Foreword Reviews

Finding Grace

A Novel

Clarion Rating: 4 out of 5

In the bittersweet novel Finding Grace, a fractured family works toward healing.

In Maren Cooper’s character-driven novel Finding Grace, a family secret leads to ruptures and reconciliations.

Charlie and Caroline are a married couple who first bonded over their complementary lonely family situations. But while Charlie wanted to rectify their pasts by building a strong family of their own, Caroline, an ornithologist, wanted to be unfettered by children. Caroline ends up rejecting their daughter, Grace, while Charlie becomes her sole caregiver. With the help of a babysitting neighbor and church friends in Two Harbors, Minnesota, he raises Grace while Caroline travels the world, guiding bird watches.

When Grace develops mental illness in her teenage years, Caroline wants nothing more to do with her or Charlie, who chooses Grace over accompanying Caroline on trips and fulfilling her wishes. Grace runs away from home; Charlie and Caroline get divorced. After a year of silence, Charlie receives a call Grace that needs his help.

The book’s chapters are short, composed of brief exchanges in which the family members articulate little to each other, though they harbor a host of unspoken needs. They become even more illustrative in the first days following Grace’s disappearance, which are narrated with immediacy. Lake Superior, at the town’s edge, becomes an ominous setting that’s detailed in terms that are both breathtaking and dangerous, symbolizing the fragile fissure at the family’s heart. The stark, unresolved differences between Charlie and Caroline’s perspectives are also complemented by these storytelling methods.

Charlie, Caroline, and Grace’s perspectives are all shared, if in an uneven manner. Charlie is the most emotional narrator, and his inner thoughts are the best centered of any character’s. He shares his history in an open way, expressing guilt for pressuring Caroline into motherhood. He’s an empathetic father figure.

In contrast, Caroline is a colder presence: she barks orders at Charlie, complains about Charlie and Grace, and meets her needs in extramarital flings. Her rejection of Grace, despite the fact that she was forthright about her wishes not to have a family, is covered without sympathy. Grace, meanwhile, is fleshed out best following her year of absence, which leads to surprises and explorations. The supporting characters are background presences in the family’s tale: doctors and social workers work with Charlie during Grace’s episodes, but their contributions are more clinical.

Working toward a hopeful ending and second chances for its troubled cast, the bittersweet novel Finding Grace follows a fractured family as they pursue healing.

Reviewed by Mari Carlson

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The publisher of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Reviews make no guarantee that the publisher will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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