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Love, Loss and Redemption in the 1950s

A review of Tracey Buchanan’s Toward the Corner of Mercy and Peace.

Tracey Buchanan’s debut novel Toward the Corner of Mercy and Peace transports readers back to 1950s Paducah, Kentucky, through the eyes of Minerva Place, a middle-aged widow with a peculiar nature and a strong sense of traditionalism. Through Minerva, Buchanan explores grief, forgiveness and the art of letting go, as well as cherishing the good nature of those around you.

It is established early on that Minerva is recluse-like with a penchant for singularity; however, the unlikely acquaintance spawned between her and her new neighbors, Robert and six-year-old George McAlpin, manages to completely upend her deep-set perspective on what a wholesome life really looks like.

Told partly through ghost stories, Buchanan illustrates an unmatched amount of character growth as Minerva grapples with the woes of her past paired with the budding friendliness and subsequent tragedy introduced by the McAlpins. After suffering from the grief of hitting young George with her car, Minerva finds herself catapulted out of her shell of past horrors into a warmer atmosphere. As a result, she learns about forgiveness forged out of love as well as about the joys of found family derived from genuine connection and care.

Buchanan does an excellent job of building the life of such a strange character while remaining immersed in a world long since passed. There is an air of authenticity laced throughout the book that is but icing on the cake of an already entrancing story of rich characters. Not to mention, of course, Minerva’s eerie interactions with the wise ghosts of those buried in her local cemetery that add a unique flair typically unheard of in period pieces such as this one.

With an emphasis on themes of overcoming discomfort and found family, Buchanan’s debut is the perfect heartwarming story to get lost in.

Toward the Corner of Mercy and Peace is out now and is one of our Summer Reading List picks. You can view the full list here.

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