The Mercy of Thin Air

The Mercy of Thin Air

A Novel

  • reading group guide
In 1920s New Orleans, Raziela Nolan's magnificent love affair is interrupted by her untimely and tragic death. Immediately after, 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 of the relationship of Amy and Scott, a young couple whose house she haunts seventy years later. It is their own troubled story that finally compels Razi to slowly unravel the mystery of what happened to her first and only passion, Andrew, and to confront a long-hidden secret.
The Mercy of Thin Air entwines two heartbreaking and redemptive love stories that echo across three generations and culminates in a finish that will leave readers breathless. It is a poignant and brilliant first novel that beautifully captures the nature of love and shows how it transcends all barriers -- even death.
  • Atria Books | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416524656 | 
  • September 2005
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Reading Group Guide

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 righ see more

About the Author

Ronlyn Domingue
Photo Credit:

Ronlyn Domingue

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.

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Author Revealed

Ronlyn Domingue
Q. how did you come to write The Mercy of Thin Air?

A.
In the early 1990s, I worked for a management consulting firm with a team of 20 men. One day, a teammate pressured me to get a presentation ready for him early. I turned to him and said, “If you don’t stop bugging me, when I die, I’ll come back and poltergeist you.” He looked at me like I was crazy (but he did leave me alone), and I wondered what it would be like to be an entity that goes around wreaking havoc. What an interesting novel that would make…. I did nothing with the idea for years, until I decided to start writing again in my late 20s. I took a short story writing class and needed to come up with something for my first assignment. I returned to that idea. However, within a matter of days, Razi’s character came into being, and the story took shape in a way I didn’t intend or expect. I began my research on the south in the 1920s and Razi’s progressive interests. The other core characters--Andrew, Twolly, Amy, Scott, and Chloe--all made their appearances in the short story. And I knew all along it was supposed to be a novel. Although I never thought I’d write a book like The Mercy of Thin Air, I guess it was destined to get written. It always had a peculiar volition.

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