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on December 6, 1999
Just when I was beginning to be bored with all the new fiction coming down the pike, I picked up a copy of "Grace at Bender Springs." What a wonderful surprise this book was! "Grace" takes an intimate look at the lives and spiritual struggles of the residents of a small town in a way that is refreshing, authentic and hopeful, avoiding platitudes and sentimentality. The characters of this small town are earthy and believable -the kind that you might have known in your own community growing up. Perhaps the most compelling part of "Grace" is the care and respect the author shows for each of her characters - some, which on the surface, seem like easy targets for stereotyping, like the Pentecostal minister Reverend Miracle. Instead, Hampton Wright manages to cajole the reader into accepting and acknowledging the value of each person in her kaleidoscope line-up - from Randy, the teenager living with an older man and looking for meaning in her life, to Tony, a suicidal teen who is tempted to give up his life to the darkness he feels closing in, to Dave, a middle-aged, agnostic widower whose life is going nowhere. Hampton Wright's style may remind readers of Clyde Edgerton's "Walking Across Egypt," especially in the wonderful way she portrays elderly women. Characters in the book such as Mamie, an elderly widow mired in routine, and her group of card-playing friends, feel completely authentic to the reader. Like Edgerton, Hampton Wright mixes unexpected humor, small-town situations and bedrock spirituality in a way that is fresh and appealing. A stunning scene at the close of the book leaves readers with a sense of hope that the grace that touched so many in Bender Springs might also be available for them.
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on February 17, 2000
Wright's characters capture you as eagerly turn each and every page, anxiously fretting along with them as they journey to find the graces that will quench their spiritual thirsts. Once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. The juxtaposition of Bender Springs' past with its present was flawlessly written! Though not an epic, the finely-detailed characters and the author's attention to detail are reminiscient of Leon Uris'Trinity. The human weaknesses of the characters remind me of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and Wright makes no apologies for the humanity of her characters. This book should be made into a movie, but one wonders what the film industry would do to its essence of life.
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on December 3, 1999
What a pleasure it was to read this book and to see portrayed in this story God's gentle hand in people's lives. Grace at Bender Springs is filled with memorable characters I will never forget. Thank you, Vinita Hampton Wright, wherever you are.
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on August 2, 2001
I read the author's second novel, Velma Still Cooks in Leeway, first and enjoyed it more than this one. The character development was a strong point, though I wished things would have moved along a bit faster. But maybe that's just how things go in a slow-paced, small town. Realistic portrayal of saints and sinners but I felt very much on the outside and didn't really care very much about them. A good writer though and her second novel shows the kind of things I missed in this one.
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on March 12, 2014
The book has it's good points...the character development was rich, and also relatable. However, I found the book to be aimless....with no real plot and certainly no ending.

If you are looking for good characters that have a specific arc and purpose, you'll be frustrated with the book. If you're looking for a novel that is just a snapshot of a period of time in some very real-feeling characters lives...than you will be pleased.
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on February 10, 2000
This book begins as a haunting portrayal of desperation, but then moves---a surprising lift---into something grand and sacred and, by the end of the book, fully whole.
Wright's book is a shining path through daily life---its intricacies, its secret dreams, and its momentous recoveries. BRAVO.
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on August 26, 2001
I read a review about this book and author in Christianity Today, and the review stated that this author takes Christian fiction to a new level because she does not make the Christian characters perfect and the non-Christian characters evil, as is often the case in Christian fiction. I found the book to be very interesting, but I did not appreciate the level of sexual tension that went on throughout the book. While the author did not go into detail about the sex lives of her characters, throughout the book she kept letting you know that Randy and Dave were having sex, and Tony wanted to with Lena, and then Dave did with Lena even though he was living with Randy, and that Sarah and Jacob weren't having much lately. I thought all of that was a bit much for being considered "Christian" fiction. While she seemed to describe a genuine conversion in Randy, I felt she was almost mocking the "conversion" of Mamie when she prayed the sinner's prayer while wondering if the neighbor's dog was pooping in her yard again. While I'm sure that kind of thing happens, I felt she was poking more fun at the attempt to lead someone to the Lord than to Mamie for being so distracted during such a serious moment. These things caused me some disappointment with a book that received such high reviews here.
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