Friday, August 28, 2020

The Merciful by Jon Sealy


A young girl, Samantha James, is killed on her bicycle one night, late, riding home from her summer job at a restaurant in Overlook, a town near Hilton Head, South Carolina.  Her boyfriend finds her body when she doesn't make it to his house for their agreed upon date.  The police come and then leave, notifying her family who will never be the same after this night.  But they have no clues as to the culprit.

After several days, the man who hit Samantha comes forward.  He is Daniel Hayward, a successful man in a tech startup.  He had been out to dinner with a customer and had perhaps too much to drink.  He probably shouldn't have been driving on the narrow, dark road leading to his house.  When he hits the girl, he gets out but doesn't see what he has hit.  He assumes it may have been a deer which, injured, has run off.  Only the next day when he examines his car in the light of day and hears the news does the full extent of what has occurred hit him.

His wife, Francine, is less than supportive.  Although theirs had been a great college romance, the marriage had been showing signs of trouble lately.  She knows that the dinner the night before was with a woman customer and suspects Daniel was on his way to an affair with this woman.  Francine calls Daniel's college roommate, Jay, to come and support him.

As the weeks go by, the town turns against Daniel.  There was no excuse for this hit and run death in their opinion.  Samantha's sister holds memorials and rallies feeling against Daniel.  The newspaper is full of editorials and letters to the editor that rail against this man who dared to kill someone and drive on home.  Daniel loses his job and will soon lose his home in the upscale development that he took such pride in.  He is a scoundrel, roundly condemned and hated.

Jon Sealy has written an indictment of modern society.  While the reader might expect that this novel would be a plot-driven one, it is instead a collection of deep character studies.  Every individual involved, the victim, her family members and boyfriend, the culprit, his wife, his acquaintances and busines partners, the prosecuting attorney, the defense attorney and the judge are given a character sketch that makes them familiar to the reader.  It is a fascinating take on modern society and the role media, especially social media, plays in our perception of events.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

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