Saturday, July 25, 2009

104 (2009 #29). Tender Graces

by Kathryn Magendie

My review copy was a spiral bound "un-copyedited manuscript," and it was another case of don't judge a book by its cover! This book was much better than I thought it would be.

The characterizations and descriptions of setting are excellent. I could really relate to the main character, Virginia Kate, as it was clear from the chapter headings and descriptive details that we were born about the same year. The author's poetic images of the West Virginia and Louisiana settings really made this reader feel as if she was there.

Virginia Kate is the middle of three children of dysfunctional parents from dysfunctional families. Her mama's*-boy father quotes Shakespeare, womanizes, and drinks too much. Her narcissistic mother had an abusive dad and drinks even more. Yet even these characters had other sides that were loving and appealing, as did Rebekha, the stepmother you initially want to hate but grow to love as Virginia Kate did. (*aka Mee Maw - and what a caricature of the overbearing mother/mother-in-law/grandmother!)

The story is told mostly in flashback/retrospect from many years later when Virginia Kate returns to her original West Virginia home just after her mother's death, after growing up in Louisiana. It's a heartbreaking story of a family breaking up one piece at a time, even though a new family grows out of it. I couldn't help but feel some sympathy for Virginia Kate's mother and some anger at the latter's conniving mother-in-law and weak husband.

The only problem I had at all with the book was the "today" chapters being written in present tense. I hope that was changed in the final published version of the book; I think it would have been better for the whole book to be written in past tense.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the lovely review! (Oh, but alas, I couldn't change those present tense chapters--Virginia Kate wouldn't let me; stomped up a big ornery fit whenever I interferred with what she had in her head *smiling*.)

    Appreciate you; thank you . . . km