“About Grace”

I hesitated before deciding to read Anthony Doerr’s “About Grace”; the blurb on the back cover suggested a novel that explored some dark and difficult emotional territory. And it did.

I expected pain, helplessness, a sense of loss – all of which the novel delivered. And some of it was beautifully rendered: Winkler’s panic early in the novel, all centred around Grace and his dreams; his assumed powerlessness in the face of his premonitions; his being gripped with fear. And later in the book, the passages set in the freezing Yukon winter are superb.

And yet… (you knew that was coming!)

At some point I stopped caring about him. What he was going through was wearing me down too much. Perhaps the book is over-long; sympathy leaked away, leaving a taste of ‘he got what he deserved’ in my mouth. The ending is well-written – typically Doerr – but maybe too neat; even sad in places, it somehow didn’t feel fitting.

Winkler is undoubtedly well-drawn as are the other major characters, and the book is generally splendid – which is why I’m a little disappointed I will place it on my bookcase feeling a little ambivalent about it.