Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Book Review: Mercury by Amy Jo Burns

Pages: 336
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: January 2, 2024
Publisher: Celadon
Source: Library
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "A roofing family's bonds of loyalty are tested when they uncover a long-hidden secret at the heart of their blue-collar town--from Amy Jo Burns, author of the critically acclaimed novel Shiner. It's 1990 and seventeen-year-old Marley West is blazing into the river valley town of Mercury, Pennsylvania. A perpetual loner, she seeks a place at someone's table and a family of her own. The first thing she sees when she arrives in town is three men standing on a rooftop. Their silhouettes blot out the sun. The Joseph brothers become Marley's whole world before she can blink. Soon, she is young wife to one, The One Who Got Away to another, and adopted mother to them all. As their own mother fades away and their roofing business crumbles under the weight of their unwieldy father's inflated ego, Marley steps in to shepherd these unruly men. Years later, an eerie discovery in the church attic causes old wounds to resurface and suddenly the family's survival hangs in the balance. With Marley as their light, the Joseph brothers must decide whether they can save the family they've always known--or whether together they can build something stronger in its place."


It's the 1990s and Marley and her mother move into Mercury, Pennsylvania, a small blue-collar town. While getting accustomed to the town, Marley runs into the Joseph brothers during a baseball game. Baylor, the older athletic brother, has his eyes set on Marley and starts to date her. Before she knows it, she is invited to the Joseph family dinners, which Elsie, their mother, puts together every day. Baylor has a younger brother, Waylon, who is responsible and is often looked at as the favorite, and the there is also the youngest son, Shay. All three boys will inevitably work with their father, Mick, at the family roofing company, whether they have other dreams for themselves or not. Marley is enamored by the Joseph family as it's the complete opposite of her house. As time goes by, Baylor dumps Marley and she moves onto Waylon, as he is more sensitive and a better match for her. Fast forward many years, Marley and Waylon are married young and have a child. Marley tries to help Waylon with the family business and while she does make it more successful, she finds out there are a lot of secrets in the Joseph family. Elsie, while always put together and a pillar of the community, is hiding many secrets and has made many sacrifices of her own for the family. Mick, a Vietnam veteran, isn't always a nice guy and doesn't always have his sons' best interests at heart. Not to mention there's a literal skeleton in the closet in the town of Mercury. Mercury by Amy Jo Burns is a compelling family drama with great character development and a realistic small-town setting that's perfect for fans of Lange's We Are the Brennans.

At first I didn't really like Marley in
Mercury. She seemed to be the kind of weak character that needed a man to complete her life. She sort of drifted around not really sure of what she wanted, but that may be because she lacked a reliable home life. Her mother is a nurse and often isn't around and when she is, she feeds her popcorn, not the home-cooked meals the Joseph family has. She seems to orbit around the Josephs, and not just for Baylor and Waylon, but also Elsie, too. She desperately wanted her love and approval, which oftentimes did not come. Once Marley really inserts herself into the Joseph family, Elsie comes to lean on her in a crisis and that's when their relationship truly changes; plus, Marley sees the Joseph family for what they are.

Burns does a phenomenal job with character development in Mercury. Each character is grappling with their own issues and I thought not only was it realistic, it was memorable. I kept guessing as to who was the family villain, but once more information was shared with readers, I questioned my assumptions. Also, the small blue-collar town of Mercury, Pennsylvania was done very well and felt like a character in and of itself.

If you love stories featuring interesting family dynamics and filled to the brim with secrets, check out
Mercury this winter. I loved We Are the Brennans, and Mercury had a similar vibe. Have you read Mercury? Is it on your TBR list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.



  1. So many interesting family dynamics at play here!

    1. So interesting! I was completely sucked in! Thanks for visiting, Angela.


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