Publication Date: 2006
Number of Pages: 299
Part of a Series: No
Mental health - Sufficient Grace
Artists - Fiction
Southern stories about loss
Women (any adjective you can think of)
Geographical Setting/Time Period: North Carolina and Virginia/Recent past
Gracie Hollaman, a woman of middle age who begins to hear voices, discovers a talent for drawing and leaves her husband of 30+ years.
Ed Hollaman, a man who cannot boil an egg left to fend for himself discovers how to cook when he grows bored with TV dinners
Mama Toot Riley, an elderly woman of color and matriarch in her Virginia farmhouse
Mattie Riley, a grieving widow, amazing cook and reluctant step-grandmother, she is Toot’s daughter-in-law
Plot Summary: Gracie leaves home, commanded by the voice of God. She wrecks her car and is later found, asleep on a grave. Her finders interpret her presence as a sign from the Lord and move her to their home. A search for the missing woman is unsuccessful until Gracie is recognized. Her therapy and subsequent care provide the rest of the story.
Pacing is relaxed but interest is kept high by switching to different character viewpoints
Characterization is typical for this genre. Lots of women, each with a story, and a couple of men to add conflict, make the reading move along. Individual personalities tangle around each other, weaving a family of caring. In the end all the problems are resolved. The issue of women as caregivers who want to create rather than respond is the core issue.
The frame alternates between the urban home of Ed and Gracie and the rural farmhouse and community of Toot and Mattie. Although the story is told in third person, the reader is privy to a great deal of interior dialogue.
Brief quote: “It’s not enough to paint Jesus and all these Bible characters on fenders and hoods and steering wheels,” Sammy says. “She’s painting fairies all over them, too. I think she’s crazy as a bat.” (103)
Prizes or Awards: Starred review, Publishers’ Weekly
Similar Works: Black Mountain Breakdown by Lee Smith. Story of a southern woman who struggles to find a role that fits her best, returns to scene of childhood comfort (Novelist)
Reviewer’s Name: Nancy Rimassa
Adapted from Saricks, Joyce G. and Nancy Brown. Readers= Advisory Service in the Public Library 2nd. Chicago: ALA, 1997.