The Heaven of Mercury

Finalist, National Book Awards 2002 for Fiction

Brad Watson, The Heaven of Mercury book cover
ISBN 9780393047578
W.W. Norton & Co.
Brad Watson author photo, credit: Elizabeth Love, 2016
Brad Watson

Brad Watson teaches creative writing at the University of Wyoming, Laramie. His first collection, Last Days of the Dog-Men, won the Sue Kauffman Award for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts & Letters; his first novel, The Heaven of Mercury, was a finalist for the National Book Award. More about this author >

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Finus Bates has loved chatty, elegant Birdie Wells ever since he saw her cartwheel naked through the woods near the backwater town of Mercury, Mississippi, in 1917. Having “caught hold of some loose line in her that would attach itself to stray wildness” and never let go, he’s loved her for some eighty years: through their marriages to other people, through the mysterious early death of Birdie’s womanizing husband, Earl, and through all the poisonous accusations against Birdie by Earl’s no-good relatives. All during Mercury’s evolution from a sleepy backwater to a small city, Finus (reporter, radio host, and obit writer) has aimed to have the last word on its inhabitants, from obsequious undertaker Parnell Grimes to Euple Scarbrough, local encyclopedia of useless knowledge, and Vish, a real oldtime medicine woman. But ever loyal to Birdie, Finus won’t rush to unravel the mystery of her husband’s untimely passing—not until Birdie herself has entered Mercury’s heaven.