So impressed was I by Morris Gleitzman’s Once that I decided to pick up another of his books from the library. I wasn’t quite ready to tackle another title in the Once series, so I chose Grace, foolishly thinking it would be a lighter read.
I should have known better. From the first few chapters I was haunted by memories of Robin Klein’s People Might Hear You, as Grace follows a similar theme of a child caught in a religious sect. Like many of his other books, Gleitzman has this incredible ability to tell the story through the eyes of a child, thinking and feeling as a child would feel. It really is as if the child is telling the story, and not just because of Gleitzman’s use of the first person. The reader is drawn in and is there with Grace during every experience.
Grace is uplifting in the sense that it deals with a loving and supportive family, coming to grips with life in a religious sect that they gradually discover is not all they want it to be. The love never wavers, despite the intense tribulations that the family suffers. It is an emotional story, but not heavy and depressing. Throughout there is a tremendous sense of family strength and optimism, even at the height of the novel when the family is threatened to be torn apart.
Grace herself is a spirited and energetic character. Importantly her family does not try to suppress this spirit even though is doesn’t really fit in with the expected behaviours of her religion.
Also, perhaps more importantly, Gleitzman points out the difference throughout between spiritual faith, and religious control. As Grace grows in her spiritual development she learns that the strict nature of the sect she belongs to does not necessarily compare favourably with her own values. The behavioural rules imposed on her are not a true reflection of her own Christian beliefs, so she seeks to find another way. That journey of discovery is the essence of the story.
Grace is a beautiful and thought-provoking story. I will definitely be seeking more books by Morris Gleitzman to add to my reading repertoire.