despite having a young wife and baby daughter waiting at home in the States, Henry had too much to drink one night, and one thing led to another… He knew it was wrong. He struggled with guilt and expressed his resistance, but she professed her love and continued to pursue him.
Now, ten years later, a letter from Japan arrives and threatens to upend Henry’s world. What to do and how to tell his wife are just the beginning of his troubles. Tough questions about faith, redemption, and preserving his reputation bring us here, under the shade of The Mercy Tree.
Reviewer: Diana Varela
I don’t even know what to say about this book. I am left speechless. There are so many praises I want to say about this book, but I can’t because a lot of them will include a spoiler of sorts. But let me just say, you will not regret getting your hands on this book.
I wasn’t expecting much because of what the synopsis said, but I am so happy I got this book. Sharlene MacLaren has created a masterpiece.
This book had me gasping, yelling “NO!” and even crying.
I was so angry at Henry in the beginning for not telling Nora and living his life like nothing had happened. I felt so bad for Nora. She was so sweet, kind, and loving toward Henry. I literally cried at seeing how much Nora loved Henry. She didn’t deserve to be cheated on, despite Henry being drunk when he did it.
Then…the truth finally came out. My feelings for Henry changed. Even though I was still mad at him, I thought about his position. We all have been Henry at one point in our lives, hiding stuff from our past. So when it finally was revealed, I felt for the guy.
As for Nora. Oh, my goodness. The feelings that Sharlene MacLaren evokes in her writing are so tangible. I felt the betrayal.
It’s not easy to forgive. I don’t know if I would have handled it as Nora did. I probably would have handled it ten times worse. But we are all in need of some forgiveness. Jesus forgave us.
I received an eBook copy of this book from the author through Interviews and Reviews. All opinions are my own.
Reviewer: Anna Bottoms
The Mercy Tree is a perfect depiction of forgiveness and love. My heart was touched, and the story's authenticity brought me to tears over God's amazing grace toward us.
Through the struggles Henry and Nora face after discovering an earlier infidelity led to a child he didn't know, we see how one choice can affect not only one person but many.
As a pastor, Henry struggles with love for his unknown son and the love of his wife and family. He also has his reputation and that of his church to think about.
Will he make the right choice? Can his marriage weather the storm?
This book shows God's redemptive power as Henry and Nora adjust their lives for one little boy who doesn't have anyone and how their church learns a few lessons along the way.
I loved everything about this book, how we see even Christians aren't perfect, how God uses every struggle for good, and how his mercy and grace lift us above our circumstances. This book is aptly named.
I received a copy courtesy of the author through Interviews & Reviews. This is my honest opinion of the book.
Reviewer: Erin Stevenson
The Mercy Tree is a book that will stay in my heart for a long time. I had to take some time after finishing it to absorb its many layers.
Both the author and the publisher were new to me. Everything about this book was new and fresh (including the font and layout), so very distinct from the many other inspirational books that I have read over the past few years. Many of them follow a somewhat predictable formula. The protagonist has a problem to overcome, and the reader knows that with God’s help, a happy ending will result. Not so with this book. Everything about it—the era, the setting, and all the social underpinnings—made resolution completely impossible without an outpouring of mercy—the central theme of the story. But it was never guaranteed because of the deep pain caused by the protagonist’s sin.
An author’s voice is one of those things that’s hard to define. When it’s there, you know it. That was the case here. Everything was so well constructed that I was never taken out of the story.
The characters, both major and minor, were unbelievably real. I found myself deeply invested in them to the point I laughed and cried with them. There were many times when I wondered how did I come to care about these people so much?
The Bible verses that introduced each chapter connected beautifully to the central themes of the chapters. So many details in the story took me back to being raised in a Midwestern church and brought back pleasant memories that I hadn’t thought about in years. Other baby boomers will no doubt experience the same.
Some readers may catch one historical inaccuracy in the book (that I contacted the author about, and to her dismay, it was too late to change), but don’t let that rob you of the blessing you’ll receive from the beautiful story, endearing characters, and spiritual lessons from this outstanding book, The Mercy Tree.
I was provided a copy of this novel by the author through Interviews and Reviews. I was not required to post a positive review, and all views and opinions are my own.
Reviewer: Laura J. Davis
Sharlene MacLaren delivers a thought-provoking book with, The Mercy Tree that is hard to put down.
The author has created a compelling narrative of what happens when a Christian man (a Pastor) sins against his wife, never confesses it to her and then is forced to confess when his sin is about to be exposed.
MacLaren's characters are real, and their emotions leap off the page. Nora experiences the ultimate betrayal when she learns Henry had cheated on her while serving in the army. She is portrayed as the perfect Christian mom/pastor's wife. She seemed too good to be true, but then the author takes her character into a season of bitterness, rage and sadness that is all too real. No one is the perfect Christian. There is no such thing. Nora must rely on God's grace and mercy to decide her future with Henry.
Henry, for his part, is seen by his congregation as the perfect pastor - a good preacher, sensitive to the needs of his congregation and those searching for God. Like most pastors today, he is put on a pedestal, able to do no wrong - until he does.
While I don't want to give anything away, I feel it is important to address the fact that this book is set in the fifties, a misogynistic time when men were the rulers of the house. So, at times the actions of the characters come off that way. When Henry's sin comes to light, it doesn't sit too well with some people in his congregation that he isn't asked to resign, while others support him. Something the author does address.
Unfortunately, the onus is put on Nora, who was the one sinned against, to forgive Henry, love him again, and make their marriage work. Her downward spiral is brilliantly portrayed, and you can feel her angst. But Henry seems to act like a pouty child who wants Nora to forgive him now and on his terms. Again, very misogynistic. The author brilliantly portrayed this mental aspect of life in the fifties.
I loved how Sharlene captured the good and bad attitudes in Christians and how letting Jesus in can literally change your life. I loved the growth in Arletta, Fred and Florence.
Overall, the book explores themes of true forgiveness, mercy and repentance. It will be something many Christians can identify with if they have unconfessed sin in their lives and wonder if God still loves them. I have no doubt the author's words will minister to many.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of the author for my honest review.
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