Thursday, January 7, 2010
Review: Full of Grace
Full of Grace by Dorothea Benton Frank
Reasons for reading: I've enjoyed her other books; snagged it out of the book sale at the library; "Read a book and write a review" for the Four Month Challenge
From the publisher: "Hilton Head, South Carolina. Retirement heaven — at least it's supposed to be, but for Big Al and Connie, the move from New Jersey to this southern paradise has been fraught with just a few complications. Especially for their daughter, Grace...Her family insists on Maria Graziella... That might have been okay in New Jersey but now it's just plain silly and Grace at thirty-one is, horror of horrors, still unmarried. No wonder her family drives her crazy. Well, that and the fact that she's living with the man she would marry if they both weren't so commitment phobic. Michael is a doctor and a scientist and Grace has a good idea that he's also an atheist. Over the years, Grace has become a bit ambivalent about her faith but her family is as old-fashioned Italian as they get. The stage is set for a major showdown that might just change Grace's outlook on life, family, and the new South."
First line: "Until I met Grace Russo, I did not know that my Lacoste shirts did not have to be dry-cleaned."
My thoughts: I wanted to like this more than I did. I was actually thinking about not finishing it, but I needed something to read in the tub. I think it might resonate more with a person who had grown up in a Catholic family - religion plays a huge role in the story. Grace's family is very devout, so much so that they refuse to acknowledge her boyfriend, Michael, because they're living in sin and because he does stem-cell research. They don't manage to get their supposedly Christian selves together until he loses his mother and is facing a health crisis. And Grace and Michael's love for each other is lovely and presented well, but I don't really get their refusal to get married. Her family is by turns very annoying, occasionally funny, and fairly loving, though her father and grandmother's treatment of her mother is dreadful and only explained (rather lamely, I thought) at the end. Grace's religiously zealous, constantly knitting, bossy grandmother Nonna is good for some comic relief, but she's very over-the-top and her treatment of her daughter is awful.
As always, Frank does a good job of portraying South Carolina, particularly Charleston in this case, especially it's culinary scene. It didn't give me much of a feel for Hilton Head, where I haven't been. And Grace has an awesome job, basically a travel agent for rich people seeking exciting vacations, so that was fun and enviable to read about. But I hate stories about cancer and I'm ambivalent enough myself about religion to really be interested in reading about it. And...well, it requires some suspension of disbelief, near the end, in my opinion, although if I had the faith I'm suggesting the recommended audience have, maybe it wouldn't.