Foreword Reviews

Resurrection of Gracie MacDougal

Clarion Rating: 4 out of 5

A coming-of-age story and history lesson, Resurrection of Gracie MacDougal dignifies everyday characters living through extraordinary times.

In Linda Buxbaum’s sweeping World War II-era historical novel, Resurrection of Gracie MacDougal, a young woman’s Montana ranch life runs parallel to events on the world stage.

Between 1939 and 1945, the MacDougal family loses one child to kidnapping, one to death, and one to the Merchant Marines. The family also adds new livestock, grandchildren, and in-laws. Through it all, Abi MacDougal, the book’s narrator and one of the family’s middle children, keeps close tabs on America’s involvement in World War II. As victory approaches for the allies, Abi chronicles her family’s own closures with their series of extreme ups and downs.

The book creates satisfying symmetries: between Abi’s coming of age and the world’s reckoning during the war; between good and evil. It moves chronologically, with even-keeled language and a mix of modern characters.

Six sections—one for each year of the war—are divided into several short chapters. Each chapter covers one or two defeats or wins for the family, keeping the story focused, succinct, linear, and fast-paced. Clever segues, as when the latest Nazi atrocity leads into a story about Abi’s violent older brother, link family tales to current events. The book’s climax follows the climaxes of the war. The family’s suspense is the world’s suspense; its fate lies with the outcomes of key battles. With the end of the war, the family’s story concludes happily, in delightful contrast to its ominous start.

As the book’s narrator, Abi is a voice of reason amid her stubborn and sometimes brash family members. She writes as she would speak, describing her many chores alongside brooding pubescent thoughts. A bright student who reads a lot, she skips grades, entering high school as barely a teenager. Her father surprises himself by listening to her counsel on how to forgive a wrong done against the family, and she establishes a trustworthy and capable tenor, even as she tells about her encounter with a “spirit bear,” a relationship that develops beyond plausibility. Her attempts to reconcile her religious foundations, her mystical experiences, and her literary inquiries set a balanced and easy-to-read tone.

Abi and her family members are as varied as the Allied and Axis powers. Her “crazy” Aunt Peggy dresses like a man. Little Gracie bears the virtue of her name. Her sister Blair has a child at fifteen. Twins Callum and Cameron are as different as night and day. Abi names her favorite horse after Larry, an enemy later treated as a family member.

Along with references to Time and Life articles and radio shows, the family tracks the war through letters from its parachuting brothers, Colin and Craig. The book captures a variety of personalities in a variety of forms, resulting in a tale that is much larger than Abi herself.

A coming-of-age story and history lesson, Resurrection of Gracie MacDougal dignifies everyday characters living through extraordinary times.

Reviewed by Mari Carlson

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author 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 author 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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