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Carpe Librum

Bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.


You can also find me on my blog.

Historical Novel Society

Act of Grace - Karen Simpson This book surprised me. I bought this book after hearing this author speak at a conference and having a conversation with her . . . . and I was still surprised by this book. This novel is like nothing I have read before. It includes mysticism and the paranormal, but it is not fantasy. It is centered around themes of forgiveness, love, and self-sacrifice, but it is not simply Christian fiction. Grace is an average 18 year old ready to leave childhood behind and strike out on a path that leads to unknown destinations, but it is more than a coming of age story.

After getting a few chapters into this book and realizing that it was not the kind of thing that I would normally read, what really kept me going was Simpson's beautiful language. I can only assume that she has books full of poetry in the closet because she turns the simplest phrases into something beautiful. For example, the way she contrasts two towns in the story: "Carsonville was a dowdy bridesmaid standing next to Vigilant, with its showy veils of beaches and huge diamond ring of a lake." Instead of saying something mundane like "he took a bite of cobbler," Simpson says, "I envied the shiny cherries that rode like burgundy balloons into the deep sweet darkness of his mouth." I kept reading because I hoped that some of her vivid descriptions and metaphors would take strong enough hold in my brain to sneak into my own writing.

Not that I mean to discount the story. Grace has an abusive mother, dead father, and distant aunts who come to her rescue only after she is legally an adult. She has responsibilities placed on her that she never asked for or expected. Her first flutters of love are for someone who she thinks will be unwilling or incapable of returning the feeling. History of the town and her own family is revealed to her that opens up hurt but also the opportunity for healing.

In a word, this book is unique. It is too complex, meaningful, and multifaceted to fall into any one category. It is well worth reading.