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About Grace: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 21, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The majesty of nature, the meaning of courage, the redemptive power of love and the pathos of isolation—all are gracefully explored in Doerr's story of the price paid for a gift. So why does so little seem to happen in this beautiful, ponderous and sometimes monotonous first novel by the author of the exquisite collection The Shell Collector? David Winkler has seen glimpses of the future ever since he was a boy. As a 32-year-old hydrologist in Anchorage, Alaska, he dreams of his future wife; soon they meet, fall in love and run away to Ohio, where she gives birth to their daughter, Grace. But when he dreams that he fails to save Grace from a flood, Winkler abandons wife and child, hoping to flee the future. He becomes a hermetic handyman on a Caribbean island near St. Vincent, befriended by a local family. The years pass until, emboldened by his surrogate family's grown daughter, a gifted marine biologist, Winkler realizes that he must embark on a journey to discover if Grace is alive. This is a lyrical tale tuned a bit too fine: Doerr's dreamy prose accords more attention to nature than character, so that Winkler, transfixed by the wonders of water and snowflakes but singularly unreflective about his actual life, is a frustratingly opaque protagonist. There are gorgeous moments here, but a stifling lack of story.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

In his award-winning short story collection The Shell Collector (2002), Doerr drew a vast, gorgeous portrait of the natural world’s effects on the human condition. Here, he pays the same painstaking attention to detail, from descriptions of snowflakes to "tiny particles of dust drifting in the air between her ankles." Yet, the intricate, nature-driven plots that captivated readers in The Shell Collector fall short here. Critics agree that Doerr sacrifices a plausible storyline, which takes place over two decades, for setting. The characters seem authentic, but Winkler’s lack of self-forgiveness and ill-conceived search for Grace frustrated most critics. Yet, if About Grace seems short on plot, it’s worth reading for its lyrical descriptions of nature.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (September 21, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743261828
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743261821
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (170 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #174,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Anthony Doerr has won numerous prizes for his fiction, including the 2015 Pulitzer Prize. His most recent novel, All the Light We Cannot See, was named a best book of 2014 by a number of publications, and was a #1 New York Times Bestseller. Visit him at www.anthonydoerr.com.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

70 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Bunny Bunsen, PhD on January 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
I was initially conflicted over purchasing this book based on some of the reviews I read; however, I could not resist the synopsis and had to find out for myself what this book was all about.

I did not find this work to be disappointing in the least. I would describe the book as haunting, OBSESSIVE, and tender, wrapped in cloaks of great love and forgiveness. It is an amazing physical and emotional journey of a man with an unusual gift that often torments him and plunges him into the throes of despair and ruin. At the same time, his eyes are opened to the little yet significant miracles that surround him everyday.

This book is written in a lovely prose with painstaking descriptions of articles of everyday life. It is continuously unsettling and maintains the reader's attention to the very end. A very fine work and highly recommended!
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By J. Pierpont Finch on May 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
I just finished this novel on a trip back from Phoenix, and I have to say not only the style and description, but the plot itself grabbed me. Unlike other reviews here, I found nothing plodding about the story. I found it riveting, and full of surprises. I'm a big fan of Japanese author Haruki Murakami, and I found a numbeer of similarities in both the beauty of the language, as well thematic and plot. There are elements of a surreal sort of journey and a search for a missing life that spans across thousands of miles. Doerr does a great job of shifting his tale between several key time periods in the life of David Winkler, the main character of the story. This is a brilliant novel, and I plan to share it with friends.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Doss Woods on July 12, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I loved this book. At the same time I can understand why it got so many bad reviews. The prose is exquisite and it is a delight to read. Doerr writes so vividly that we are offered beautiful vignettes in every page. On the other hand the critique that not much happens is also true. This is a book about a person's internal process and experience. I would and probably will read it again. If you love prose that sings like poetry then this book is for you. If you want a fast-paced, rapid-fire, event-filled story then you will be disappointed.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By white gold wielder on April 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
I think this is a book of rare excellence.

This book is for people who are pensive and thoughtful (is that redundant?). Its a wonderful trip into the detailed moods, hopes and fears of its main protagonist.

The style of Doerr is neither regular nor standardized, but it takes on a quality of aimlessly floating along a stream. But to my mind, this does *not make the story boring or uninteresting, but seems to do the opposite.

The story does not need fast-paced hollywood action, as its the emotions and thoughts of the characters which fascinate.

Doerr is almost more of a poet than a novelist, as he captures all the nuances of each character reaction.

Go read it!
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By H. Eastman on September 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
After Anthony Doerr's stunning short story debut with "The Shell Collector" (Scribner), the gifted young author has made a beautifully seamless transition to novelist with his exquisite new book, "About Grace" (Scribner). Mr. Doerr again intriguingly integrates the natural world and the human spirit with his signature beautifully poetic prose. Fiction and scientific fact are elegantly combined to raise our awareness of the wonder in much of our everyday lives that is too often unobserved. His use of story is especially compelling, pulling the reader along, completely captive.

We will surely hear a lot more from this talented young writer in future years. Meanwhile, his most recent gift, "About Grace," is exceptional.

Hal Eastman, Director, Easlas Trust
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful By J. T. Hausske on January 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
If you've stood in a snowy meadow on a star-filled night and marveled at its stillness and beauty, or ever sensed a deep connection to the wind as it hit your face, then you will appreciate this book. It is filled with life. It is filled with thousands of moments we all experience, but rarely stop to appreciate.

About Grace is a beautiful book about a very ordinary man, David Winkler. It is in his humanity that I was able to identify and relate. One aspect of his life that is extraordinary, are the vivid dreams that come to haunt him in his waking hours. It is in the struggle to deal with these premonitions that we see the frailty of life, the strength of human will, and the power of love.

Anthony Doerr's book may stop you mid-sentence to marvel at what is being said. More likely it will stop you mid-sentence to marvel at how it is being said. It is written with clarity and soulfulness by a man that obviously walks through life with his eyes wide open. Savor it like a fine wine. It will remind you to wake up to the wonder and beauty in the details of your everyday life.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By S. Rogers on December 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
About Grace is a beautifully written story about one man's struggle with life, love, and loss.

Herman Winkler is a man cursed with the ability to see events before they happen, like luggage falling out of an overhead bin, or a pedestrian getting hit by a car. The stress and torment that this "gift" brings wreaks havoc in Winkler's life, ruining his personal and business relationships and almost costing him his own life. He runs away from everything and everyone he loves in an attempt to alter the future as he's seen it.

Like The Shell Collector before it, About Grace delves into all aspects of the human condition, from love, happiness, and success, to fear, sorrow, and loss. The story is an intriguing one, but it's the writing itself that is mesmerizing. It is cold and haunting like the ice crystals about which Doerr's hydrologist protagonist so often speaks. The sentences are brimming with metaphors ("It was the third of September, plenty of broth left in summer's cauldron") that paint a vivid picture for the reader.

About two-thirds of the way through it did hit a slow point, but redeemed itself in the end. It's a complex story, but worth the read.
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