The only thing I didn’t like about Echoes of Mercy by Kim Vogel Sawyer was its inappropriate title. It should have been better named as Showers of Faith, or Dollops of Prayer, because if there is any one sentiment that you take away after reading this book it is the fact that prayers are always answered and that God is always waiting to have a deep and intimate relationship with us.
I generally don’t read romances, much less review them, but this one stoked my interest because of the subject of child labour in which it was wrapped. The writing was good enough to pique my interest just about hundred words into the first chapter, and I couldn’t stop reading all the way to the end.
The plot is simple yet sweet. Caroline Lang is an investigator with the Labour Commission, who is sent by her mentor, Noble, to the factory of Dinsmore’s Chocolates to investigate the presence of underage workers there and to look into the suspicious death, in an elevator shaft, of Harmon Bratcher, one of Noble’s best investigators. Assuming the name, Carrie, she takes up a job as a toter in the factory.
At the same time, Oliver Dinsmore, the son of the owner, takes up a job as a janitor in the factory that he will soon take over. Posing as Ollie, his aim is to learn all he can about the business before taking over. Both Carrie and Ollie are eager to keep their real identities a secret from the other, and both have secret agendas.
Very soon, Carrie’s gentle heart causes her to become involved in the life of Letta, a 14-year-old girl who longs to study but is forced to work because her family needs the money. When Letta’s father dies, Carrie takes charge of Letta and her younger brothers, Lank and Lesley. Soon Carrie and Ollie’s lives are inextricably intertwined with that of the children.
Gordon Hightower is the chief hiring agent, manager and bookkeeper at the factory. He is a strict man who enforces the rules that he won’t follow himself. Guilty of sexual harassment and unjust practices, including stealing from the owner, there is no one to stop him.
As the story progresses, both Carrie and Ollie discover truths that sometimes find them deeply sympathetic with each other, and sometimes pit them on opposite sides on issues that they both feel strongly about.
The beauty of Kim Vogel Sawyer’s writing is that she makes her lead character so likeable by the things they say and do. Carrie is a strong woman, one who is not afraid of standing up for the rights of those who are wronged. She is brave yet gentle, and Sawyer does an admirable job of first revealing to us Carrie’s character through the fact that she isn’t thrilled at the defeat of the other potential toter.
Ollie’s character is a huge treat. Far removed from the male leads of average romantic novels, he very quickly earns a place in Caroline’s heart, and ours.
Even though Ollie and Carrie and the main characters, Sawyer also does complete justice to the three children, and we grow to be as fond of them as Ollie and Carrie are.
The suggestion that the past informs the present and the future is seen in Gordon’s and Carrie’s deprived pasts and how each chooses to live the present differently.
The story is told from the alternate viewpoints of Oliver and Caroline, with the occasional point of view of Gordon and Letta. The different perspectives don’t mention the same situations but take the story forward in each chapter. The change of perspective, and chapter, often happens in the middle of a heated conversation, taking us seamlessly from one person’s way of thinking to that of another. And that, in my opinion, is quite a feat.
The Christian element is not likely to seem obtrusive, even to the most finicky of readers. Caroline prays for others and seeks to encourage others to rely on God’s Help, rather than man’s, and to do and act in a matter that would please God, rather than humans. Prayer courses through the veins of this book, and serves to tie up the multiple plot threads together.
In the words of Noble, God is only a prayer away. In most works belonging to the mystery/thriller genre, characters who find evidence of wrongdoing are tied up and left with no option. Here, Carrie has the option to pray, and she does.
Even though this book is fiction, I have seen and experienced enough examples of answered prayers and God’s perfect timing to know that it is true. It was nothing that I didn’t already know, but reading this book at a time when I was going through a period of intense personal turmoil, the comfort and relief it brought was huge.
There are some sweetly funny moments here too, as when Carrie teaches Lesley and Lank the right way to ask Kesia for cookies, and when Kesia gets the men in the diner to stop talking so Carrie can say grace.
Reading Echoes of Mercy gave me the feeling of reading my favourite book by a cosy fire while the cold rain lashed on outside.
This is a sweet story that will stay with you. I hope you pick it up.
(I received a copy of Echoes of Mercy from WaterBrook Multnomah.)