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A Gracious Plenty: A Novel Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (March 16, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609803875
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609803875
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #325,403 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

There's no way this quirky novel about a disfigured woman who tends a cemetery in a small southern town would ever have a first printing as gargantuan as this (300,000) if Reynolds' previous book, The Rapture of Canaan , hadn't been chosen as an Oprah Book Club title. Reynolds has a warm-and-sweet-as-pudding storytelling voice, and her down-home characters are endearing, but her plot is harder to swallow than needles and pins. Her heroine, Finch Nobles, the beloved only child of her cemetery caretaker parents, pulled a pot of boiling water down on herself, scalding her face, neck, and one arm, an accident that caused her terrible physical and psychic pain and drove her poor mother to an early grave. Considered monstrously ugly, Finch has been a recluse ever since, except for her communion with "The Dead." Yes, Finch talks to the residents of her graveyard and is privy to the work of The Mediator, a ghostly being who helps the dead get used to their new form of existence. In Reynolds' imagined cosmos, the dead do the work of nature; they "control the seasons" and "everything depends on them," from snakes shedding their skins to rain showers. But there is much unfinished business associated with the dead--particularly William Blott, a cross-dresser, and a beauty queen turned stripper who has renamed herself Lucy Armageddon--and Finch becomes instrumental in resolving various tragedies, efforts that finally break the spell of her terrible loneliness. A gawky, well-intentioned fantasy, full of some charm and too much silliness. Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Reynolds again hits pay dirt with a third novel, after Bitterroot Landing (1995) and The Rapture of Canaan (1996)--the latter, as everyone knows, a recent selection of Oprah's Book Club and now enjoying its fifth week at the top of the bestseller lists. As a four-year-old, Finch Nobles pulled boiling water off the stove onto herself; as a result, she's badly scarred, and her appearance makes her a kind of outcast in her small southern town. Her father tended the graveyard, and following his death and her mother's, Finch has inherited the job of gravekeeper, with all its solemn duties. Unsurprisingly, the wise Finch begins welcoming and chatting with the newly planted, whose spirits rise and respond. There's beauty queen Lucy Armour, who escapes the confines of the town but dies mysteriously and is shipped home. Did she commit suicide? There's also William Parker Blott, who left his family, became a filthy, sore-ridden street-bum, but later returned home to money and a mausoleum. As Finch sees it, in a passage that resounds with Francis Phelan's view into his dead son's grave in Ironweed, The Dead possess unique powers and knowledge: ``The Dead control the seasons. Everything depends on them. In June, The Dead tunnel earthworms, crack the shells of bird eggs, poke the croaks from frogs. The ones who died children make play of their work, blowing bugs from weed to weed, aerating fields with their cartwheels. They thump the bees and send them out to pollinate gardenias.'' When The Dead lighten up enough, by learning to let the past go, The Mediator allows them to rise to a level past Finch's knowing. But Marcus, the Mayor's baby, who died of ``failure to thrive,'' can't stop bawling. The slender plot hinges on the story of his death and Finch's loving attempts to free his spirit. A southern tearjerker with some nice surprises--and likely to be a swift success. (First printing of 300,000) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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I feel that message makes you think about life.
tweetiepie2003
From the first time that I started to read this book it caught my attention that i just couldn't stop reading this book.
Elida Vargas
Reynolds also uses imagery which makes this book very mesmerizing.
Chris Freitas

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By "blissengine" on February 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
Finch Nobles tends a cemetery in a small Southern town. She was badly burned as a child, and subsequently never made many friends. Among the living, that is. Finch has been able to talk with the dead for a long time, and considers them her friends. She does things for the dead that they cannot do, thereby helping them be released from their burdens. The closest thing she has to a friend among the living is Leonard, who's the sheriff, but Finch seems to have a crush on one of the ghosts, Lucy. Through the tale of Finch's scars, and the hidden scars of the town, Reynolds explores the power of healing and the power of touch. This book is simply gorgeous overall. I love the way Reynolds also sneaks in social tolerance after one of the dead is discovered to have been a transvestite in life, and the whole town turns against him, even though he's dead. He was a good person, but a tiny detail made a difference in the town's view. The novel might have been a bit longer to better develop some of these concepts and connections, but its length doesn't take away from the power of the novel, because by leaving some connections to the reader, Reynolds gives a nod to readers' intelligence. Not everything needs to be spelled out.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Krista on July 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
"A Gracious Plenty" centers around Finch, a burn victim whose scarred appearance, coupled with a defiant attitude, have alienated her from her small-town Virginia community. She seeks consolation by talking to dead people in the cemetery she tends. Finch possesses a power that makes it possible to converse with the departed and to observe their behavior, but not to touch them.
The dead include Lucy Armour, the suicide victim who teaches Finch to have patience and to forgive, William Blott, the closet cross-dresser who discovers, in death, an ability to nurture others, Finch's mother, whose guilt over the accident that burned Finch has caused her to withdraw into herself, and Finch's father, who still comforts and protects his daughter.
Sheri Reynolds writes in a simple, accessible style replete with imagery. Her messages are clear and beautifully stated: people must connect with others in order to grow, and let go of past hurts in order to avoid bitterness. Despite the problems that Finch faces, the book resonates with optimism.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Larry L. Looney on March 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
I picked up this novel by Sheri Reynolds a couple of days ago -- I hadn't heard anything about the author or about the book, it simply caught my eye in the bookstore. After reading it, I can say without a doubt that it is one of the most memorable, arresting books I've ever read. The main character, Finch Nobles, is an amazing and inspirational figure -- but very human, and therefore easy to relate to. (Sorry about the preposition -- get over it) The author has presented the reader with a novel view of life after death, and has shown how this character has learned from the departed many important things about living. The passage in the novel that keeps coming back to me:
We choose our truths the way we choose our gods, single-sightedly, single-mindedly, no other way to feel or see or think. We lock ourselves into our ways, and click all the truths into one. We put our truths together in pieces, but you use nails and I use glue. You mend with staples. I mend with screws. You stitch what I would bandage. Your truth may not look like mine, but that is not what matters. What matters is this: You can look at a scar and see hurt, or you can look at a scar and see healing. Try to understand.
Too often in our everyday lives we overlook the talents and traits of those around us by focusing on their 'defects'. We need to try to learn to see the whole person when we look at someone. We can all learn a lot from this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Katherine Michael on April 4, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book should be put on your shelf of southern writers, right between William and Flannery. It is a story of a girl who becomes a bit of a grotesque through an accident. She becomes the primary caretaker of a cemetary, and is so in tune with the deceased that she can communicate and see them. This gift makes for a fine story. The description here is achingly beautiful, especially when Reynolds discusses nature. It is strangely comforting to those who have recently lost loved ones, too.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By MoStevns@aol.com on April 19, 1999
Format: Paperback
I stumbled across this book at my local library and went to bed early every night until it was finished. I know so many of these characters and could appreciate the struggles that they were going through. The relationship between the cross-dressing "bum" and the baby touched me so deeply that I cried. It was so unexpected and almost perverse, but it has haunted me ever since. Although I know that this is purely a work of fiction, I keep thinking that if it were only true, there would be no reason to fear death. S. Reynolds' prose is mesmerizing, and I will reccomend this book to anyone who asks.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Edwards on December 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book spoke to me from the library shelf and I read it in two days with a toddler in the house. LOL The main character learns lessons from the dead and the main lesson; is that we all have stories to tell and not to be so quick to judge. I loved that all the characters grew in one form or another.

I'd never heard of the book, nor the author, but I thought the author did a fantastic job at giving each character their own identity and having them tell their stories in their own way. I strongly suggest reading this book.
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