A Matter of Mercy

10th Anniversary Edition with a new Afterword

Fiction - Literary
358 Pages
Reviewed on 07/07/2024
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Author Biography

This is my 13th novel and it's about a place ever dear to me.

Back cover says:
Award-winning novelist Lynne Hugo returns readers to the beloved shores and shallows of outer Cape Cod Bay in a riveting drama teeming with life and human truth. Inspired by a 1996 lawsuit, this edition includes an Afterword with an update on the 2024 status of that lawsuit. A Matter Of Mercy takes readers deep into a life struggle for survival for oyster and clam farmers on the shell-strewn shallows shallows of Cape Cod bay as Caroline and Rid battle over whether we ever find our real homes in the places and with the people we meant to leave behind.

Caroline Marcum thought she'd put the great mistake of her life behind her when she left Wellfleet, but is forced to face it when she returns to her childhood home on the bay to care for her dying mother. Ridley Neal thought he'd put his past--and his prison term--behind him when he returned home to take over his father's oyster and clam farm in the harbor. Casual acquaintances long ago, they connect again during a fierce nor'easter.

But their suspicions are soon raised when a lawsuit threatens Rid's livelihood, and a chance encounter with the woman Caroline most wronged results in threats and vandalism. Each burdened with separate guilts and struggling with mistrust of the other, can Caroline and Rid set aside their fears and take a chance on the possibility of forgiveness and love?

    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

A Matter of Mercy by Lynne Hugo is a fictionalized account of a true event that defined the hardy and rugged aquafarmers of Cape Cod Bay. Life on the tidal flats is hard and uncompromising. The men and women who farm this briefly available tidal area for the shellfish are a special breed. Not only do they have to put up with the vagaries of the weather, disease, and the capriciousness of the tides, but they also have a minimal time frame when the tide is far enough out to work their claims. Caroline Marcum left the Cape years ago after an accident, that was her fault, left a four-year-old dead and the community blaming her for her stupidity. She has returned to nurse her dying mother and, as she rekindles a friendship with one of her old classmates, Ridley Neal, a shellfish farmer, she begins to realize that, like him, the Cape and its tidal flats are in her blood. Not everyone is happy about Caroline’s return, however, and she and Ridley must not only fight against the landowners above the beach who want them to cease their harvesting but also someone who wants Caroline gone.

A Matter of Mercy is a compelling tale of the “little man” taking on money, wealth, and power, desperately trying to retain their generational livelihood. Author Lynne Hugo perfectly captures the timeless beauty of this area and the unrelenting struggle of generations of Cape Cod aquafarmers to wrench a living from the tidal flats. The characters are believable, partly because they are based on actual participants but also because of the author’s effective and detailed character-building and development. What I particularly appreciated was the exposition of small-town culture and the fear Caroline had in returning to the scene of her biggest mistake. Although Caroline’s mother had forgiven her for what transpired, and most of the community no longer remembered it or held it against her, Caroline needed to forgive herself before she could meaningfully move on with her life. The description of daily life and the trials of aquafarming was detailed and fulfilling. I appreciated the total juxtaposition of the two participants, with Ridley, in fighting the landowners. Mario and Tomas were so completely different in character and behavior, with Ridley falling somewhere in between, and yet when the chips were down and it mattered, it was the love of their lifestyle and their precious Cape that united them in a steadfast battle against the wealthy landowners. Love and the overwhelming need to seek forgiveness are the cornerstones of this novel but it also offers a unique insight into a lifestyle few of us have encountered before. I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend it.