Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What We're Reading Wednesday: Finding Grace

So happy to finally come to Finding Grace by Laura H. Pearl on my book-list! I learned of this novel from the author's sweet blog, String of Pearls, where she blogs about life as a mother to five grown boys, her faith, her writing, and the musings of her heart. The book is described on her blog as "a pro-life, pro-chastity, coming-of-age love story," which sounds really intriguing, doesn't it?

Our story begins before Grace's high school Freshman year in the year 1972. A somewhat shy, bookish girl, lacking in overt gifts of physical beauty, or even grace, she nags at her father for having named her Grace when their last name is Kelly, and with no middle name to boot. The unfortunate lack of resemblance to the shining movie star only heightens Grace's feelings of awkwardness about her outward person. Grace's father, a merry but stern and overtly faithful man, reminds the young Grace that he named her so because of his feelings of God's generosity for giving them a girl after having five sons. He further explains that she was named for an obscure saint of the same name, and that he had no doubt that one day there would be another St. Grace, because he could see the beauty and grace of his own Grace's soul.

This small and endearing passage between father and daughter sets the tone for the novel as the ever mousy and insecure Grace enters high school with a new found determination to forge a relationship with God that will lead her to a life of holiness and happiness: a saint's life. The novel follows Grace through high school crushes, family struggles, strained friendships and hard lessons. Along the way Grace finds solace in contemplating the lives of characters in the books she so dearly loves (with a special attachment to Pride and Prejudice), reading the lives of saints and growing close to them in her heart as she attempts (and sometimes fails) to follow their example. As the reader anticipates, Grace's failures (and the failures of those around her) lead to painful and unnecessary consequences, but through God's grace and ever flowing desire for reconciliation and renewal, a happy ending is achieved. 

Pearl's in-depth characterizations and study of the human heart are definitely the high-light of this endearing novel. Little Grace, in all her insecurities and hidden desires of the heart, her short comings and her successes, cannot but help to find a place in the reader's heart. Her best fried, Irene, the opposite of Grace in terms of outward and inward beauty, is treated by the author with no less grace, and the reader roots for her to become the person she truly is. 

I also particularly enjoyed the tales of saints, and the infusion of literary figures (Grace's analysis of their behavior) throughout the novel. Pearl deftly explores Grace's strengthening perception of right and wrong, desire and will, through evaluating the choices and consequences of those she reads about. And very cleverly, I might add.  

The cover of Finding Grace, in all its pastel sweetness, is a bit misleading. I had assumed (based on the cover, shame on me!) this was a book I would read ahead of time in hopes that my 9 year-old AnneMarie would enjoy reading aloud with me as we talked through issues. Not so. The topics covered include Grace experiencing the first hand pain of a Holocaust survivor as well as very mature teenagerly topics such as underage drinking, premarital sex, adoption and abortion. Pretty heavy. This coupled with the length of the novel make this in no way suitable to a young mind. I think perhaps high school is the earliest I would recommend this, and is not at all too youthy for any adult.

I don't recall reading any books with such a theme when I was in high school, a time of great introspection and soul searching for me, as I am sure it is for many girls, although society would not lead us to believe this is true with the typical characterization of the rebellious, bubble headed and fad-driven teens we are continuously subjected to. I know that I would have appreciated and benefited from reading Grace's story during that awkward time, just as I benefited from reading it now!

Go check out Housewife Spice to see what others are reading!



  1. I have this on my Kindle! Bumping it up on my list now...

  2. So many books, so little time!
    Thanks for the wonderful review!

  3. Thanks for the review - adding to my list!

  4. I'm going to add this one, great review and glad to know I can get it on my Kindle!

  5. This is on my list of books to read. I'm glad you said it was only appropriate for teens and up, because I was thinking it was something my 11-year old could read...

  6. Sounds good. Just got it on kindle, and have time to sit and read today - thanks! I was looking for something interesting.

  7. Rebekah, I just wrote a long comment and made it here I go again!

    I can't tell you how much I appreciate this! Whenever I see a new review, I feel almost sick to my stomach when I start reading it. I am a bundle of nerves. That's how I started out here, but by the end I was beaming. It means so much to me to know that you enjoyed Finding Grace and can give it your recommendation--especially since I've read other book reviews you've posted on this blog and I truly value your opinion.

    When my publisher and I were trying to determine what genre or category to put Finding Grace in, we agreed that the main target audience was teens/young adults. After all, that is the age group I was hoping would read the book and be inspired by it. The problem is that the "YA" tag leads people to believe that a book is appropriate for pre-teens and younger teens, and I agree that FG is geared toward the high school-aged and older crowd. Because its official tag was going to be "YA," my publisher thought the cover artwork (which was done by me, and I'm not a professional artist!) was suitable. But my husband and two other reviewers have commented that because it looks somewhat juvenile, the cover might be a bit misleading. (As in, if people judge this book by its cover, adults who might enjoy it will think it's not for them, and parents might give it to readers who are really too young to deal with its difficult themes.)

    More than anything else, I hope that this book can be inspirational for impressionable high school girls--and because of that, I just loved your last paragraph. And by the way, thank you for seeing Irene the way you did. When I started out, she was a sort of two-dimensional character in my mind; but over time, she came to life for me and I thought she was every bit as lovable as Grace.

    A book like this--written by an unknown author, published by a small Catholic house like Bezalel Books--really needs the word-of-mouth treatment to find an audience. So again--thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this review on your blog! I hope you don't mind if I post a link to it on FG's Facebook page.

    God bless you!

    1. Oops--I meant to say I thought of Irene as a ONE-dimensional character.

  8. Argh! You've done it again! I need to read this book. I've wanted to for a long time because I really love Laura and wanted to support her, but your review along with Jessica's (from last week?) are the clincher. Payday, come on! Mama needs a new book!

    1. By "Argh! You've done it again!" I meant you've written another great review. Thanks for that.


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