In the beginning there was me and Mum and Dad and the twins. And talk about happy families, we were bountiful . But it came to pass. And then I started doing sins. And lo, that’s when all our problems began.
I know I’m stating the obvious here, but this is the new book by Morris Gleitzman. Although Morris isn’t technically Australian, he emigrated here when he was young, so I think its safe for us to claim him as our own now, and at the moment I’m feeling kind of proud to do so. For those of you that don’t know who Morris is, I feel the need to ask what kind of rock you’ve been living under for the last, oh, I don’t know, forever? (Especially if you’re Australian). I used to read him when I was young and I’m incredibly happy that I decided to read his new book, Grace. Although I’d argue it’s targeted at an audience that is slightly younger than we usually cater for, I reckon this is the kind of book that all readers will be able to get into.
Meet Grace: daughter, sister, inquisitive student, and completely devoted to God. So devoted to God it’s not even funny. After being inside her head for just a few pages, I realised that this story was going to be loaded with religious values/ideals/blah blah blah – and that is not something I really enjoy reading about. But thankfully, I persisted, and I learned a whole lot from Grace.
When Grace’s father is expelled from their cult/church (referred to by Grace herself as a “special” kind of Christianity) Grace thinks it’s her fault. I mean, she did get off the school bus to check and see if the people in the van they hit were okay, she did ask too many questions, and she did interrupt prayer at school. Maybe if she hadn’t done these things, he’d still be allowed to live with them. After setting out on a mission to find her dad and bring him home, Grace begins to realise that her father’s expulsion really wasn’t her fault. She starts to see that the men of her church, particularly her grandfather, might be manipulating the situation more than she first understood.
Will Grace be able to show her mother the truth, prove her father’s innocence and save her family? Sounds like a helluva burden for such a small kid to carry, but everyone knows that sometimes, adults can be total morons and only the genius of the child mind can save a the day.
If you’re into seriously fanatical religion, then I’d stay away from this book, especially if your breed of fanaticism dances in Christianity’s court. I think the only reason I was able to stomach all the religious fodder in this story was because it totally demonised it. Having said that, I think its safe to admit that I totally loved this book! Grace is an awesome character whose initiative, dedication, and inquisitive mind set her up as a noble heroine worthy of admiration by all. For someone who has spent her entire life in a brainwashed bubble of Christian poo, Grace accepts the truth about her circumstances with the maturity of someone much older than her years. If it were me, I’d be in all kinds of denial. But she was believable in every single way; I never once found myself thinking that her choices or her thoughts were unrealistic.
What really scared me about this story was just how impressionable the human mind can be. The community members that are part of Grace’s church are brainwashed beyond anything I can possibly comprehend. A scenario like that seems like total fiction to me, because I just can’t get my head around how someone (or a whole group of someone’s) can succumb to something like that without question. But the truth is, it’s not fiction. There are cults just like this one functioning in real life. I think a story like this is definitely appropriate for a pre-adolescent (or early adolescent) audience because it demonstrates that sometimes, just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t necessarily make it a right, or a good thing. It’s good to ask questions, and knowledge is always, always power.
This is a very easy book to read and I knocked it over in two hours flat (including time allocated for a coffee and toilet break). Morris Gleitzman has totally outdone himself this time and this book (unexpectedly) knocked my freaking socks off! Two extremely enthusiastic yaReads thumbs up for Grace.