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.
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In his award-winning short story collection The Shell Collector (2002), Doerr drew a vast, gorgeous portrait of the natural worlds 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 Winklers lack of self-forgiveness and ill-conceived search for Grace frustrated most critics. Yet, if About Grace seems short on plot, its worth reading for its lyrical descriptions of nature.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
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