LITTLE MERCIES

Heather Gudenkauf

In her latest ripped-from-the-headlines tour de force, New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf shows how one small mistake can have life-altering consequences…

Veteran social worker Ellen Moore has seen the worst side of humanity—the vilest acts one person can commit against another. She is a fiercely dedicated children’s advocate and a devoted mother and wife. But one blistering summer day, a simple moment of distraction will have repercussions that Ellen could never have imagined, threatening to shatter everything she holds dear and trapping her between the gears of the system she works for.

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In her latest ripped-from-the-headlines tour de force, New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf shows how one small mistake can have life-altering consequences…

Veteran social worker Ellen Moore has seen the worst side of humanity—the vilest acts one person can commit against another. She is a fiercely dedicated children’s advocate and a devoted mother and wife. But one blistering summer day, a simple moment of distraction will have repercussions that Ellen could never have imagined, threatening to shatter everything she holds dear and trapping her between the gears of the system she works for.

Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jenny Briard has been living with her well-meaning but irresponsible father since her mother left them, sleeping on friends’ couches and moving in and out of cheap motels. When Jenny suddenly finds herself on her own, she is forced to survive with nothing but a few dollars and her street smarts. The last thing she wants is a social worker, but when Ellen’s and Jenny’s lives collide, little do they know just how much they can help one another.

A powerful and emotionally charged tale about motherhood and justice, Little Mercies is a searing portrait of the tenuous grasp we have on the things we love the most and of the ties that unexpectedly bring us together.

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  • Harlequin MIRA
  • Paperback
  • July 2014
  • 320 Pages
  • 9780778316336

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$15.95

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About Heather Gudenkauf

Heather Gudenkauf is the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling novels One Breath Away, These Things Hidden and The Weight of Silence, which sold more than half a million copies and spent 21 weeks on the New York Times bestsellers list. She lives in Iowa with her husband, three children and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Maxine. She is currently working on her next novel.

Praise

“The portrayal of the frenzied speed of a mother’s life leading ultimately to tragedy is similar to Lisa Genova’s Left Neglected, but with the additional horror of every parent’s worst fear: harming their own child. This novel is full of hope…Recommend to those looking for a quick read with lots to discuss; ideal for book groups.—Library Journal

“Gudenkauf’s prose is searingly raw…Thrilling and emotionally tender, this novel, with its driving pace, will appeal to fans of Lisa Scottoline and Jodi Picoult.—Booklist

Discussion Questions

Like many parents, Ellen struggles to balance her personal and professional lives. Discuss how you face maintaining that precarious balance between home and work.

Ellen’s former client Jade steps in to save Avery’s life and Ellen finds herself being seen as an unfit mother. Talk about this reversal of roles. How do you think this changed Ellen’s view of the parents she works with and how they think of Ellen? Does this change your opinion of parents who might have experience in the child welfare system?

Discuss the ways parenthood and adult-child relationships are portrayed in the novel. Think about Jenny’s relationships with her father, mother, Maudene, her father’s friend-girls and Ellen’s relationship with her own children and the children she works with as a social worker.

Ellen’s distractions have catastrophic effects on her daughter’s health, her family, and her professional life as a social worker. Talk about a time when you may have had a close call in your life. How did you feel? How did the experience change you?

Ellen is charged with a felony and potentially faces a prison sentence. Do you think she should have to serve time behind bars? Why or why not?

What scenes or developments in the novel affected you most?

Adam quickly forgives Ellen for leaving Avery in the hot car. How would you react in a similar situation? Does Ellen deserve forgiveness? Do you think she will be able to forgive herself?

Maudene places herself in a precarious situation by taking a wayward Jenny into her home. Discuss the possible implications of this decision. What would you have done if faced with a similar situation?

How do Ellen and Jenny change over the course of the novel? Which character changes the most, which the least?

How did your opinion of Jenny’s mother change over the course of the novel?

In Jenny’s young life she has already faced so many obstacles: poverty, abuse, struggles with school, a runaway mother and an unpredictable father. What do you think will become of Jenny?

What does the title Little Mercies mean to you?