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!
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