Victims of Abuse Find A Second Chance at Life in Alena Dillon’s ‘Mercy House’ [REVIEW]


A Brooklyn nun will do whatever it takes to protect the women she shelters in Alena Dillon’s debut novel, Mercy House. (Photo courtesy Canva)

She lives by a strict moral code and has a strong sense of justice. The people in her charge are like family and she’ll do whatever it takes to protect them. But she’s not a cop. She doesn’t even work in the justice system. Instead, she’s a nun who won’t take flack from anyone. Welcome to Mercy House.

Alena Dillon's MERCY HOUSE

William Morrow

There’s a row house in Brooklyn. You wouldn’t think it is anything special from the outside. In fact, it’s over a hundred years old. But behind Mercy House’s door is a haven for those who have been dealt a cruel hand by life.

Evelyn is an outlaw of sorts, a woman with unflagging emotional strength, who along with her fellow nuns, doesn’t flinch in the face of adversity. Nor does she allow much to get in the way of their mission to protect the women who come across their threshold.

But the way they run their show isn’t always sanctioned by the church. So when Bishop Hawkins comes to investigate, she must conceal their methods, no matter how successful, and keep them hidden from the man she shares her own dark history with.

In doing so, she will go toe-to-toe with a gang member, defy the church, challenge her beliefs, and face down her past. Thankfully the women in the shelter—the residents and her fellow nuns—have her back. Because no matter what their differences are, they all have one thing in common: they are all determined to survive the men in their lives who tried to kill their dreams and crush their spirit.

Despite their fight—or perhaps because of it—Evelyn discovers her personal reservoir of strength is deeper than she thought, and that true mercy is most powerful for those strong enough to bestow it.

In Mercy House, Alena Dillon delivers a story that is as fierce and unapologetic as her leading character. She examines the power of the Catholic Church, the secrets it keeps, and the horrors that it has swept under the carpet for years. She also takes a long hard look at abuse, the destructive superiority some men wield like a scythe, and at what cost women seize control for themselves in the wake of devastating trauma. That being said, this is also a novel about grace and redemption, the beauty that is born in friendship, and the potential everyone has to defeat their demons and turn the other cheek.

Each character here is multi-faceted and authentic, especially Evelyn, a nun who was forced into the order early in life by her own father, only to realize that the church wasn’t always the sanctuary it claims to be. The nightmares she lived through forced her to embrace her inner lioness, and she shines at her brightest when she allows herself to roar. But as strong as she is, there are certain things which trigger her deepest fears as well, and it is the scenes where we witness this that we truly understand her and why she is so protective of the women she harbors.

Mercy House contains intense moments of heartbreak that show mankind at its worst. However, it is a story that is captivating, bold, and cathartic, and casts a light on a truth that many authors may be hesitant to reveal. This is a strong debut novel from Dillon, a singular voice in fiction that won’t be denied.

Add to Goodreads badge

Alena Dillon

Alena Dillon
(Photo by Debasmit Banerjee)


Alena Dillon is the author of Mercy House, a LibraryReads and Amazon book of February 2020, and the humor collection I Thought We Agreed to Pee in the Ocean. Alena’s work has appeared in publications including LitHub, River Teeth, Scary Mommy, Slice Magazine, The Rumpus, The Doctor TJ Eckleburg Review, Bustle, and The Smart Set.

Having earned her MFA from Fairfield University, she now teaches creative writing at Endicott College and St. Joseph’s College and lives on the North Shore of Boston with her husband, newborn son, and their black Labrador, Penny.

To find out more about Alena, visit her home on the Web at, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

By Alena Dillon
384 pp. William Morrow. $16.99

TLC Book Tours Tour HostPurchase Mercy House at one of these fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Half Price Books, HarperCollins, IndieBound, and Powell’s.

Mercy House is brought to you in association with TLC Book Tours.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

3 Responses to Victims of Abuse Find A Second Chance at Life in Alena Dillon’s ‘Mercy House’ [REVIEW]

  1. Sara Strand says:

    I added this one to my summer reading list even though initially I didn’t think it was up my alley, but the more reviews I read, the more I want to read it. Thank you for reading this one! Sara @ TLC Book Tours

    • Jathan Fink says:

      I’m with you. I wasn’t initially drawn to this story, but the characters are so authentic and compelling, I needed to find out the outcome. I hope you enjoy it! –Jathan

  2. Pingback: Alena Dillon, author of Mercy House, on tour February 2020 | TLC Book Tours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: