The women in an Arctic village must survive a sinister threat after all the men are wiped out by a catastrophic storm in this "gripping novel inspired by a real-life witch hunt. . . . Beautiful and chilling" (Madeline Miller, bestselling author of Circe). When the women take over, is it sorcery or power?
Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Magnusdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the skies break into a sudden and reckless storm. All forty of the village’s men were at sea, including Maren’s father and brother, and all forty are drowned in the otherworldly disaster.
For the women left behind, survival means defying the strict rules of the island. They fish, hunt, and butcher reindeer—which they never did while the men were alive. But the foundation of this new feminine frontier begins to crack with the arrival of Absalom Cornet, a man sent from Scotland to root out alleged witchcraft. Cornet brings with him the threat of danger—and a pretty, young Norwegian wife named Ursa. As Maren and Ursa are drawn to one another in ways that surprise them both, the island begins to close in on them, with Absalom's iron rule threatening Vardø's very existence. "The Mercies has a pull as sure as the tide. It totally swept me away to Vardø, where grief struck islanders stand tall in the shadow of religious persecution and witch burnings. It's a beautifully intimate story of friendship, love and hope. A haunting ode to self-reliant and quietly defiant women." (Douglas Stuart, Booker Prize winning author of Shuggie Bain)