Elizabeth Cox talks about “A Question of Mercy”

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By D.G. Martin
North Carolina Bookwatch

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Elizabeth Cox talks about “A Question of Mercy” on North Carolina Bookwatch Sunday, December 10, at noon and Thursday, December 14 at 5 p.m.

In award-winning poet, novelist and former Duke professor Elizabeth Cox’s latest novel, “A Question of Mercy,” actions of a mentally challenged teenaged boy begin to frighten other children and alarm their parents. Set in the North Carolina of the early 1950s, we learn the family’s side of this situation through the voice of Jess Booker, the teenaged stepsister of Adam, who suffers from a disabling mental condition.

At first, Jess is Adam’s unwilling and uncomfortable caregiver. Then she warms to Adam and becomes his advocate, arguing against her stepmother’s determination to send him to a state institution where he would be subject to radical medical treatments including lobotomy and sterilization. As Adam comes to understand what is in store for him, he becomes desperately sad. After a walk with Jess along the French Broad River, Adam disappears. When Adam’s body is found downriver, Jess, who has run away on a long journey of her own, becomes a murder suspect, and the novel’s story becomes, in part, a murder mystery.

Writing in the Wilmington StarNews, reviewer Ben Steelman comments, “In a way, Cox harks back to the days of Upton Sinclair and Sinclair Lewis, when writers consciously set out to tackle Big Social Issues -- in this case, the heritage of North Carolina’s eugenics program and the practice of lobotomy. “A Question of Mercy” never preaches, though.”

‘The Wooden Prince’

John Bemis talks about “Out of Abaton: The Wooden Prince” on North Carolina Bookwatch Sunday, December 17, at noon and Thursday, December 21 at 5 p.m.

Hillsborough’s John Claude Bemis, a musician and former elementary school teacher, writes for young readers. He engages them with imaginative magical fantasy. His latest, “Out of Abaton: The Wooden Prince,” takes the classic puppet-turning-into-real-boy story of Pinocchio into a wild adventure. Master Geppetto is a brilliant inventor, on the run, being hunted down as a traitor to the emperor. Pinocchio is more than a marionette. He is an “automa,” which is a wooden mechanical servant that obeys, without question, the commands of its owner. Like the classical Pinocchio, this automa may be turning into a human. This book is wonderfully complicated and stimulating.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV.