"No matter what, we care about our mommas and we always will." This single statement, by her Aunt Billie, defines the life of Virginia Kate Carey and her brothers as told with care and total believability by Kathryn Magendie in TENDER GRACES. Rarely have the effects of adult neglect and cruelty to children been presented with such grace and clarity. We applaud the resilience of the children, but see the scars that linger forever and can find little sympathy for the perpetrators, regardless of the reasons for their actions.
Virginia Kate's Mother, Katie Ivene, is a cruel, alcoholic, promiscuous, narcissistic beauty who is hard to love. Her father isn't perfect by a long shot, but he does his best to provide stability for his children and it is fortunate for everyone that he finds a true saint in his new wife, Rebekha. We find ourselves rooting for Rebekha and becoming impatient with Virginia Kate's guilty reluctance to love her. Although we want to believe a sliver of goodness motivates Katie Ivene, it is too slippery to grasp.
Despite its overarching theme, Virginia Kate's story is filled with beauty, mystery, and the joys of life. Transcending the genre of women's literature, it is reminiscent of such classics as TOM SAWYER and HUCKLEBERRY FINN.