Veteran social worker Ellen Moore has seen the worst side of humanity– the vilest acts one person can commit against another. She is a fiercely dedicated children’s advocate and a devoted mother and wife.But one blistering summer day, a simple moment of distraction will have repercussions that Ellen could never have imagined, threatening to shatter everything she holds dear, and trapping her between the gears of the system she works for.

Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jenny Briard has been living with her well-meaning but irresponsible father since her mother left them, sleeping on friends’ couches and moving in and out of cheap motels. When Jenny suddenly finds herself on her own, she is forced to survive with nothing but a few dollars and her street smarts. The last thing she wants is a social worker, but when Ellen’s and Jenny’s lives collide, little do they know just how much they can help one another.

A powerful and emotionally charged tale about motherhood and justice, Little Mercies is a searing portrait of the tenuous grasp we have on the things we love the most, and of the ties that unexpectedly bring us together.

Book Club Kit for Little Mercies

Listen to a Little Mercies audio clip here.


  • “Heather Gudenkauf writes stories that really pull a person in. Her books cover topics in the news and this one is no exception. It challenges your feelings and conceptions/impressions about something dreadful (can’t give away the topic for fear of spoiling it for others)and the person who caused it to happen. There is much to savor in this book…unconditional love being the main lesson. Makes you sad for those who live without it.”


  • “Gudenkauf (One Breath Away) is back with a riveting, fast-paced story. Ellen Moore, a social worker and harried mother of three, is bowed under the weight of her caseload of suffering children. Her life is shattered when, engrossed with an emergency case, she accidentally leaves her 11-month-old daughter in a hot car. Suddenly her baby is struggling for life, her employers are accusing her of child neglect, and her marriage is under tremendous strain. The breakneck pace of Ellen’s disintegration is tempered with alternating chapters from the point of view of ten-year-old Jenny Briad, who has a loving but ne’er-do-well father and a mysterious past. This work combines page turning intensity with deep questions about priorities and the sacrifices women make in their lives. The portrayal of the frenzied speed of a mother’s life leading ultimately to tragedy is similar to Lisa Genova’s Left Neglected, but with the additional horror of every parent’s worst fear: harming their own child. VERDICT

    This novel is full of hope, despite a sometimes harrowing focus on abused children. Recommend to those looking for a quick read with lots to discuss; ideal for book groups.”

    -Library Journal

  • “LOVED this book. Little Mercies is one of those books that immediately draws you into the story. The main character could be me or you or the neighbor next door, caught in an unimaginable nightmare when one small mistake has life-altering consequences. This book is described as a powerful and emotionally charged tale about motherhood and justice, but that barely scratches the surface. I enjoyed how the author tells the story from two perspectives and alternates between each main character until she eventually intertwines the two storylines. I can’t say much more without giving away the plot, but this is a story that will resonate with every mother and one that leaves you wondering, What if…”

    Jo-Lynne ~ via Goodreads

  • names LITTLE MERCIES a Best Books for the Beach!

    “A story of motherhood, guilt, and redemption, Little Mercies examines our deepest fears and highest hopes. Gudenkauf’s prose is searingly raw, as Ellen’s confusion, guilt, and pain are laid bare. Thrilling and emotionally tender, this novel, with its driving pace, will appeal to fans of Lisa Scottoline and Jodi Picoult.”