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The daughter of a Texas sharecropper, Mercy Kaplan, 16, is determined to leave home and not be trapped like Mama in household chores and caring for kids. But after Mercy loses her parents and her three siblings in the deadly influenza epidemic of 1918, her new independence comes with overwhelming heartbreak, and she has to find work as a servant in various households. The opening chapters describing the horrors of the epidemic will pull readers, as will the honest specifics about brave, nurturing Mercy's harsh search for a fulfilling life. The dreary details about her daily chores are sometimes overwhelming, as she moves from one family to another, cleaning, cooking, and caring for kids. But there is romance, too, and she tries to resist her attraction to a decent young man. The history of the epidemic and of early feminism creates a dramatic story, and Mercy's personal struggle for independence is universal.--Rochman, Hazel Copyright 2009 Booklist

School Library Journal
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Gr 7 Up-In this compelling, tautly written novel, Mercy Kaplan, 16, feels the weight of endless daily chores and caring for her younger siblings. She has a loving family, but she longs for the freedom to be herself. Times are hard as World War I drags to an end. Mercy's family can no longer afford her keep, so she hires out miles away on the Bonner farm, and her dreams of freedom slip further away. Yet her troubles are just beginning. The influenza epidemic of 1918 sweeps across the country. No sooner does Mercy begin to feel at ease with the Bonners than tragedy strikes them, and she heads back home, only to find that her family has died. She soon gets a job as housekeeper and nanny for the widow Wilder's two small children, but there is something about the household that puts Mercy on edge. Is it the attention Daniel Wilder, the handsome, older stepson, pays her, or is it the peculiar behavior of Cora Wilder that causes Mercy's uneasiness and concern? In the end, events spiral into disaster, and Mercy struggles to be true to herself.-Roxanne Myers Spencer, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.