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Mercy House

For decades, the intrepid Sister Evelyn has done anything necessary to protect the women who seek shelter at Mercy House in Brooklyn, N.Y., whether that means facing down gang leaders or defying Catholic doctrine by supporting women who choose to divorce their abusive husbands. Now, in 2010, Bishop Robert Hawkins is coming to inspect Mercy House as part of an investigation of nuns across the United States, rooting out orders that are too secular or too feminist. Evelyn and the other nuns will have to keep Mercy House's deepest secrets from the bishop in order to continue their service to the abused and abandoned. But Evelyn has dark secrets in her own past that she will no longer be able to hide in the face of his arrival.

This debut novel from Alena Dillon does not shy away from the abuse suffered by the residents of Mercy House or the abuse that many have suffered at the hands of members of the clergy. Yet in spite of these harsh realities, it is a heartwarming book. As each of the young women who have sought refuge at the shelter share their stories in turn, and as flashbacks gradually reveal Sister Evelyn's history and relationships with her fellow nuns, readers develop a strong sense of the bonds of found family that have formed there. They stand by each other and the shelter that Sister Evelyn helped to build no matter what, and readers will cheer them on until the end. --Kristen Allen-Vogel, information services librarian at Dayton Metro Library