The Mercy Papers (Paperback)

A Memoir of Three Weeks

By Robin Romm

Scribner, 9781416567929, 224pp.

Publication Date: December 29, 2009

Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (1/6/2009)

List Price: 15.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.

February 2009 Indie Next List

“The Mercy Papers begins when Robin Romm returns to her parent's home to be with her terminally ill mother and ends three weeks later with her mother's death. Clear-eyed and furious, this is a moving, unflinching, and insightful look into a relationship that is fraught and complex but ultimately, and most importantly, filled with love.”
— Tova Beiser, Brown University Bookstore, Providence, RI
View the List


When Robin Romm's The Mother Garden was published, The New York Times Book Review called her "a close-up magician," saying, "hers is the oldest kind [of magic] we know: the ordinary incantation of words and stories to help us navigate the darkness and finally to hold the end at bay." In her searing memoir The Mercy Papers, Romm uses this magic to expand the weeks before her mother's death into a story about a daughter in the moments before and after loss.

With a striking mix of humor and honesty, Romm ushers us into a world where an obstinate hospice nurse tries to heal through pamphlets and a yelping grandfather squirrels away money in a shoe-shine kit. Untrained dogs scamper about as strangers and friends rally around death, offering sympathy as they clamor for attention. The pillbox turns quickly into a metaphor for order; questions about medication turn to musings about God. The mundane and spiritual melt together as Romm reveals the sharp truths that lurk around every corner and captures, with great passion, the awe, fear, and fury of a daughter losing her mother.

The Mercy Papers was started in the midst of heartbreak, and not originally intended for an audience. The result is a raw, unsentimental book that reverberates with humanity. Robin Romm has created a tribute to family and an indelible portrait that will speak to anyone who has ever loved and lost.

About the Author

Robin Romm is the author of the critically acclaimed short story collection, The Mother Garden, which was a finalist for the 2008 PEN USA Fiction Award. Born and raised in Eugene, Oregon, she currently lives in Berkeley, California, and New Mexico, where she is assistant professor of creative writing and literature at the College of Santa Fe.

Praise For The Mercy Papers: A Memoir of Three Weeks

"I love this passionate and beautifully written memoir, The Mercy Papers. Every sentence rings with furious love and loss." -- Abigail Thomas, author of A Three Dog Life

"There is comfort in the unflinching honesty of Robin Romm's astonishing memoir. I sought such truth after my daughter died, and grew angry at the platitudes, the cowardice, the lack of acknowledgment of what life and death hold. But Robin faces it head-on, and I am grateful to her for being brave enough to share her story." -- Ann Hood, the author of Comfort and The Knitting Circle

"Robin Romm takes on the hardest subject (the death of a person you can't live without) the hardest way (no easy answers, no gratuitous nod toward redemption, and not a whisper of sentimentality). Only a very fine writer could create this slam dance of sorrow, rage, helplessness, and laugh-out-loud humor; a book that is unapologetically raw and undeniably artful at once." -- Pam Houston, author of Cowboys Are My Weakness and Sight Hound

"Romm's piercing and personal look at loss will speak to anyone who has coped or is coping with the death of a loved one." -- Booklist

"A piercing, heartbreaking reminder that loss doesn't end." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred