The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee – Talya Tate Boerner
Oh my stars am I ever in love with the grit, wit, and wisdom of 10-year-old Gracie Lee. Set in the sweltering heat of an Arkansas delta summer, we are invited to come along for the ride as Gracie Lee navigates the beauty and the brutality of the hard truths that life has dealt her, and in some ways the truths and the questions that are in all of us.
Told in first person, Gracie reminds us of the bravery, curiosity, and compassion that children possess in spades, and that we often spend a lifetime trying to figure out how to recapture. From the first moment she marches down the church aisle to ask her a pastor a question, which hilariously ends up in her accidental salvation, to her quest to find out who lives in the big house next door to the myriad of emotions she experiences as she watches the unraveling of her alcoholic father, Gracie has you cheering for her on every page.
Gracie’s family is complex – a loving but exhausted mother who wants nothing more than to be loved herself, a younger sister who requires comfort and other times a good eye roll, and a dad who is checked out emotionally but dedicated to the hard work of financially providing for his family. The lives of this famer’s family weave and bob around each other as they live in their reality of barely hanging on to the middle class, and at times each other. They deal with the precariousness and mystery of nature including flooding rains, crop cycles, and our human desire to harness it all. And most of all, our desire to connect and understand.
Growing up Baptist in the south, I can whole heartedly testify (see what I did there?) that Talya has captured every nuance of the culture – both the Baptist and the southern – all rolled into one big patchwork quilt. I was humming along as the congregation sang every endless verse of Just as I Am. I was reminiscing at the details of unscheduled childhood summer days where bicycle exploration and ham sandwiches with mayonnaise, iceberg lettuce, and white bread were what made our world go round. If you grew up in the south anytime between the 1950s and early 1980s, I suspect you’ll feel your senses toggle between the feeling of home and “oh my what were we thinking.”
This is my absolute favorite kind of fiction – one where the landscape is as big of a character as the people, one where you feel the sense of place as large as life. Most importantly, while it is fiction, you know that there are thousands of Gracies in this world, and you simply want to cheer for each and every one of them.
P.S. – This farmgirl loves a good book – whether that book makes you laugh, cry, refreshes your soul, dances with your imagination, or teaches you a history lesson. Books are just the bees knees. Check out our Farmtastic Faves section for more of our favorites.
P.P.S. – Check out Tayla’s website for more information about her and the book.
Featured image Amazon.