“A modern Southern gothic with a feminist edge and the tense pacing of a thriller…Beautiful and awful, enraging and sad, atmospheric and page-turning: an accomplished novel.” *Starred review*
— Kirkus Review
“A deft and thoughtful novel of feints and dodges about a community brought to its knees by prejudice, disappointments, and a past that can’t be changed.”
— Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, New York Times bestselling author of Bittersweet
“A propulsive, soulful novel about heat of all kinds: the sultry oppressiveness of a bayou summer, the searing power of first love and of religious fervor, the sweaty euphoria of sports, the unpredictable crackle of adolescence. Parssinen’s storytelling grabs, her characters haunt.”
— Maggie Shipstead, author of Astonish Me and Seating Arrangements
“Past crimes run a dark thread through this coming-of-age fable that calls to mind Laura Lippman’s stand-alone novels and even The Scarlet Letter. Parssinen excels here at capturing the dueling emotions that rule teenage girls’ relationships, and the dire consequences of societal pressures.”
— Christine Tran, Booklist
“Keija Parssinen’s novel is a pitch perfect look at where we so often go wrong in raising our girls, using religion as a weapon against female desire. With echoes of Megan Abbott and Stephen King, The Unraveling of Mercy Louis is bravely unsettling.”
— Attica Locke, author of Pleasantville and Black Water Rising
“A powerful and profoundly haunting novel–as explosive as a thriller, as wise as a myth, and as chilling as the news. . . . Mercy Louis’s unraveling is conjured with rare insight and deep compassion–readers will find themselves unraveling along with her.”
— Jennifer duBois, author of Cartwheel and A Partial History of Lost Causes
In this intricate novel of psychological suspense, a fatal discovery near the high school ignites a witch-hunt in a Southeast Texas refinery town, unearthing communal and family secrets that threaten the lives of the town’s girls.
In Port Sabine, the air is thick with oil, superstition reigns, and dreams hang on making a winning play. All eyes are on Mercy Louis, the star of the championship girls’ basketball team. Mercy seems destined for greatness, but the road out of town is riddled with obstacles. There is her grandmother, Evelia, a strict evangelical who has visions of an imminent Rapture and sees herself as the keeper of Mercy’s virtue. There are the cryptic letters from Charmaine, the mother who abandoned Mercy at birth. And then there’s Travis, the boy who shakes the foundation of her faith.
At the periphery of Mercy’s world floats team manager Illa Stark, a lonely wallflower whose days are spent caring for a depressed mother crippled in a refinery accident. Like the rest of the town, Illa is spellbound by Mercy’s beauty and talent, but a note discovered in Mercy’s gym locker reveals that her life may not be as perfect as it appears.
The last day of school brings the disturbing discovery, and as summer unfolds and the police investigate, every girl becomes a suspect. When Mercy collapses on the opening night of the season, Evelia prophesies that she is only the first to fall, and soon, other girls are afflicted by the mysterious condition, sending the town into a tailspin, and bringing Illa and Mercy together in an unexpected way.
Evocative and unsettling, The Unraveling of Mercy Louis charts the downfall of one town’s golden girl while exploring the brutality and anxieties of girlhood in America.