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God Is in the Pancakes Hardcover – May 13, 2010
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From School Library Journal
Grade 8–10—Grace Manning, 15, gets her first job at a local nursing home as a candy striper. She begins to enjoy herself when she meets Frank Sands, a resident with Lou Gehrig's disease. He encourages Grace's wit, teaches her to play poker, and is a surrogate for her father, who recently walked out on her family. Their relationship builds, and they have fun together in spite of their surroundings. And Frank asks a favor of her—"to help him die." Her inner turmoil about this request is played out against her everyday concerns of school and relationships with her sister, mother, and male best friend who is slowly becoming something more. The action moves along with few lulls, and the protagonist's voice is true for a girl her age. Readers will identify with Grace, cheer her triumphs, and empathize with her most difficult decisions and her belief that everyone finds comfort in pancakes. Fans of Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti will rejoice at finding Epstein.—Suanne Roush, Osceola High School, Seminole, FL
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
As 15-year-old candy striper Grace gets to know 84-year-old Frank Sands, she finds “a sharper version of herself,” wittier, more intelligent, and very likable. Yet Mr. Sands is dying of Lou Gehrig's disease, and as he steadily loses his ability to function, he has one last request of his favorite caretaker: please help him die. Former stand-up comic Epstein packs a lot into this novel. Grace's life has several parallel story lines: her relationship with Mrs. Sands; the changing dynamic with her best friend, Eric; her parents' divorce; and her sister's decision to have sex with a two-timing boyfriend. Everything comes together in an authentic, breezy read that asks difficult questions and doesn't shy away from direct answers, or the reality that answers may not exist. With well-developed adults and a teen seeking help from God and anyone she perceives as wise, this memorable novel offers food for thought and sustenance for the soul. Grades 7-10. --Frances Bradburn
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Top customer reviews
Author Robin Epstein masterfully balances humor and pathos, minutely observed details of day to day life and larger existential questions. I never would have expected this book to be as thought-provoking as it was - but truly, it remained on my mind long after I finished reading it and does to this day.
I highly recommend it...
Grace's older sister, Lolly, continues to date a boneheaded boy called Jake, even though all signs point to heartbreak. And Grace's best friend, Eric, is rising in the popularity ranks at high school. Ever since Eric became one of two sophomores to join the basketball team, girls have been paying attention to him and Grace isn't sure how she feels about his divided attention.
The one bright spot in Grace's anti-social life is Mr. Sands. Mr. Sands, or `Frank' as he insists she call him, was a Korean War vet now suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease in the Hanover House home where Grace works as a candy striper. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's) is a motor neuron disease that will eventually leave him bed-ridden, trapped in his slack body but with a fully functioning mind.
Frank has become a father figure to Grace since her own father abandoned the family. Frank is funny and charming, with a quick-wit and no-nonsense attitude ... and when he asks Grace to do a terrible, awful thing to ease his suffering, she can't refuse him.
`God is in the Pancakes' was the 2010 YA contemporary novel from Robin Epstein.
This title has been beckoning me from the TBR pile for months now, but I resisted reading. The blurb hinted at heartache, and I was never in the right mind-set to jump head-first into a, no doubt, compelling but heavy novel. But, finally, it felt like the right time (to borrow a metaphor, this pancake was ready to be flipped). And, oh boy, is this novel sublime!
Told in first-person narration, this is the novel of a dying man's incredible request to an already mixed-up girl. Grace Manning already has enough problems on her plate - between her sister's cheating boyfriend, hormonal surges for her best friend and unanswered messages from her adulterous father - when her new/old friend, Mr Sands, asks her to take his life. What follows is a quick timeline that sees Frank Sands deteriorate before Grace's eyes as Lou Gehrig's disease turns his body against him.
With Frank's request weighing heavy on her mind, Grace turns to God. She hasn't had much to do with the big guy `upstairs', since her mum is agnostic and it was always her dad taking the girls to Sunday mass followed by pancakes at the local IHOP (an American version of `Pancake Parlour', for those of us down under). But since Grace's dad didn't really lead by example, Grace kind of figured the whole `good Christian', praying and kneeling thing was over for her. Little does she know that when she most needs answers, God is the only one she's willing to ask questions to ...
The title of Epstein's book is a wee bit misleading and suggests that the ever combustible topic of religion is a major focus. Yes, Grace does turn to God for answers ... but she receives no definitive's, and throughout the novel she is unsure and firmly on-the-fence about her belief in Him and His role in her life. She's between a rock and a hard place with Frank's request, so she turns to a childhood comfort - praying. Epstein is in no way shoving God down reader's throats. Instead she's using him as a crutch for a confused girl. And, actually, I kind of liked that Epstein wrote a little back-story for Grace's dad's affair, a nice little nuance that the woman he was cheating with is someone he met at bible study. It reminds me a little of that bumper-sticker joke: `I've got nothing against God, it's his fan club I can't stand.'
If I had any complaints about the book, it's that the relationship between Grace and her father was left a little too open-ended. It seemed like Epstein was deliberately dropping hints about Grace's dad trying to reconnect (and perhaps repent?) but this part of the narrative just sort of fizzed towards the end, and I would have liked a little more conflict and confrontation.
I also liked that the real conflict of the novel, Frank asking Grace to help him die, was watered down somewhat by Grace's many problems. This could have been a very heavy, depressing novel if not for side-stories about Grace's sister, Lolly, and her best friend, Eric. All of which add up to a sort of `softening the blow' when based around Frank's request. It's also a means by which Grace can put her life into perspective - seeing that the truth is never easy, and that some things are worth fighting for ... two lessons she comes to learn through her interactions and conundrums with Frank and his death wish.
I knew I'd love `God is in the Pancakes', but I didn't know how much. I laughed, I cried, I want to read absolutely every other bit of YA that Epstein comes up with. A beautiful novel, not for the faint-hearted, and definitely one to be read in the right mind-set, about a young girl coming to grips with God, life and perfect pancakes.
She also doesn't make Grace's decision an easy one, and while her choice surprised me, so did the conclusion of the book. There are moments of both humor and insight here; one of my favorites was when Grace sneaks Frank in his wheelchair out of the hospital to the movies. Epstein movingly examines why he might want to have a friendship all his own when his body is otherwise trapped.
Grace's heart is in the right place, and as she grapples with trying to find those around her she can trust, she learns some very adult lessons. Pancakes are comfort food here for those who are, in some ways, beyond comforting, but Epstein shows that even in our darkest hours, we can reach out to each other and find, and give, comfort. An excellent read for teens and adults alike.
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What I See: This book challenges it's characters in a rarely seen contemporary way.Read more