The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) has selected Under The Mercy Trees as a spring 2011 "Okra Pick" (great southern books "right off the vine"). Here's what the novel is about:
Martin Owenby has lost his way in life. Thirty years ago, he left his hometown of Solace Fork in Western North Carolina to come to New York City, with dreams of becoming a famous writer and leaving the pain and shame of his turbulent past behind him. Now he barely scrapes by editing technical manuals, and his existence revolves around cheap Scotch and weekend flings with equally damaged men.
When Martin receives word that his older brother, Leon, has gone missing from the Owenbys’ farm, he must return to Solace Fork to help his family in their search. But going back means facing his past–a past filled with regrets, a past that includes Liza Barnard, the girl whose heart he broke; his family, who never understood him; and his best friend, who has faithfully kept the home fires burning in case Martin ever decided to return.
As the mystery surrounding Leon’s disappearance deepens, so too do the weight and guilt of three decades’ worth of unresolved differences and unspoken feelings. Martin will learn the hard way that home isn’t a bad place to be. Under the Mercy Trees is a novel at once devastating and tender, and the Owenbys’ tale of family, love, and redemption is as soul-warming as it is sorrowful.
Praise for Under the Mercy Trees:
“A melancholy mood suffuses Newton’s nimble debut.... [An] eloquent, sorrowful novel.... Readers of both Pat Conroy, on one hand, and Carson McCullers, on the other, will relish Newton’s flawed characters and piquant portrayal of small town life.”
-- Booklist (starred review)
"Newton delivers a stirring debut novel told from the perspectives of four central characters embroiled in a family drama that spans generations and is riddled with defensive secrecy and emotional penury in equal measure . . . Newton delivers across the board with these characters, who run the gamut from perky to depressive, desperate to schizophrenic."
“Under the Mercy Trees is an amazing novel, driven by mystery, and weaving past and present stories into an intricate and mesmerizing design. . . . . An extraordinary piece of work.”
--Jill McCorkle, author of Going Away Shoes
"In Under the Mercy Trees, Newton has rendered her characters’ world with clear-eyed compassion and in so doing delivered one sweet ache of a novel."
--Tommy Hays, author of The Pleasure Was Mine
"Under the Mercy Trees is a brilliantly crafted novel of a complex family bound by love and hate, hope and regret, a family that must come to terms with each other and in the process, forgive themselves. You’ll find a bit of your own family there and perhaps something of yourself."
--Sandra Dallas, author of Whiter Than Snow and Prayers for Sale
"Under The Mercy Trees will take your breath away. As the Owenby clan of Solace Fork, North Carolina pull together to find their missing brother, Leon, ghosts real and imagined demand to be acknowledged leaving the Owenbys’ no choice but to confront the wreckage of the past. Heather Newton’s generational tale of familial secrets, regret, and heartrending loss is so luminous, you will be thinking about these characters long after the final page. A remarkable debut by a writer who captures with her words the beauty in the ugly and forgiveness in the unrepentant."
-- Robin Antalek, author of The Summer We Fell Apart
"Under the Mercy Trees is both a compelling mystery and the story of the Owenby family of North Carolina, a novel that seamlessly, beautifully, twines past with present to show how we can never escape our histories or the deeds -- good and bad -- that create those histories. The powerful, swelling conclusion of this book raised gooseflesh on my arms and had me near tears."
--Tom Franklin, author if Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter