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Uncategorized   |   Oct 25, 2008

Book Review: The Mercy Rule

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Book Review: The Mercy Rule

By Angela Watson


It’s rare that a work of fiction resonates with me as an apt exploration of the dichotomy of child welfare and development across class barriers…in a really witty, entertaining way.

This week I finished reading “The Mercy Rule”, which is written by Perri Klass, a pediatrician and medical director for the national literacy program Reach Out and Read. She’s a woman who has obviously seen it all and writes from an amazingly authentic place.

Lucy, the main character in the story (and also a pediatrician), constantly grapples with the question of what’s normal and appropriate for children as she straddles the two socio-economic worlds she must navigate on a daily basis. Here’s one of Lucy’s ponderings on her six-year-old son who demonstrates compulsive and socially awkward behaviors which isolate him from the upper-class society their family reluctantly identifies with:

“And sooner or later, some teacher will want him tested again, and someone will formulate Freddy. He will have a diagnosis: Lucy doesn’t believe that he will make it through school without one. And she can’t quite explain why she wants to hold out as long as possible in this complicated world where as far as Freddy knows, he defines the boundaries of normal, and everyone else is off kilter.”

And Lucy’s witty observations of the at-risk kids and pregnant-for-the tenth-time moms she examines for the state:

“But where is it written, tell me, that we must coddle the clueless? Clothe the naked, okay, feed the hungry, you got it. But where is it written that a mother who cannot do what every stray cat can do–lick ’em clean, feed ’em till they’re full, keep ’em in a safe place, and snarl at intruders–needs a therapist and a residential substance abuse program and some respite babysitting when she comes out? As far as I’m concerned, if you need regular supervised urine tests to show that you aren’t too bombed out of your mind to hold the baby, you lose the baby. You’re a loser and you lose.”

If you like action, be warned: the book is character-driven, not plot driven, and there are many diversions along the way. But I found “The Mercy Rule” to be a compelling read about loving and caring for children from another ‘mandated reporter’s’ point of view.

Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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  1. We had a revival speaker last night at our church…”Kelly Green” from Tampa Bay, FL. I wanted to pass along a quote he said to you….

    “We worry about failing in the eyes of man, when we should be worried about succeeding in the things that don’t matter to God.”

    God Bless You this week Angela

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