Cover image for About Grace : a novel
Title:
About Grace : a novel
ISBN:
9780743261821

9780743261838
Publication Information:
New York : Scribner, c2004.
Physical Description:
402 p. ; 24 cm.
Summary:
Possessing an unsettling ability to predict random future events, Anchorage resident David Winkler foresees his infant daughter's drowning death and travels thousands of miles to Ohio and the Caribbean to prevent the tragedy.
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Summary

Summary

When Anthony Doerr's The Shell Collector was published in 2002, the Los Angeles Times called his stories "as close to faultless as any writer -- young or vastly experienced -- could wish for." He won the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Discover Prize, Princeton's Hodder Fellowship, and two O. Henrys, and shared the Young Lions Award. Now he has written one of the most beautiful, wise, and compelling first novels of recent times.David Winkler begins life in Anchorage, Alaska, a quiet boy drawn to the volatility of weather and obsessed with snow. Sometimes he sees things before they happen -- a man carrying a hatbox will be hit by a bus; Winkler will fall in love with a woman in a supermarket. When David dreams that his infant daughter will drown in a flood as he tries to save her, he comes undone. He travels thousands of miles, fleeing family, home, and the future itself, to deny the dream.On a Caribbean island, destitute, alone, and unsure if his child has survived or his wife can forgive him, David is sheltered by a couple with a daughter of their own. Ultimately it is she who will pull him back into the world, to search for the people he left behind.Doerr's characters are full of grief and longing, but also replete with grace. His compassion for human frailty is extraordinarily moving. In luminous prose, he writes about the power and beauty of nature and about the tiny miracles that transform our lives. About Grace is heartbreaking, radiant, and astonishingly accomplished.


Author Notes

Anthony Doerr was born on October 27, 1973 in Cleveland, Ohio. He is the author of The Shell Collector, About Grace, Four Seasons in Rome, Memory Wall, and All the Light We Cannot See. His fiction has won four O. Henry Prizes and has been anthologized in several anthologies. He has won the Barnes and Noble Discover Prize, the Rome Prize, the New York Public Library's Young Lions Award, the National Magazine Award for Fiction, three Pushcart Prizes, two Pacific Northwest Book Award, three Ohioana Book Awards, the 2010 Story Prize, which is considered the most prestigious prize in the U.S. for a collection of short stories, and the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, which is the largest prize in the world for a single short story. His novel, All the Light We Cannot See, won the Adult Fiction Award for the Indies Choice Book Awards in 2015, the International Book of the Year at the ABIA Awards and the Pulitzer Prizes for Fiction in 2015. Anthony Doerr also won the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction for this same title.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

The majesty of nature, the meaning of courage, the redemptive power of love and the pathos of isolation--all are gracefully explored in Doerr's story of the price paid for a gift. So why does so little seem to happen in this beautiful, ponderous and sometimes monotonous first novel by the author of the exquisite collection The Shell Collector? David Winkler has seen glimpses of the future ever since he was a boy. As a 32-year-old hydrologist in Anchorage, Alaska, he dreams of his future wife; soon they meet, fall in love and run away to Ohio, where she gives birth to their daughter, Grace. But when he dreams that he fails to save Grace from a flood, Winkler abandons wife and child, hoping to flee the future. He becomes a hermetic handyman on a Caribbean island near St. Vincent, befriended by a local family. The years pass until, emboldened by his surrogate family's grown daughter, a gifted marine biologist, Winkler realizes that he must embark on a journey to discover if Grace is alive. This is a lyrical tale tuned a bit too fine: Doerr's dreamy prose accords more attention to nature than character, so that Winkler, transfixed by the wonders of water and snowflakes but singularly unreflective about his actual life, is a frustratingly opaque protagonist. There are gorgeous moments here, but a stifling lack of story. Agent, Wendy Weil. 9-city author tour. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Booklist Review

As a boy in Anchorage, David Winkler began having strange dreams--which come true. Sometimes the dreams represent more mundane elements of life, such as luggage falling during an airplane flight; sometimes they signify momentous encounters, such as meeting the woman he would eventually marry. Winkler also dreamed things he did not want to come true--such as a man in a brown suit being killed by a bus. He dreamed that his newly born daughter would drown in a flood, and when the flooding began, Winkler fled, traveling thousands of miles, leaving his family and his comfortable life, hoping to stop his daughter's inevitable death. Twenty-five years later, he returns to Alaska to search for her and experiences an awakening of his own. As Winkler struggles to understand his dreams, he grows more and more alone, miserable, and hopeless. Winkler devastates his own life to a save another's--but in the process, he discovers that there is a saving grace in doing just that. --Michael Spinella Copyright 2004 Booklist


