Utilizing a title taken from an Anne Sexton poem, she begins “Mercy Avenue” with Claudia, who’s 43, lives in Boston and has a high-stress job. Claudia isn’t actually an city kind. She was born in Maine to a 17-year-old who most likely didn’t need her. The junk caught of their trailer’s shag carpeting lives on in her mind. “She will be able to nonetheless keep in mind the primary time she heard the time period white trash. She was 9 or 10 years outdated, watching a stand-up comedian on tv, and she or he understood instantly that he was speaking about folks like her.”
“Mercy Avenue” opens on Ash Wednesday, 2015. Claudia is at work, fielding telephone calls from pregnant girls at a well being clinic off Boston Frequent, realizing each name is a window into somebody’s life. Exterior, excessive protest season has simply begun and can final by way of Lent. A lot of the protesters are males. One will loom massive in Haigh’s narrative, however not in any method you would possibly count on.
Claudia has lived many lives earlier than this. Her previous seeps into the ebook partly by means of her reactions to callers and guests. She’s repelled by privileged varieties who can afford to erase undesirable pregnancies from their our bodies, their profession prospects and their recollections. Likewise, the addicts too wasted to care about near-viable fetuses additionally carry out her disgust. Ladies motivated by concern — a mom of 4 who thinks her ex would possibly kill her — unleash her compassion. And he or she hates listening to the fixed litany of “It was my fault.”
After hours, Haigh steers Claudia to a weed seller named Timmy. In a ebook that’s not at all solemn and is filled with quirks, the ever-stoned Timmy and his large plans and larger TV display function comedian aid. Timmy doesn’t perceive golf however watches it for its soothing tones: “the rolling inexperienced lawns, the announcers talking in hushed voices as if a child have been sleeping.” Claudia likes lighting up with Timmy and simply speaking. She’s plastered layers of gentrification over her trailer upbringing with a mom who nudged her apart for numerous foster youngsters. Timmy’s run-down place, the place he meets a parade of consumers and broods concerning the imminent legalization of marijuana, feels by some means like house.
Claudia, Timmy and all the ebook’s different gamers — together with, inevitably, a few characters who hail from Bakerton — have one factor in widespread: They weren’t wished. They have been resented from start. There are two “sisters” and two “brothers” who aren’t blood kinfolk however have been raised grudgingly in the identical households — and each pairs are fixated on girls and what they signify, whether or not that’s intercourse or replica. These folks come from wildly completely different ends of the political spectrum, however they have been all broken early in related methods. Claudia was smarter than most, however when she was focused at 13 by her mom’s older boyfriend, she didn’t know what he wished. To marry her, or undertake her?