I picked up Mercury as soon as I saw it in the comic shop last week. I’ve liked all three of Larson’s previous books, Grey Horses, Salamander Dream,and Chiggers. As do those books, Mercury has sympathetic and emotionally complex young girls, struggling with friendship and identity with a dash of magical realism thrown in.
In modern day Nova Scotia, Tara Fraser moves back the the town she and her family used to live in, before her parents split up and their house burnt down. She stays with her aunt and cousins and is returning to 10th grade, a few years after she left. The town, her burned-down home, and the school, are all both familiar and yet new to her.
Tara’s story alternates with that of her lookalike ancestor, Josey Fraser. Josey’s family lived in 1859 on the same farm, in the same house that burned down in Tara’s life. She’s a young teen when a handsome stranger named Asa Curry comes to their farm, claiming he’s looking for gold. Asa grows close to Josey, then he and Josey’s father find gold, all under the suspicious eyes of Josey’s mother. When things go bad, a series of events unfolds that echo mystically through the years to Tara’s time.
I really enjoyed seeing the parallels and contrasts in Josey and Tara’s life, as well as learning about some of the Scottish-Canadian historical myths of the region. Larson’s story and art easily capture the wide range of emotion in a teen’s life, from joy to anxiety, and it’s easy to sympathize with her characters as they try to make peace with their mothers and find love on their own. I enjoyed the magical realism, but could see how some might argue it’s not necessary. I think it gives an additional layer and a distinction to the story that made it stand out from other young-adult coming-of-age tales.