Review: Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf


Title: Little Mercies

Author: Heather Gudenkauf

Published: Harlequin MIRA June 2014

Status: Read from June 25 to 27, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Focused solely on the faces of the young, frightened children creeping from their home into the waiting arms of a police officer, the sweat dripping into her eyes from the fierce summer sun, social worker Ellen Moore ignores the shouting from the street behind her. Until she hears the sound of shattering glass and turns to see a stranger emerging from the minivan parked at the curb, cradling Ellen’s eleven month old daughter in her arms.

A harrowing tale highlighting the vulnerability of children and the heartbreaking consequences they are at risk of for the choices and mistakes parents make, Little Mercies is a gripping story that tugs violently at the heart strings.

Ellen Moore is a loving, wife and mother, doing her best to balance her family’s needs with her commitment to her career as a social worker, who makes a horrible mistake, one we would prefer not to acknowledge we are capable of, but which Gudenkauf demonstrates is all too possible. As her daughter’s life hangs in the balance we are witness to the self recriminations, the crushing guilt and distress which tortures Ellen as she faces the terrifying consequences for her daughter, her family and her self.

Entwined with Ellen’s first person narrative, is a second, written in the third person, involving a vulnerable ten year old girl named Jenny Briard. Desperate to avoid the foster care system, when Jenny’s alcoholic father is arrested she evades the police and heads for the only possible sanctuary she can think of – her grandmother’s home in Cedar City. It is here she crosses paths with Ellen’s mother, Maudene, and Gudenkauf slowly reveals the shocking tragedy that links Jenny and Ellen amidst the chaos of crisis.

Well written, Little Mercies has a driving emotional intensity that urges the reader to keep turning the pages. The plot is well thought out, if necessarily a little contrived in parts. I thought the characters to be well developed and the issues surrounding events to be portrayed in a believable manner.

A poignant reminder of the need to practice compassion, and the vulnerability of innocent children, Little Mercies is a compelling, emotionally affecting story. Heather Gudenkauf continues to impress.


Little Mercies is available to purchase at

HarlequinUS I BookDepository I Amazon US I IndieBound

via Booko

Also available


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mystica
    Jun 29, 2014 @ 20:52:06

    One book on my list and yet not tracked down. Sounds such a poignant story



  2. laurelrainsnow
    Jun 30, 2014 @ 03:39:05

    I received this book on my Kindle this week and can’t wait to read it. Obviously the social work aspect is a reminder of my thirty-year career in those trenches and the feelings and angst that accompany every decision a social worker must make; even as we are telling ourselves that we must detach and be objective, we can’t help but feel.

    Thanks for the great review.



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