Saving Grace by Lee Smith


1. Very authentic feel. As the reader, you felt like Gracie (the main character) was speaking directly to you, telling her story.

2. Fascinating look into a sub-culture that is often maligned and little understood

3. Beautifully written


1. May not appeal to a reader who is seeking a neat and tidy ending (a "happy" ending)

2. Some aspects of the story may be slightly offensive to readers, related to the treatment of Gracie as a child

Full Review

I'd never read anything by this author, but she reminded me a little bit of Barbara Kingsolver, who also writes a lot of novels that are based in an Applachian setting and center on a unique character. I enjoyed it immensely - I finished it in two days.

The main character, Florida Grace Shepherd, is the daughter of a preacher - the snake-handling, speaking in tongues-kind. In the story, Gracie's father actually brings a child back to life. Despite his considerable moral failings, he is tremendously charismatic and draws followers easily. He regularly drinks poison and is bitten by snakes during meetings and revivals. There is something about him that shields him from death and gives him power.

Gracie realizes that her father is imperfect, but cannot come to terms with it. She is blinded by him, like everyone. It is only when he is out of her presence that her natural ability to discern the truth comes forward. Oddly, even when her reason and sense of self-preservation are telling her to disobey him, she often follows.

Gracie's story is unpredictable. Like the dutiful reader, I wanted her to find stability and a home so she could be treated with respect and love. But Gracie is not easily satiated. She's like her father in that she cannot resist physical temptations - it was his downfall and was going to be hers. She is like an addict, in some ways.

In the end, it was her father's beliefs that sustained her. She had never been baptized, had never felt the calling that others had. She was waiting, doubtful and worried, her entire life. For right or wrong, Gracie sought forgiveness. She was going to be saved after all.

I liked Gracie. She was so real, so authentic. I could hear her voice, telling the story. Maybe the book was her "testimonial."

In Closing

I highly recommend this book if you enjoy novels that have an authentic main character who immediately makes you care about what happens to him/her. It is also a fascinating look into Applachian culture.