Shop Indie Bookstores
Grace, Natashia Deon, Counterpoint Press, 2016, 402 pp
I loved this novel. It is an example of what a female author can accomplish when she allows herself to write truly from her own heart and vision.
I was already in ghost story mode from reading White Tears just before it. In Grace, the ghost who narrates the tale is the mother of the main character, Grace. Both are slaves. The ghost narrator's mother was also a slave upon whom her master kept producing babies as a way to get more slaves without having to pay for them. Except the woman kept having daughters when he wanted males for the fields.
Thus we get the stories of three generations of slave women, of murder and mayhem, of desperate escapes towards freedom. I guess I have read enough slave narratives now to have become somewhat inured to the abuse and violence that come with the institution. The key to this novel is the unending strength of a mother's love for her children. Without sentimentality, Natashia Deon plums all the conflicting emotions and deeds done under the almost mystical connection a mother has with her offspring.
This is a story of the heart complete with all the blood, pain, labor, and mistakes a mother can make. It is a story of the mind and all the conundrums of how to best rear and protect, especially daughters who are bound to become mothers themselves. Of course, ultimately it is an historical story of the suffering of females and slaves. There are also some wonderful male characters to counter-balance the depravity of the typical Southern "gentlemen" of the era.
I listened to an interview with the author on the Other People podcast. She is a native of Los Angeles, her father was a cop, and she had amazing stories to tell about her life. She is also a Christian with the kind of deep faith I can respect. The line from the novel that moved me the most was, "There is no justice. There is only grace."
For fans of Toni Morrison, and I am one of them, it is as if she has a literary daughter whose name is Natashia Deon. In my opinion, Grace should have been a huge bestseller last year. There is no justice. It must have been grace that led me to such a wonderful novel.
(Grace is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)