Literature Annotations

Brown, Rosellen
Tender Mercies

On-Line Text and Audio
Genre Novel (350 pp.)
KeywordsBody Self-Image, Caregivers, Catastrophe, Disability, Family Relationships, Illness and the Family, Love, Marital Discord, Narrative as Method, Sexuality, Suffering, Survival

This remarkable, absorbing novel is the story of a marriage and of catastrophe. Dan and Laura are a young couple from very different backgrounds who have two children. There is a terrible boating accident, caused by Dan's cavalier carelessness: Laura is severely injured and is rendered quadriplegic. The narrative skillfully weaves back and forth between Dan and Laura's earlier life, the nature of their relationship, and the present shocking realities of daily living; on-going unresolved guilt, anger, withdrawal and despair; and a gradual reconfiguration of the love and attraction that initially brought the pair together.

The author pays unflinching attention to the details of physical incapacitation and how they must be dealt with, and the consequences for Dan as husband-caregiver as well as for Laura. At the same time we hear Laura's dream-like, poetic inner thoughts--a mind trapped in a useless body-- yet she seems to use her mind both as sense organ and limbs. "If Dan . . . ever touched me above my breasts where I edge towards feeling like ice thinning out . . . I would feel it everywhere. Memory is a muscle too if you work it."

CommentaryA difficult subject, treated with skill and sensitivity. It is as much the story of love and marriage as a vivid depiction of quadriplegia and its impact on a family.
PublisherBantam Doubleday Dell
Edition1994 (paperback)
Place PublishedNew York
MiscellaneousFirst published: 1978
Annotated by Aull, Felice
Date of Entry 12/15/95
Last Revised 01/31/97