Told in alternating tales at once haunting and redemptive, A Tangled Mercy is a quintessentially American epic rooted in heartbreaking true events examining the harrowing depths of human brutality and betrayal, and our enduring hope for freedom and forgiveness.
Part contemporary mystery, part historical novel, A Tangled Mercy is set in Charleston, South Carolina, with its centuries-old mansions, haunting beauty, cultured sophistication, and its savage history— as well as its stunning example of redemption and hope. After the sudden death of her troubled mother, struggling Harvard grad student Kate Drayton walks out on her lecture— and her entire New England life. Haunted by unanswered questions and her own uncertain future, she flees to Charleston, South Carolina, the place where her parents met, convinced it holds the key to understanding her fractured family and saving her career in academia. Kate is determined to unearth groundbreaking information on a failed 1822 slave revolt— the subject of her mother’s own research. Nearly two centuries earlier, Tom Russell, a gifted blacksmith and slave, grappled with a terrible choice: arm the uprising spearheaded by members of the fiercely independent African Methodist Episcopal Church or keep his own neck out of the noose and protect the woman he loves. Kate’s attempts to discover what drove her mother’s dangerous obsession with Charleston’s tumultuous history are derailed by a horrific massacre in the very same landmark church. In the unimaginable aftermath, Kate discovers a family she never knew existed as the city unites with a powerful message of hope and forgiveness for the world.
Blue Hole Back Home
"Sacred's not a word I've ever much liked. But maybe some things, and some places, just are. And maybe the Blue Hole was one of those things."
Shelby (nicknamed Turtle) never had any female friends. But when a mysterious girl from Sri Lanka moved to town in the summer of 1979, Turtle invited her to a secret haven: the Blue Hole. Turtle had no idea how much that simple gesture would affect the rest of her life, or the lives of those she loved. In a time when America was technically well beyond the Civil Rights era, there were those in Turtle's small Appalachian town who rejected the presence of someone different. And in just one summer-in a collision of love, hate, jealousy, beauty, and a sacred, muddy swimming hole-nothing and everything changed.
Blue Hole Back Home was Joy's first novel, and won the 2009 national Christy Award for first novel. Inspired by actual events from her own teenage years, the novel explores the tensions and eventual violence that erupts in a small, all-white Appalachian town when a Sri Lankan family moves in. Ultimately, Blue Hole Back Home is a story not only of the devastating effects of racial hatred and cowardice, but more centrally, a celebration of courage, confrontation and healing. Blue Hole Back Home is increasingly being chosen as classroom and summer reading at various public and private high school, middle schools, colleges and universities, including Baylor University.
See below for more information about Joy's books, and for links to learn more about each one and where you can purchase them.
(Harold Shaw Publishers, 1997) A collection of stories, poems and essays which The Chicago Tribune described this way: “Written with much heart and wit, this little gem of a book touches on the ordinary and profound experiences that make up a woman’s life . . . a poignant and satisfying collection . . . funny and sad, inspiring and awfully surprising.”
(WaterBrook/ Random House, 2007) Life for Joy and her husband, Todd Lake, was becoming increasingly chaotic with two careers, numerous re-locations for Todd’s work, two young biological children, and the adoption of a baby girl from China. Joy’s nearly-manic need to ask everyone around her about how they managed— or not— to balance kids and career led to her third book. Publishers Weekly called the book, “refreshing for its social conscience,” and written with “sharp humor and snappy prose.”
(Paraclete Press, 2007) In its review of Joy’s fourth book, Publishers Weekly again praised the author: “A professor at Belmont University and a former Baptist chaplain at Harvard University , the author mines her personal history…to illumine and interpret ideas such as…hope. Sometimes wry, occasionally stern, Jordan-Lake, with a touch of Southern gothic sensibility…has a gift for welcoming, lucid and insightful prose….”
In fall 2015, Belmont University launched its 125th anniversary history, From Here to Anywhere, which Joy authored–aided by an amazing team of folks who sorted through archives, helped track down facts, sorted through hundreds of pictures.... Thank you, Belmont, for the privilege of working on this story of a university that not survived but thrived against all the odds!