From the moment I got my hands on Laura Pearl’s novel, Finding Grace it surprised me by being so much more than I expected.
Knowing only that it was the story of a 13 year old girl with a name that was a challenge to live up to, I expected a somewhat simple tale. I was surprised to find that Finding Grace was anything but a short one-dimensional story….
Instead of the quick read of maybe 150 pages or so that I had envisioned, the book boasts well over 300 big pages. This is book is no quick afternoon read.
Instead of just introducing the reader to young Grace Kelly in her early teen years, the book follows her all the way through high school and college.
Instead of a sweet, light-hearted glimpse into the ordinary struggles and innocent awkwardness of adolescence, the book delves deep into difficult and mature themes.
Pearl tackles issues that may have been relatively new and disturbing in the 1970’s but have become commonplace and “normal” in our day and age. She confronts such difficult subjects as pre-marital sex, underage drinking, contraception, the feminist movement, moral relativism, and much more all while staying true to the plotline and never losing sight of the story itself.
There was much I liked about Pearl’s debut novel. First, the book did not come across as overtly preachy yet the main characters never failed to stand up for what they believe in. There are also a great variety of secondary characters with who Grace shares her life and her story. Each of the secondary characters adds to the lessons of the book, some by the wise choices they make, others by their poor choices. Amazingly with such a large cast of characters, Pearl does a wonderful job of developing each of them so thoroughly and making each one so unique and memorable that I had no trouble keeping them all straight in my mind.
Second, the relationships between characters were full of complexity and substance. And amid those sometimes challenging, continually honest interactions in Grace’s life, many of the most important messages in the book are revealed.
And lastly, the story promotes all the things I value as a Catholic. Morality, truth, virtue, faith, it’s all there. The traditional, old fashioned ideals of Grace’s close knit family become the lens through which she views the changing world around her. Her family and her faith are what allow her to navigate the often thorny path of the narrow road. Interwoven into the fabric of the story are compelling reasons for staying true to the precepts of the Catholic faith. As a bonus, through Grace’s always believable life experiences, is revealed beautiful examples of holiness from the lives of the saints.
All in all, Finding Grace was full of unexpected surprises that I found to be both enjoyable and insightful. Grace is a character who sincerely strives to practice the virtues that lead to sainthood, never giving up even when the endeavor proves difficult. I look forward to sharing her story with my own daughters.