- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Three Rivers Press (March 16, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0609803875
- ISBN-13: 978-0609803875
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 98 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,493,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Gracious Plenty: A Novel Paperback – March 16, 1999
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There's no way this quirky novel about a disfigured woman who tends a cemetery in a small southern town would ever have a first printing as gargantuan as this (300,000) if Reynolds' previous book, The Rapture of Canaan , hadn't been chosen as an Oprah Book Club title. Reynolds has a warm-and-sweet-as-pudding storytelling voice, and her down-home characters are endearing, but her plot is harder to swallow than needles and pins. Her heroine, Finch Nobles, the beloved only child of her cemetery caretaker parents, pulled a pot of boiling water down on herself, scalding her face, neck, and one arm, an accident that caused her terrible physical and psychic pain and drove her poor mother to an early grave. Considered monstrously ugly, Finch has been a recluse ever since, except for her communion with "The Dead." Yes, Finch talks to the residents of her graveyard and is privy to the work of The Mediator, a ghostly being who helps the dead get used to their new form of existence. In Reynolds' imagined cosmos, the dead do the work of nature; they "control the seasons" and "everything depends on them," from snakes shedding their skins to rain showers. But there is much unfinished business associated with the dead--particularly William Blott, a cross-dresser, and a beauty queen turned stripper who has renamed herself Lucy Armageddon--and Finch becomes instrumental in resolving various tragedies, efforts that finally break the spell of her terrible loneliness. A gawky, well-intentioned fantasy, full of some charm and too much silliness. Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Kirkus Reviews
Reynolds again hits pay dirt with a third novel, after Bitterroot Landing (1995) and The Rapture of Canaan (1996)--the latter, as everyone knows, a recent selection of Oprah's Book Club and now enjoying its fifth week at the top of the bestseller lists. As a four-year-old, Finch Nobles pulled boiling water off the stove onto herself; as a result, she's badly scarred, and her appearance makes her a kind of outcast in her small southern town. Her father tended the graveyard, and following his death and her mother's, Finch has inherited the job of gravekeeper, with all its solemn duties. Unsurprisingly, the wise Finch begins welcoming and chatting with the newly planted, whose spirits rise and respond. There's beauty queen Lucy Armour, who escapes the confines of the town but dies mysteriously and is shipped home. Did she commit suicide? There's also William Parker Blott, who left his family, became a filthy, sore-ridden street-bum, but later returned home to money and a mausoleum. As Finch sees it, in a passage that resounds with Francis Phelan's view into his dead son's grave in Ironweed, The Dead possess unique powers and knowledge: ``The Dead control the seasons. Everything depends on them. In June, The Dead tunnel earthworms, crack the shells of bird eggs, poke the croaks from frogs. The ones who died children make play of their work, blowing bugs from weed to weed, aerating fields with their cartwheels. They thump the bees and send them out to pollinate gardenias.'' When The Dead lighten up enough, by learning to let the past go, The Mediator allows them to rise to a level past Finch's knowing. But Marcus, the Mayor's baby, who died of ``failure to thrive,'' can't stop bawling. The slender plot hinges on the story of his death and Finch's loving attempts to free his spirit. A southern tearjerker with some nice surprises--and likely to be a swift success. (First printing of 300,000) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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When I first began reading about "The Mediator" and how the dead go on living their lives in the cemetery controling the weather and plants, I was a bit doubtful about continuing reading. But, I was drawn in by Finch's character. Scarred as a child by an accident, she became a sarcastic, bitter, but brutally honest recluse who was able to carry on a relationship with the dead. The dead were fascinating -- I was particularly interested in Baby Marcus's story, and why he would just scream and cry for 30 years, and Lucy's suicide.
The writing is poetic and there are some interesting insights to life and death that I never even would've thought of. I found this novel interesting and quite calming... it was soothing and I am currently looking at other works by this author.
It is evident that author Sheri Reynolds has some talent as a writer, but this isn’t brilliant stuff. It’s a fairly easy read that is simply written. The story itself moves fairly quickly and is somewhat engaging. But when we come to the climactic storm (which is summoned up by two of the dead spirits because some of the living refuse to accept their truths), the story starts to seem terribly contrived. My enjoyment of the book was also diminished by its rather stereotypical treatment of “religious” people (Ms. Reynolds would make a good television writer) and the strong influence of postmodern thinking.