Kirkus Review

A compelling protagonist and a lyrical style grounded in precise observation of the physical world: these are the hallmarks of Idaho author Doerr's complex, ambitious first novel. As in the stories of his highly praised debut (The Shell Collector, 2002), Doerr explores the tensions between scientific objectivity and emotional vulnerability--here in the story of David Winkler, a trained hydrologist whose understanding of predictability in natural process is unsettled by mysteries that unfold from his own nature. For David experiences prophetic dreams of mischance occurring in both humdrum and catastrophic forms. We first meet him on an airplane when, at age 59, he's returning to the US from 25 years of self-exile and servitude in the Caribbean Grenadine Islands. Working through extended flashbacks that comprise most of the text here, Doerr patiently fills in the blanks. Growing up a scholarly, solitary youth in Anchorage, Alaska, David "dreamed" his chance meeting with the woman he would wed--then, finding her unhappily married, persuaded her to accompany him to a new life in Ohio. Fathering a daughter (Grace), then dreaming the flood in which he himself accidentally drowns her, David fled his marriage and future, booked passage on a Caribbean-bound steamer, then spent an embattled quarter-century laboring to return to obligations he had shed, meanwhile acquiring a new "family" and a second chance at happiness. About Grace possesses a seductive symbolic intensity, and abounds with gorgeous descriptions and metaphors ("The sea teething" on a coral reef; "the million distant candles of the stars"). But it's much too long, and is significantly marred by its climactic momentum toward a reconciliation that simply isn't very credible. Its protagonist's loneliness, regret, and guilt are painfully palpable, and go a long way toward making this risky book work--but, in the end, aren't enough. A bold attempt, nevertheless, by a gifted writer whose own future looms promisingly indeed. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal Review

As in his stunning short story collection The Shell Collector, Doerr explores human connections and the natural world in his first novel. Nature's power is a major character in its own right, fascinating a lonely young Alaskan named David Winkler. Obsessed with the mysteries of weather, David pursues a career in meteorology and is seemingly the ultimate scientific nerd-except for dreams since childhood that have regularly and accurately portrayed events before they happen, including the sudden death of a stranger and David's first meeting with the love of his life. When a recurring nightmare depicts the drowning of his baby daughter, Grace, the terrified father exiles himself for a quarter-century in a frantic attempt to change the future. His tragicomic odyssey in the Caribbean and across the United States before his return to Alaska plays out in ways that would defy the most gifted medium to predict. With clear, precise writing, Doerr creates cinematic images of gorgeous landscapes and of the highly individualistic characters who populate David's circle of acquaintances in this unusual tale. Recommended for most fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/04.]-Starr E. Smith, Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter 1 He made his way through the concourse and stopped by a window to watch a man with two orange wands wave a jet into its gate. Above the tarmac the sky was faultless, that relentless tropic blue he had never quite gotten used to. At the horizon, clouds had piled up: cumulus congestus, a sign of some disturbance traveling along out there, over the sea. The slim frame of a metal detector awaited its line of tourists. In the lounge: duty-free rum, birds of paradise sleeved in cellophane, necklaces made from shells. From his shirt pocket he produced a notepad and a pen. The human brain, he wrote, is seventy-five percent water. Our cells are little more than sacs in which to carry water. When we die it spills from us into the ground and air and into the stomachs of animals and is contained again in something else. The properties of liquid water are this: it holds its temperature longer than air; it is adhering and elastic; it is perpetually in motion. These are the tenets of hydrology; these are the things one should know if one is to know oneself. He passed through the gate. On the boarding stairs, almost to the jet, a feeling like choking rose in his throat. He clenched his duffel and clung to the rail. A line of birds -- ground doves, perhaps -- were landing one by one in a patch of mown grass on the far side of the runway. The passengers behind him shifted restlessly. A flight attendant wrung her hands, reached for him, and escorted him into the cabin. The sensation of the plane accelerating and rising was like entering a vivid and perilous dream. He braced his forehead against the window. The ocean widened below the wing; the horizon tilted, then plunged. The plane banked and the island reemerged, lush and sudden, fringed by reef. For an instant, in the crater of Soufrière, he could see a pearly green sheet of water. Then the clouds closed, and the island was gone. The woman in the seat next to him had produced a novel and was beginning to read. The airplane climbed the troposphere. Tiny fronds of frost were growing on the inner pane of the window. Behind them the sky was dazzling and cold. He blinked and wiped his glasses with his sleeve. They were climbing into the sun. Copyright © 2004 by Anthony Doerr Excerpted from About Grace: A Novel by Anthony Doerr All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.