I know that’s a very vague title, but it’s weird to call this book great when it’s so tragic. It wasn’t great, but it was effective. I had a very hard time putting it down. It’s the story of the 2013 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, a city that is hit incessantly by tornadoes. They’ve gotten bigger, stronger, and weirder in recent years and no one knows why. The Mercy of the Sky tells the story of the tornado from many different residents’ perspectives, from meteorologists to the city manager to schoolteachers to an old lady sheltering in the bathroom and watching her frail husband be sucked into the sky. It gives enough backstory and personality to each person to get the reader invested in the story and is very suspenseful. It explores the city’s particular dynamics – residents who would never move even after rebuilding again and again, amateur stormchasers, the uncomfortable fact that everyone finds tornadoes thrilling and we like to be thrilled – so we’re kind of hoping it’ll get huge, even knowing what that means for the people in its path. As an Indiana resident, I’m very familiar with that feeling, but any reader should also be – as a reader, you’re retroactively rooting for something that’ll keep you riveted, knowing what that means.
And it does mean that. There’s no loophole here – we don’t get to get our adrenaline pumping reading about the massive tornado and then get our consciences off the hook when it turns out no one got hurt. People die. Kids die. Babies die. There aren’t gory descriptions for the most part, but there are truly heartwrenching ones. By the end, you feel sick for having enjoyed the first half. It’s hard but it’s real, and anyone who’s ever lived in a tornado-prone area should be familiar with it.
The book does have flaws, but the main one isn’t really avoidable – it can be repetitive. There are just only so many ways to describe a tornado, and reading the same exact description you read ten pages ago is annoying, but for the most part Bailey does as well as anyone could expect.
All in all, it’s a solid read for anyone interested in severe weather.