Easter Quillby makes a fine narrator, even though she is only 12 years old – maybe especially because she’s only 12. In This Dark Road to Mercy, author Wiley Cash does a great job of capturing the voice of a young girl who is already older than she should have to be. Easter doesn’t trust easily because life hasn’t given her a reason to. Her father ran off when she was 9, her mother died of an overdose, and she and her younger sister, Ruby, are in foster care. She thought the courts would decide their fate, probably sending them to Alaska to live with relatives, but then their father, Wade, shows up at her school and their lives go off the rails.
Wade is a washed up minor league baseball player who was never much of a father. He gave up his girls to their mother but he never forgot them. With their mother gone and money in his pocket, he comes back for Easter and Ruby. Now, the girls’ court-appointed guardian, Brady Weller, is looking for him and what he’s finding has him worried – Wade may be connected to an armored car heist, and Brady might not be only person looking for him.
This was a pretty fast read, but one I enjoyed. I think Cash, as I said, does a terrific job with Easter and Ruby. Easter has clearly been taking care of her sister for a while now, probably for her mother as well. She has a “wise beyond her years” quality to her, but she’s still a little girl. Her feelings are hurt when some kids at a carnival make fun of her and her sister, and she worries about the almost-boyfriend she left back home. She knows this thing with her father can’t last, that eventually, they’ll need to find a place to live and go to school and this road trip will come to a bad end. Sometimes, I got the feeling she was the only adult in the group.
Brady Weller is an interesting character, although not quite as believable to me. He’s a man on a mission, looking for these girls, even though he doesn’t seem to have any legal standing. But her clearly cares about them and knows that no one else is going to be looking very hard for a few foster care orphans who’ve gone missing.
It’s an old story with a few twists. You want Wade to do the right thing, you want Brady to find the girls, you want the cops to do more than pay lip-service to helping him, but you don’t think any of that will happen. The pages flew by, because I got caught up in the story and in these little girls and their hapless father, and I always love a book the sucks me right in. In this case, I found the ending more satisfying than I expected.
My copy of This Dark Road to Mercy is an Advanced Review Copy, provided free of charge by the good folks at William Morrow.
For more information on Wiley Cash, check out his website and his list of upcoming book signings. Maybe he’s coming to your neighborhood.