Alena Dillon

Author of

Mercy House


The Happiest Girl in the World

forthcoming April 2021


MercyHouse_PB (1).JPG

"A deeply compassionate story of women supporting others in their deepest time of need, working with and against their own hopes, resources, histories, and prejudices, Dillon's debut novel is heartwarming to its core."--Booklist

Inside a century-old row house in Brooklyn, renegade Sister Evelyn and her fellow nuns preside over a safe haven for the abused and abandoned. Gruff and indomitable on the surface, warm and wry underneath, little daunts Evelyn, until she receives word that Mercy House will be investigated by Bishop Hawkins, a man with whom she shares a dark history. In order to protect everything they’ve built, the nuns must conceal many of their methods, which are forbidden by the Catholic Church.

Evelyn will go to great lengths to defend all that she loves. She confronts a gang member, defies the church, challenges her own beliefs, and faces her past. She is bolstered by the other nuns and the vibrant, diverse residents of the shelter—Lucia, Mei-Li, Desiree, Esther, and Katrina—whose differences are outweighed by what unites them: they’ve all been broken by men but are determined to rebuild.

Amidst her fight, Evelyn discovers the extraordinary power of mercy and the grace it grants, not just to those who receive it, but to those strong enough to bestow it.


"A brilliant and often heartbreaking account of a young girl striving to live a complicated dream, The Happiest Girl In The World probes the tragedy of the at-all-costs mentality that fuels Olympic performances."—Blythe Lawrence, gymnastics journalist and co-author of Aly Raisman’s Fierce: How Competing For Myself Changed Everything

For Sera Wheeler  the Olympics is the reason for everything: it’s why she trains thirty hours a week, starves herself to under 100 pounds,  and pops Advil like Tic Tacs.

For her mother, it’s a means to achieve the glory she never had. It’s why she rises before dawn to drive Sera to practice. And why the family scrimps, saves, and fractures. 

It’s why, when her best friend and fellow elite gymnast reports their doctor to the authority who selects the Olympic Team, Sera denies all that she knows about his treatments.

The Happiest Girl in the World explores the dark history behind an athlete who stands on the world stage, biting down on a gold medal. It's about the sacrifices a parent will make for a child, even as a family is torn apart. It’s about the price of pursuing greatness.

Available April 20, 2021





an excerpt from Mercy House

Seventh Wave

"Mei Li"

an excerpt from Mercy House

Rkvry Quarterly


Nominated for the Pushcart Prize

Still Point Arts Quarterly

Creative Nonfiction

"Collateral Damage"

Slice Magazine

"Puppy Parenthood"

The Smart Set

"The Nest"

Mothers Always Write

"Cut Down to Size"

The Doctor TJ Eckleburg Review



Alena Dillon is the author of Mercy House, a Library Journal Best Book of 2020, which has been optioned as a television series for CBS All Access produced by Amy Schumer, as well as The Happiest Girl in the World, forthcoming April 2021, and My Body Is A Big Fat Temple, a memoir of pregnancy and early parenting, forthcoming from Woodhall Press October 2021. Alena’s work has appeared in publications including LitHubRiver Teeth, Slice MagazineThe RumpusThe Doctor TJ Eckleburg Review, and Bustle. She teaches creative writing and lives on the north shore of Boston with her husband, son, and black lab.

Photo by Debasmit Banerjee 2018


Weller Book Works


In conversation with Margo Orlando Littell

Mon. Nov. 30 @ 7pm




Alena is represented by Nicki Richesin of Wendy Sherman Associates. Contact Nicki at 

For publicity related inquiries, contact Holly Rice at

Book Groups: If you are reading my book, I'd love to join by video chat, or drop by if you are in the Boston area!

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