The Heaven of Mercury

Written by Brad Watson
Review by Eileen Charbonneau

The twentieth century, viewed in a non-linear fashion through the lives of citizens of Mercury, Mississippi, is dark, atmospheric and gothic. The thread running through its many stories is the star-crossed love Finus Bates holds for Birdie Wells. In their long lives Mercury changes from a backwater town to a small city, but the outside world rarely intervenes (a 1906 storm changes lives forever, World War II claims Finus’s only child). Curious, for a novel whose point of view often centers around a newspaper man. I missed the sense of the wider world, or even of cultural changes at home.

Watson’s prose is often elegant and evocative, but occasionally gets in its own way and become obscure. The passivity of its main character made his own story one of the less compelling. I longed for more than its tantalizing glimpses into the culture of its other world of woods-dwelling descendants of slaves, and of the afterlife of both the innocent and guilty of Mercury’s citizens.