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Mercy's First Semester by W. M. Bunche

I would like to preface this review by telling you that I read this book twice. It was good, very good in fact, and it is profoundly relevant to the world in which we live. It is a book that gave me an expectation, and then completely blew me away by the experience it took me on. The book opens with the people who love our hero, Mercy, who are reminiscing about their experiences with him. I expected this to be a story about a troubled man finding his salvation, and in some ways that is exactly what I got, but there was more. So much more.

W.M. Bunche tells the story of a young man, home after two tours as a Cavalry Scout in Iraq, Joshua Mercier, "Mercy." Mercy is intelligent, passionate, complex. He suffers with PTSD and as part of his therapy he is encouraged to take a writing class at a local college. Much of the story is told through Mercy's writings for a creative writing class. Although the timeframe of the book actually lasts for only a period of months, just a little more than a college semester, the story that is told goes far back into Mercy's childhood. We are with Mercy in Iraq, we know the people he knows and I feel a little PTSD for having walked with him through it. This book reads as an honest compilation of a life. I want Mercy to survive, I want him to succeed at finding the answers he needs, even as I understand that his psyche is fragmented, even as I understand that the there are no magic buttons. I desperately wanted to press one for him.

I don't want to give away how the beginning comes to the end, because it's a journey everyone should take, with an honest and open mind. I was heartbroken at times, as this novel unfolded, and Mercy felt every bit as real to me as if I had grown up with him down the road. This is not your typical war story, it's not your typical recovery story, it's not your typical reminiscent story. There is nothing at typical about this book. It is a book that should not be overlooked.

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