Related to This Book

The Heaven of Mercury

A Novel

Brad Watson (Author, University of Wyoming, Laramie)

Overview | Inside the Book

Shortlisted for the 2002 National Book Award in Fiction: a dark, riotous Southern novel of sex, death, and transformation.

Brad Watson's first novel has been eagerly awaited since his breathtaking, award-winning debut collection of short stories, Last Days of the Dog-Men. Here, he fulfills that literary promise with a humorous and jaundiced eye. Finus Bates has loved Birdie Wells since the day he saw her do a naked cartwheel in the woods in 1916. Later he won her at poker, lost her, then nearly won her again after the mysterious poisoning of her womanizing husband. Does Vish, the old medicine woman down in the ravine, hold the key to Birdie's elusive character? Or does Parnell, the town undertaker, whose unspeakable desires bring lust for life and death together? Or does the secret lie with some other colorful old-timer in Mercury, Mississippi, not such a small town anymore? With "graceful, patient, insightful and hilarious" prose (USA Today), Brad Watson chronicles Finus's steadfast devotion and Mercury's evolution from a sleepy backwater to a small city. With this "tragicomic story of missed opportunities and unjust necessities" (Fred Chappell), "Southern storytelling is alive and well in Watson's capable hands" (Kirkus Reviews starred review). "His work may remind readers of William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, or Flannery O'Connor, but has a power—and a charm—all its own, more pellucid than the first, gentler than the second, and kinder than the third" (Baltimore Sun).

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • August 2003
  • ISBN 978-0-393-32465-5
  • 5.6 × 8.3 in / 352 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

“A fast-paced, myth-echoing, tragic-comic commentary on our modern lives.” — Bookpage

“Lovely, poignant, funny first novel, a book filled with fascinating, unpredictable, original characters.” — The State

“[A]n unforgettable story... . The accidents, the disappointments, the corrections, and the secrets each life contains are woven into a deeply sympathetic portrait of small town life at its worst and best.” — The Advocate

“Watson imbues his work with an elegance that sets it apart from the rest.” — Boston Herald

“[A] lushly written novel of Deep Southern dream and landscape.” — New York Times

“In a Southern Gothic style reminiscent of Faulkner, Watson lays bare the lives and most intimate secrets of the richest and poorest families of Mercury, MS. Highly recommended.” — Library Journal

“A dark but resonant journey through the world of the Southern gothic.” — Publishers Weekly

“A strange novel, this one—strange and uncommonly fine.” — Central Journal News

“Gimcrack storytelling...grounded by generous humanity.” — Entertainment Weekly

“Watson has written a novel at once intimate and epic, magical and real—a dazzling Southern gothic in which love and hate claim equal hold on the human heart.” — The Jackson Advocate

“[A] superb novel, graced with lush and exciting prose in the Southern high rhetorical tradition.” — Raleigh News and Observer

“A vivid mythology of a small Southern town that moves to a strange, electrifying beat.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Vividly peopled, full of surprises, The Heaven of Mercury is a deeply satisfying novel.” — Margot Livesey, author of Eva Moves the Furniture

The Heaven of Mercury is a tragicomic story of missed opportunities and unjust necessities that wittily explores the souls of its highly colorful cast of characters. It is suffused with an almost savage lyricism that illumines every accurate detail and nuance of place and speech. The light this novel casts is so brilliant it makes even its own shadows luminous. Brad Watson has struck a fresh and thrilling note.” — Fred Chappell, author of Look Back All the Green Valley

“The best thing to come out of the South since A Confederacy of Dunces.” — Gregory Rabassa, translator of One Hundred Years of Solitude and other novels

“Sort of a calm wail. Each page a deep pleasure.” — Barry Hannah, author of Airships, Ray, and Yonder Stands Your Orphan

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