Sunday, January 11, 2015
Saving Grace by Jane Green
Published December 2014 by St. Martin's Press
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Grace and Ted Chapman are widely regarded as the perfect literary power couple. Ted is a successful novelist and Grace, his wife of twenty years, is beautiful, stylish, carefree, and a wonderful homemaker. But what no one sees, what is churning under the surface, is Ted’s rages. His mood swings. And the precarious house of cards that their lifestyle is built upon. When Ted’s longtime assistant and mainstay leaves, the house of cards begins to crumble and Grace, with dark secrets in her past, is most vulnerable. She finds herself in need of help but with no one to turn to…until the perfect new assistant shows up out of the blue. To the rescue comes Beth, a competent young woman who can handle Ted and has the calm efficiency to weather the storms that threaten to engulf the Chapman household. Soon, though, it’s clear to Grace that Beth might be too good to be true. This new interloper might be the biggest threat of all, one that could cost Grace her marriage, her reputation, and even her sanity. With everything at stake and no one to confide in, Grace must find a way to save herself before it is too late.
Ever since I started blogging, I've been reading glowing things about Jane Green's books. When I was offered a chance to read this one, I didn't hesitate to yes, thinking it was about time for me to see what all of the fuss was about.
Fair disclosure: this type of women's fiction is not my usual fare. I think those of you who enjoy Ms. Green's work or who regularly read this type of story may really enjoy it. I had issues with it.
The publisher calls the book "riveting" and says it will have you on "the edge of your seat." But they've all but told you what's going to happen in the book in their own summary and Ms. Green foreshadows every later event early on in the book. Do you know about the dramatic principle called "Chekov's gun?" Chekov said if there's a gun on the wall in the first chapter, by the second or third chapter it should be fired. If it's not, it shouldn't have been in the chapter. It does not mean that all of the guns that will later be fired must be included in the first chapter which is what I felt like Green did here. I would have liked to be surprised by the turns the book took. It seemed to me that Green might have held back some. As Grace begins to fall apart, I never felt that it that it was a mystery what was happening.
There's a lot going on in Saving Grace; it is definitely not a light, fluff piece. Green does a fine job of exploring mental illness - it's effect on families, the differences in the ways it is treated in different countries and the ways the perception of mental illness has changed over time. What hasn't changed, though, is the stigma associated with mental illness and it's that stigma that drives Grace's behavior throughout the book. It's her fear that drove a normal woman (albeit one with an abnormally abusive and demanding husband) to forget how normal she was and to forget her own strength. So, even while there were times I wanted to grab her and shake her, I couldn't give up on Grace.