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The Mercy Seat

“A triumph of scholarship and imagination…a powerful novel in a mesmerizing prose out of the Old Testament by way of Faulkner. Askew is a prodigious talent.” --Sandra Scofield, New York Newsday

“A powerful novel…Askew artfully lays bare the sins and promises of pioneer society. The Mercy Seat is a story of betrayal and revenge. But it is also the story of self-discovery and the possibilities of salvation. Few can deny its relentless, almost hypnotic, force.” --James Polk, The New York Times Book Review


"The Mercy Seat is woven with such detail and adept conjuring that the fiction, its dangerous past and volatile characters, become tangible. Askew opens with the voice of a young Southern girl, Mattie. What happens to Mattie, the other voices which join hers, her family, and the early Oklahomans is part of our history. And what Askew makes clear, in this drama of resettlement and identity, is that the forces that drive Mattie forward, toward what seems an inexorable and violent fate, are still part of our present." --Betsy Sussler, BOMB Magazine

On the dusty Oklahoma border, a fierce young girl known as Mattie tries to hold her family together. Her uncle Fayette, a ruthless schemer, aims to profit by her father John’s extraordinary gifts as a gunsmith. But John flatly refuses to repeat the crime that drove them from their beloved home in Kentucky. Their struggle plays itself out against a backdrop of mule thieves and traveling preachers, scarlet fever and Native American spirits, pioneer grit and pioneer greed. Through one extraordinary family, The Mercy Seat tells the story of passions and ambitions that settled the West and changed it forever.

In this momentous work of imagination, Rilla Askew brings a distant time to startling life. The Mercy Seat pays homage to Faulkner’s understanding of the inescapable pull of family and heritage and to Cormac McCarthy’s feel for the stark beauty of the American landscape.