In the vein of Russell Banks’s The Sweet Hereafter and Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You, Jon Sealy’s The Merciful explores a hit and run in a coastal South Carolina tourist town and the subsequent trial, providing a gripping courtroom drama and a probing look at questions of justice and mercy in our era of social media, fake news, and online outrage.

When 19-year-old Samantha James is killer by a driver while riding her bike home from work one night, the town sets out to crucify the alleged culprit, Daniel Hayward. The headlines tell a compelling story, but the truth is much less clear. As in the film Rashomon, everyone has a story about what happened: the media, the prosecutor, the defense attorney, Daniel, and Samantha’s family.

As the book examines these myriad perspectives, The Merciful’s stunning scope ranges from characters striving for a kind of American success that’s just out of reach, to questions of data analytics, brain emulations, and the very survival of humanity. Ultimately, however, the novel is a morality play about one moment, one accident, one decision, and the way an instant can change the course of a life forever.

Praise for The Merciful

“A thought-provoking volume about how a wrong choice can have huge repercussions.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Jon Sealy’s The Merciful is atmospheric and filled with suspense. The suspense is not the cheap kind, though. Instead, it grows right out of the characters’ lives, which I found all-absorbing. If asked what writer Sealy most resembles, I’d have to say Russell Banks. If that sounds like high praise, rest assured that’s how I intend it. This is a magnificent novel.”

—Steve Yarbrough, author of The Unmade World

The Merciful freezes a moment in time and rotates it like a prism, using all facets to examine the lives of the people involved. More subtly uncomfortable than a thriller, this is a provocative novel from a strong southern voice—no two readers will come away with the same conclusion.”

—Lydia Netzer, author of Shine Shine Shine

“Jon Sealy’s The Merciful is a smartly recursive thriller, its plot spiraling ever tighter around the deceptively simple crime at its center. With its multitude of perspectives, this investigation finds its facts not in the testimony of any single character, but in that of its remarkable community: this is communal guilt, communal grief, communal truth.”

—Matt Bell, author of Scrapper