5 Star Reviews September 24 2014

To Love Mercy is the winner of eight awards, including the prestigious Eric Hoffer Award, and the subject of 28 Amazon reviews averaging five stars. Here are just a few ...

5.0 out of 5 stars Can be ranked with other great tales about a great if merciless city.
Frank Joseph has written a remarkable story about the tough racially charged culture of South Side Chicago in the late 1940s through the eyes of two children (both boys, one white, one black), an older black woman with ties to both their families and the other people they encounter. As some one who grew up there I can attest that the attitudes, the prejudices and the blindnesses that all too frequently trump all (or nearly all) of his characters' better instincts have been admirably captured in this compelling tale.

The maxim "to write what you know" has been well served by this story. The author's own experiences as a child at this time and his meticulous eye for detail -places, radio ads, local soft drink brands, the rides at Riverview amusement park, etc. --enrich the story but don't get in the way. If you grew up there around the time this story occurs, you will only enjoy this more. If not, the interviews with many former residents of "Bronzeville"-Chicago's equivalent of Harlem-that the author includes as part of this book will give you some valuable local insights.

I have not seized on a book so avidly since discovering Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time which transformed what was in fact a rather ordinary tale by conveying it through the remarkable insights of its autistic main character. Like that book, the interactions of the viewpoints and emotions of the two boys (both 10) regarding their bigger world and its racial baggage (the white kid good willed but na?ve and confused, the black kid already toughened and wary ) let emerge truths that the adults can no longer grasp, or perhaps more accurately, no longer want to. This is all conveyed through a very interesting narrative style that employs extensive dialogue or interior ponderings to stress the dilemmas, fears and confusions of its three main characters. (This story cries to be a radio play or other spoken word rendition--Studs Terkel where are you!?)

If you are interested in Chicago and its history but did not grow up there, this story will help you understand a little better why Chicago became the most segregated city in America with some of the uglier racial flash points of the 1960s and the bitterness of its politics following the election of Harold Washington in the 1983.

Still, this is not a despairing tale. Much is achieved by both boys in the short span over which this narrative takes place, but this story does not really have a happy ending. Even though the two main families will discover they are tied together in numerous unexpected ways, the author, respecting the realities of the times and the place, does not promise all will be well if only this or only that. What this story conveyed to me, however, is that there were possibilities that could be grasped but with great difficulty and that perhaps either one or both these two boys might be end up playing their part in the movements of the 60s and after to change the world pictured here.
5.0 out of 5 stars So engrossing this non-reader could barely put it down
I read so much in my work that I rarely read for pleasure. But "To Love Mercy" so engrossed me that I finished it in just 3 nights (it was better than anything on TV and I really do like TV). Frank Joseph does an amazing job of capturing the diverse and distinct voices -- black and white, young and old -- of Chicago, circa 1948. The story is told by four of the book's characters, in their own distinctive voices and perspectives. The adventures of Steve and Sass through Chicago are a great adventure -- Riverview Park back when it was so restrictly racially segregated; playing penner -- possibly a unique Chicago schoolyard ball game; the lakefront; the CTA; Sass going downtown for the first time -- quite an adventure that the author captures with obvious affection for the city. A few surprises along the way -- and I don't want to reveal any of them. So enjoy this wonderous journey through 1948 Chicago when the WORLD CHAMPION WHITE SOX (get over it already Cub diehards) played at a park really called Comiskey.

5.0 out of 5 stars Take a Journey Back in Time to Chicago 1948
By R. Alkire "Rolo84" (Chi-town) 
The book felt so real I almost felt like I was going on a journey throughout Chicago with Steve and Sass. It touched on so many things I don't even know where to begin. This book does a great job showing how people of two different races primarily children view people from the other race. You have Steve a privelaged Jewish 11 year old boy that lives in Hyde Park and Sass an 11 year old Black boy growing up in Bronzeville. Steve can't understand the racism of the time and why so much of his family dislikes Blacks. Sass can't understand why on earth Steve would want to be his friend or why a white bou is being so nice to him. After a bizzare incident where Steve accidntally hits Sass the two go a journey (you will understand when you read the book). This book is a history lesson even though it'c s a novel, anyone interested in Chicago or Bronzeville should read this book you won't be able to put it down. You learn about everythig from kitchenettes, to the racial tensions, to what public transportation was like. I read the entire book in one sitting. Chicagoans will especially appreciate this novel because you will find youself saying emmm.hmmm I know thats right to a lot to a lot of things that take place in the book.

Even though the book takes place in around 1948 its funny how much of its still relevant today from the parts about not crossing Wentworth (into Bridegeport) to Steve and Sass having so many misconceptions about each other. Enough said please pick up this book its enlightening, and entertaining. You will find yourself laughing out loud, and ready to cry at other momments.

5.0 out of 5 stars A Gem of a Novel
By Jeffrey A. Carstensen (St. Petersburg, FL)
Frank S. Joseph's first novel weaves two diverse worlds existing side by side - shining a light on the racial, religious and cultural differences of Post World War II Chicago between black and white. The story contrasts little Steve, white and Jewish with Sass, black and poor, who are lost in the city together. With the innocence of preteen boys about the age of Huck and Tom, they explore such treasures as Riverview Park, State Street, baseball and the El, while their parents drastically search for them - fearing for their own child's safety in the world of the other. Mr. Joseph, with a touch of humor, wit and emotion, has written a dramatic novel using yesterdays world to illuminate our own. With refreshing language, he contrasts the characters and culture shedding light on our relationships today. Personally, what I especially enjoyed was the included Afterword, snippets of interviews with photographs from those who lived in these treasured neighborhoods reminding us of a voice time is quickly extinguishing. I highly recommend this odyssey for those interested in the relationships of race, religion, and life and I look forward to many more wonderful works by this talented author.
5.0 out of 5 stars Most engrossing story I've read in a long time ...
In his day job, Frank Joseph writes direct marketing copy for publishers like me. I thought I could spot his "voice" anywhere. But a line or two into this book and I forgot that it doesn't have a life of its own.

Please don't tell me the characters of Sass and Steve (or most importantly, Dora) aren't real people. I see no Frank Joseph anywhere; only a living breathing story.

Steve has a flat-footed compulsive innocence -- a refusal to let go of the optimistic view. A really cool character. And Dora is so substantive you can feel her hugs or hear the click of her tongue against her teeth as she shakes a finger at you. The way Frank tied the two characters together is wonderful.

This is the most engrossing book I've read in ages. You can't overstate my enjoyment. Congratulations on a stupendous achievement.
5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful read
Wonderful, sympathetic characters and the story holds together very well. Some of it, particularly the sections on Riverview, evoked memories of the old Highlands amusement park in St. Louis. I particularly enjoyed the Joseph character and some of the writing in his sections. I'm guessing that the author chose not to use conventional punctuation to keep the story moving along, and I believe it worked. But, at first, as a longtime editor, I kept wanting to get out my bag of commas and quotation marks and start flinging them onto the page. But that's a minor thing. I think "To Love Mercy" is a wonderful book.