Sunday, December 24, 2006

Tending to Grace, by Kimberly Newton Fusco


Cornelia has a hard time expressing herself. She loves to read, but she stutters badly and doesn't want to talk. There are plenty of things, though, that she would like to say. She'd like to be in honors English and she'd like to be able to drink coffee again, but most of all, she would like to have her mother come back and reclaim her from her aunt Agatha (with whom she was dumped).

All of which may have you wondering where "Grace" and the book's title come from. You won't be able to figure that out until the last five pages or so of the story. And it doesn't have much to do with the rest of the book.

As for the book, it has some charm to it (requisite memorable characters, some nice individual scenes) but it does not really get to a dramatic payoff. Instead, it sort of meanders to a predictable claimax with Mom and is then completely underplayed. Fusco in fact seems to have trouble writing dramatic scenes and avoids them (using flashback as a means to avoid action). The result is a story that is all over the place and one in which she didn't seem to know what to do with her strong and well-written characters.

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