Small Mercies April Discussion

Here is a wrap up of both discussions about our One Library One Book community read and April read Small Mercies by Richard Anderson.

Pageturners described the book as “realistic, like a short story, easy reading, like Ruthie and Dimple, interested in the things they had to face together and individually, the decision to sell happened quickly, it lacked discussion on Indigenous issues, loved the mondegreens, I liked the care of the cattle, it about not taking things for granted, the drought was the focus, it is about the endurance of people on the land, the weather was symbolic of their relationships, it reminded me of the Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, farmers know each cow, a lot rang true, they were in a bit of a rut being on the farm in a drought, the last scene with the rain was written for a movie, it is a survival story, they did love each and nearly lost it, I thought it was amusing in places, very accessible and it is about money and power.”

Discussions also centred around the title Small Mercies – was there a major small mercy, or a series of small mercies, it was about being grateful, it about being grateful for what we have but maybe did no appreciate before. Yes, be thankful for the small thing – a cow getting better, your relationship, the rain.

There was also talk about the character names – Dimple could be seen as being “simple” or child like. Ruthie could also be child like.

And about the characters – Wally got his comeuppance, Ruthie was selfish and indulgent, Ruthie was too beautiful, it’s Mills and Boon for older people.

And turning points in the novel – visiting Wally, the two women at his house, extending their break, medical dilemma, picnic by the river, the other man, selling the farm, gay son, children, their relationship, their future and decisions.

This book mostly rated 3s out of 5 stars in the ratings.

And the final word goes to author Richard Anderson who said Small Mercies was “more than a love story. It is about the question ‘What if?”’- which is a constant question especially during COVID when there is less certainty about the future.”

Further reading:

The Meanjin Sacred Cow Essay that started the book

Better Reading Interview with author Richard Anderson on how real life inspired the book

March Evening Chat: The Living Sea…

Pageturners held an interesting discussion about Richard Flanagan’s latest book The Living Sea of Waking Dreams. It is a story for our times about a dying mother and her children, their relationships and our dying planet.

Pageturners comments included: “No. just no, better things to do with my life, there was no punctuation, not a fan, the story mimics what we do to the planet, it was bleak and hopeless, I appreciated it, it was tortured and forced, its was so complex, it was mystical, the missing body parts!, we were bombarded with the environmental issues, I liked discovering the family dynamics, it was very clever, it was emotional with layers, the dray was a recurring theme.”

The February discussion on this book included conversations about our disappearing selves, the impact of social media, that we are tested by suffering, and what happens when you don’t live your best, authentic life. Some compared it to All Our Shimmering Skies by Trent Dalton.  And interestingly some said it left them with a sense of hope.

Ratings this week ranged from 2.5 to 4s. So another Pageturners book that generated much discussion and varying views.

Further reading and listening:

The Guardian Review

And Better Reading Podcast with Richard Flanagan