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The Mercy of Thin Air

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From debut author Ronlyn Domingue comes a stunning, imaginative novel that beautifully captures the nature of love and how it transcends all barriers -- even death.
In 1920s New Orleans, smart and fearless Raziela Nolan is in the throes of a magnificent love affair when she suddenly dies in a tragic accident. Immediately after her death, she chooses to stay between -- a realm that exists after life and before whatever lies beyond it. From this remarkable vantage point, Razi narrates the story of her lost love, as well as the relationship of Amy and Scott, a young couple whose house she haunts seventy years later. Their trials finally compel Razi to slowly unravel the mystery of what happened to her first and only love and to confront a long-hidden secret.
The Mercy of Thin Air entwines love stories that echo across three generations culminating in a startling finish that will leave listeners breathless.

Topics for Discussion
1. The narrative structure of The Mercy of Thin Air alternates between the past and the present. How does this structure build suspense and pique a reader's curiosity about what will happen next? What insight do you get into the lives of Razi and the other characters because of the way the story is told?
2. How did Razi defy the conventions of society in the 1920s? If she had lived, do you think she would have fulfilled her dream of becoming a doctor, or set aside that ambition for marriage and motherhood? Given the time period, would it have been realistic for her to have done both?
3. Although she doesn't know it until after his death, Amy shares a pivotal experience with her grandfather. How did Amy reevaluate her life after she learned what happened to Poppa Fin? Does Amy come to better understand her grandfather after what she discovers about him?
4. Razi tells us, "Most of the ones who stayed between opted for the unknown -- what was beyond -- within weeks after their deaths." Why has Razi chosen to stay between decades after her death? What makes her decide it's finally time to go beyond?
5. Discuss Razi's friendship with Twolly. What is significant about the novel's ending, when Razi is at Twolly's bedside?
6. For years, Razi followed the life of a man she assumed to be her Andrew O'Connell. On some level, did she know he was the wrong person? She says, "I had never questioned whether I tracked the right person because -- in name, action, and deed -- the man had led the life I expected my Andrew to have, the life he had planned." Razi assumes that Andrew would carry along with the plans he had made before she died. Did she underestimate the impact her death would have on Andrew?
7. How have relationships between men and women changed in the last hundred years, as illustrated in this book? Is it startling to see how limiting women's roles really were less than a century ago? Why do you suppose the author chose to set the earlier part of the story in the 1920s instead of in another time period?
8. When Andrew asks Razi if she would consider becoming a nurse instead of a doctor, is he in a sense stifling the very qualities that attracted him to her in the first place? If they had married, how do you think their relationship would have changed?
9. Neither Amy nor Scott "attempted to find the humility, or courage, to make amends. The silence, more than their physical separation, grew in its power to keep them apart for good." Would Amy and Scott have reconciled if not for Razi's intervention?
10. Once Razi had "learned to maneuver through the world without a body," she felt it was her duty "to help others adjust to our translucent realm." What motivates her to assist others in making the transition? Is it a continuation of how she acted in her previous life?
11.How do the five senses factor into the story, particularly smell and touch?
12. At the estate sale at Simon Beeker's home, Razi is drawn to Andrew's bookcase, which leads her to follow Amy and Scott to their home. Was it really Amy to whom Razi felt connected? In what ways are Razi and Amy alike?
13. Emmaline, Simon, and Andrew had unique relationships with one another. Why did Andrew show such concern for Emmaline and Simon? What motivated Simon to keep in touch with Andrew? What issues of race and class were revealed through these characters?
14. What stood out the most for you in this story? What, if anything, did you find yourself remembering days after you finished reading the book?
15. What are your thoughts on whether there is a between realm, a place where a spirit lingers after the body has died? Have you had experiences with paranormal phenomena?
16. The Mercy of Thin Air is Ronlyn Domingue's first novel. What makes you interested in reading her future work? Does this book remind you of other novels you've read? In what ways?
Photo Credit:

Ronlyn Domingue is the author of The Chronicle of Secret Riven, The Mapmaker’s War, and The Mercy of Thin Air, which was published in ten languages. Her essays and short stories have appeared in several print and online publications, including New England Review, Shambhala Sun, and The Nervous Breakdown. Connect with her on RonlynDomingue.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

Rebecca Gayheart made her Broadway debut in Steel Magnolias, and her LA stage debut in the Tony winning The Last Night of Ballyhoo, (Back Stage West "Garland Award.") Feature films include Urban Legend, Jawbreaker, Shadow Hours, Harvard Man, and Pipe Dream. She starred on television in Wasteland, Beverly Hills 90210 and Earth 2, and has guest starred on Nip/Tuck and Dead Like Me.

"Ronlyn Domingue's debut novel is an ethereal and eternal love story with images so luminous they lift off the paper. The Mercy of Thin Air will haunt you long after the last page is turned."
-- Paula Wall, national bestselling author of The Rock Orchard

"With lucid supple prose, Ronlyn Domingue weaves a gossamer tale suspended between two worlds. Readers will find it difficult to let go of this moving debut by a remarkable talent well on her way to a distinguished career."
-- James Wilcox, author of Heavenly Days

"In The Mercy of Thin Air, Raziela Nolan - a ghost - spins vivid portraits of the world she left, and the world she isn't allowed to join, reminding us that there is the finest of lines between present and past, between life and death, between love and regret. This is that rarest of first novels - a truly original voice, and a truly original story."
--Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of Vanishing Acts and My Sister's Keeper

"Like The Lovely Bones, Ronlyn Domingue's own first novel makes the reader feel as if he's died and gone to heaven. The Mercy of Thin Air should enjoy a similarly long and happy life."
--James Gordon Bennett, author of The Moon Stops Here

"Luminous, wise, tender, passionate, and compassionate, this book is special. Razi is a rare character, and her story opens like the petals of a flower. She makes me understand, all over again, the redemptive power of love. One to treasure."
--Posie Graeme-Evans, author of The Exiled

"Debut novelist Domingue weaves a tapestry of lost spirits and misplaced loves."
--Kirkus Reviews

"[An] amazing first novel.... Razi is so enchanting that readers will gladly follow her anywhere. Filled with vivid descriptions of scents, sounds, and marvelous human sensations that people take for granted and that spirits can only wistfully recall, this is a novel that gets under one's skin. Mere mortals can only hope that Domingue has more stories to tell."
--Library Journal (starred review)

More books from this author: Ronlyn Domingue