Thursday, February 26, 2009

Review: Tender Grace

Take an unimaginative plot, add clunky writing, and the result is a book that is very difficult to read for extended periods. That's precisely what we have here. Widow Audrey Eaton is having a hard time dealing with the death of her husband Tom. Two years after his death she is still staying in the house watching hour upon hour of television. To try and deal with her grief she decides to take an extended trip west. Along the way she meets some "interesting" characters and starts to notice some "tender graces," as she calls them, which gradually reshape her outlook on life. The book is written as a day-to-day account of Audrey's trip. Though this is a slender volume, it was extremely difficult for me to finish, as it suffers from several significant flaws. First, the plot is entirely predictable. Throughout the book I knew exactly where the story was going. Second, the characters in the story were entirely unbelievable. Audrey and Tom Eaton are apparently people without flaws (unless you count grief as a flaw, which is all the character development Stark allows Audrey). They produced perfect children, and have perfect friends. It's difficult to invest much sympathy or interest in characters like these. Third, the writing is clunky and awkward. The prose is littered with pop culture references, including, but not limited to, Stacey and Clinton of What Not to Wear, Law and Order, and more. The prose is generally sophomoric in tone. Ultimately I couldn't recommend this book. There must be better fictional accounts of grief than this.

Jackina Stark, Tender Grace (Bethany House, 2009) ISBN: 0764205757

1 comment:

Jody said...

I disagree with you. Audrey is fully developed and grows so much in this story. Ms. Stark writes often of Audrey's flaws and what Audrey herself feels about them.

It was not predictable in the way the trip was laid out. But I as a reader do expect her to come of the grief and listlessness she was in.

The book brought me much healing as well. So much so that I took notes the second time I read it. I separated from my husband last year and the grief I felt at the death of my marriage mirrored her's throughout her journey.

After I read the book a second time, one and a half years after separation, I realized how much closer I am to God and peace. As the song "Bless the Broken Road" suggests, 'God bless the broken road that lead me to you(Jesus).' I needed to redefine myself as a single woman just like she did.

Blessings, Jody