Mercy lives in modern-day Pietermaritzburg, South Africa with her eccentric foster aunts—two elderly sisters so poor, they can only afford one lightbulb. A nasty housing developer is eying their house. And that same house suddenly starts falling apart—just as Aunt Flora starts falling apart. She’s forgetting words, names, and even how to behave in public. Mercy tries to keep her head down at school so nobody notices her. But when a classmate frames her for stealing the school’s raffle money, Mercy's teachers decide to take a closer look at her home life.
Along comes Mr. Singh, who rents the back cottage of the house on Hodson Road. When he takes Mercy to visit a statue in the middle of the city, she learns that the shy, nervous “Mohandas” he tells stories about is actually Gandhi, who spent a cold and lonely night in the waiting room of the Pietermaritzburg train station over a hundred years ago. It marked the beginning of his life’s quest for truth…and the visit to his statue marks Mercy’s realization that she needs—just like Gandhi—to stand up for herself.
Mercy needs a miracle. But to summon that miracle, she has to find her voice and tell the truth—and that truth is neither pure nor simple.
“Set in post-apartheid Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, this realistic story traces protagonist Mercy’s quest to speak up for truth and, consequently, for herself. […] Sensitive, funny, and tender.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
A "poignant, charming, perfect gem of a novel" — The Buffalo News
"Mercy is a winning protagonist who is by turns anxious, observant, and brave. South Africa is represented in its diversity: Mercy is mixed race, her aunts are white, and neighbors, classmates, and community members are from a range of racial and cultural backgrounds. Short, episodic chapters in the book's first half build to an emotionally compelling conclusion that is rich in insights about community, family, and social action. VERDICT This novel has a gentle, timeless feel, complex secondary characters, and quirky humor. A heartfelt, human, and wise addition to middle grade shelves.—Elizabeth Giles, Lubuto Library Partners, Zambia (School Library Journal)
"Karen Vermeulen's simple line drawings complement Krone's text with appropriate whimsy. The short chapters are a nice treat for the reading level, particularly since the themes have a depth to them that take some reflecting. Krone notes that her "favorite stories are those that, just when you expect a lesson, sing a song instead." Small Mercies is just that surprising song, full of light and sweetness. Readers will carry the melody in their hearts long after the last page is turned." —New York Journal of Books