top of page

A grieving mother forms an unlikely bond with her daughter’s murderer.

Bernadette Baker lives through every mother’s worst nightmare when her adopted sixteen-year-old daughter, Veronica, is brutally murdered in a shocking and random act of violence. Ten years later the murderer, Raelynn Blackwell, is facing execution for her crime, and despite being united in their grief over Veronica, the Baker family is deeply divided on the subject of the death penalty. On one side is Veronica’s deeply spiritual and sensitive brother who believes that the death penalty is the last thing his baby sister would have wanted. On the opposite side is their tough-as-nails older sister who vehemently believes that death is the only way justice will be served. In the center is Bernadette, who is deeply ambivalent and longs for a resolution that will help her family move forward. After Raelynn receives a last-minute stay of execution, a secret is revealed that changes everything and leads to an unlikely bond between Raelynn and Bernadette. A heart-wrenching and ultimately redemptive family drama of forgiveness, destiny, and the true nature of justice.


What Readers are saying:


A heart-wrenching and ultimately redemptive family drama of forgiveness, destiny, and the true nature of justice. This family drama is a must-read that teaches us about the true nature of justice and our very humanity.” -Sr. Helen Prejean, C.S.J., author of Dead Man Walking

A stunning achievement. Dorothy Van Soest is indeed a masterful storyteller. I eagerly await her next book. –Hal Zina Bennett, bestselling author of Write From the Heart: Unleashing the Power of Our Creativity

A thought-provoking novel about the full implications of the death . . . Complex characters populate this well-considered take on capital punishment.  –Kirkus Reviews
Just Mercy combines a brisk read with deep themes of justice, forgiveness, the abiding love of family and the sanctity of human life.
–Joe Martin, Real Change Newspaper

Just Mercy is a moving, fast-paced read that artfully sweeps us up in the journey of forgiveness - Leslie Neale, Director, Producer, Unlikely Friends

Just Mercy reads like a motion picture … bringing home the horror of the death penalty and the complexities of how compassion arrives in unexpected ways.–Jarvis Jay Masters, Author ofFinding Freedom: Writings from Death Row and That Bird Has My Wings:  The Autobiography of an Innocent Man on Death Row

Just Mercy shares the compelling and intense journey of a family struggling with the horrors, trauma, and grief associated with the murder of a family member and the death penalty.  –Marcelle Clowes, Member Engagement Coordinator, Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation (MVFR)

An eloquently envisioned and deftly delivered a compelling tale. –Sarah W. Bartlett, co-editor,HEAR ME, SEE ME: Incarcerated Women Write and founding co-director of writing inside VT.

A family’s struggle for justice reveals the complexities and quandaries inherent in capital punishment. After reading the book, it is impossible not to feel compassion for everyone who is impacted by the death penalty system. –Jen Marlowe, author,I Am Troy Davis

A compelling read and the plot twist up there with the best of them. –Dave Avolio, Board Member, Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

A page-turner that makes you think and stays with you long after you finish.-Irene Sheppard, Author, Restorativity Blog


What makes a family and how families undertake and define healing is explored in this candid, utterly suspenseful and captivating novel. –Marilyn Armour, Ph.D. LICSW, Professor and Director, Institute for Restorative Justice and Restorative Dialogue, The University of Texas at Austin


Just Mercy faithfully captures the emotional complexities surrounding the death penalty … and confronts our notions of justice, punishment, and forgiveness. –Kristin Houlé, Executive Director, Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty


Just Mercy is a fitting title for a relationship between unlikely advocates that manifests the principles of the victim offender dialogue process in a riveting family drama. –David Doerfler, founder, Concentric Journeys


A powerful call for breaking down the barriers that separate us and for recognizing the value of every human being. –Michael Reisch, Ph.D., Daniel Thursz Distinguished Professor of Social Justice, University of Maryland 

A journey through the Texas criminal justice system that you will never forget.-Larry Fitzgerald, former Public Information Officer, Huntsville, Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice

Just Mercy

bottom of page