About Grace, Anthony Doerr, author; George Newbern, narrator

snowDavid Winkler has the gift of second sight. His dreams predict the future. Can he alter that future by changing part of the event when it occurs? Often, his dreams predict tragedy, but also they predict kismet as when he dreams of the woman he will marry. When his dream becomes reality, and he meets this woman he has dreamt of, he falls in love with her immediately. It is 1975, Her name is Sandy Sheeler, but she is already married to Herman Sheeler. Still, they have a secret courtship and then an affair. When she becomes pregnant, they leave Anchorage, Alaska, and they run away to Cleveland, Ohio, where they begin a new life together and have a daughter named Grace, in 1976.
Soon, David begins to have recurring dreams predicting the drowning death of his daughter when the Chagrin River overflows, and he fails in his attempt to carry her to safety. To prevent his dream from coming true, as other dreams of his have done, David spontaneously abandons his family, traveling 2000 miles away to the Grenadines in a cargo ship. When the actual flood occurs, in 1977, he hopes that if he isn’t there with Grace, she will live on and he can alter her future. After some weeks away, and several attempts to reach his wife, he is successful. He hopes to find out if Grace and she have survived. He is hoping Sandy will take him back and forgive him for abandoning them once she understands his reason. He hopes to arrange for his return with her help. He has run with only the clothes on his back. However, she neither tells him about his daughter’s survival nor does she want him back. She tells him never to return.
David begins a second life in St. Vincent. He is a vagabond, with no means of support. Lonely, bereft, hungry and unkempt, he wakes one day and meets Felix Orellana sitting and eating next to him. He takes him home with him, explaining that it is Easter which is a time of forgiving. David had already met his wife, Soma. She helped him place his phone calls to Sandy. They are both kind and caring people. He grows close with their young daughter, Naaliyah, and he teaches her how to carefully observe the world around her which inspires her to begin a career as an Entymologist. When his dreams once again disturb his reality, becoming more frightening as he once again dreams of a drowning, he tries to warn Naaliyah that she must stay away from the water or she will drown. More and more he wonders, can he alter the future once it has been written? Can he save her when his dream becomes reality?
Years pass and David adjusts to his new and limited lifestyle. He takes whatever job he is able to find, but always, in the back of his mind he wonders if his own daughter is still alive. He is sorry for what he has done because he believes it was all for naught, and she must be dead. One day, Naaliyah provides him with an address for Sandy Sheeler, who is back in Anchorage Alaska. Both she and her mom encourage him to contact her and try to find out about Grace. The lack of knowledge about her is tormenting him. However, he does not follow up on their suggestion.
Finally, after living on the island for 25 years, he takes what money he has saved and leaves the Grenadines to return to Cleveland and begin a search for Grace. He obtains a list of all Grace Winklers and begins to hunt for her across America. He is overwhelmed, and along the way he is attacked and severely injured by one of the Grace Winklers he locates, and eventually, he is robbed of all his remaining money. He finally makes his way to Alaska, wounded and hungry, alone and hopeless, and he begins to search for Naaliyah. She eventually finds him, battered and ill, and she helps to nurse him back to health. Throughout the years, David has lived by the grace of others who have been kind to him in spite of his disheveled state and poverty. His rescuers have been abundant. He soon resumes his search and winds up at the door of Herman Sheeler, in Anchorage. He helps him to find out about Grace and, oddly, they actually develop a friendship.
The book is about finding Grace Winkler, but it is also about the different variations of the term grace, as in the saying of a prayer of thanks, or a refined and elegant behavior, or the favoring someone with your blessings or your presence, or granting a reprieve in the fulfillment of a promise or showing someone a kindness. It is about forgiveness.
The novel is well researched. Every subject brought up is explored completely in layman’s terms so the reader even understands hydrology and entymology. David studies water and has a particular interest in snow crystals. Naaliyah explores the insect world with a passion. Doerr has connected us to their world and made the study of snow and of bugs romantic and a thing of beauty.  There are so many interwoven parts of this novel that the reader is never bored, just intrigued and eager to turn the page to become more and more involved and invested in the well developed characters’ lives.

About omasvoice

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