A Paris Review Staff Pick
Early one October morning, Grace's mother snatches her from sleep and brutally cuts off her hair, declaring, "You are the strong one now." With winter close at hand and Ireland already suffering, Grace is no longer safe at home. Read more...
A Paris Review Staff Pick
Early one October morning, Grace's mother snatches her from sleep and brutally cuts off her hair, declaring, "You are the strong one now." With winter close at hand and Ireland already suffering, Grace is no longer safe at home. And so her mother outfits her in men's clothing and casts her out. When her younger brother Colly follows after her, the two set off on a remarkable odyssey in the looming shadow of their country's darkest hour. The broken land they pass through reveals untold suffering as well as unexpected beauty. To survive, Grace must become a boy, a bandit, a penitent and, finally, a woman-all the while afflicted by inner voices that arise out of what she has seen and what she has lost. Told in bold and lyrical language by an author who has already been called "one of his generation's very finest novelists" (Ron Rash, author of The Risen), Grace is an epic coming-of-age novel and a poetic evocation of the Irish famine as it has never been written.
- ISBN-13: 9780316316309
- ISBN-10: 031631630X
- Publisher: Little Brown and Company
- Publish Date: July 2017
- Page Count: 368
- Dimensions: 9.8 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.25 pounds
One girl's odyssey
Paul Lynch’s new novel, Grace, opens with a jarring scene: Fourteen-year-old Grace is pulled out of her house one morning in 1845 and dragged to the killing stump by her pregnant mother, who then cuts off her daughter’s hair. Grace is dressed in men’s clothing and cast from the house as her mother declares, “You are the strong one now.” What ensues is a heartbreaking tale of desolation, hunger, loneliness and survival, set during the darkest hour in Irish history.
Lynch, who has garnered comparisons to Cormac McCarthy and Colm Tóibín for his previous works Red Sky in Morning and The Black Snow, has woven a sweeping novel that is difficult to properly categorize. While calling upon traditional Irish storytelling, Grace also feels vaguely Dickensian and unfolds through language that’s more like poetry than prose. Even through gruesome parts of the novel—such as the death of Grace’s younger brother or the mildly traumatic experience of her first menstruation—Lynch’s descriptions and turns of phrase are macabrely beautiful.
Readers follow Grace as she wanders the barren countryside, reinventing herself. She is a boy, a man, a cattle herd and even a thief. She speaks with ghosts and struggles to survive. Many would see her mother’s choice to cast her out as harsh, but in comparison to the hardships experienced in the novel, readers come to see that her mother’s choice was actually an act of love, an attempt to help Grace grow and save her from hunger, pain and potentially the hands of her mother’s new lover, Boggs.
Grace offers an intriguing perspective on the concepts of femininity and hardship, one that feels as though it has already claimed its place among great Irish literature.