Skipper Hammond's Reviews > Act of Grace

Act of Grace by Karen Simpson
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's review
Jul 06, 2011

it was amazing
Read in April, 2011

Karen Simpson’s debut novel, Act of Grace, is a magical story of an African American teen’s struggle with her hometown’s history of racial violence, a metaphor in which racism is overcome, not by force, reason, or law but by an act of grace. Challenged by the Ancestors--her great grandmother for whom she was named and a mysterious homeless man--Grace Johnson must discover the truth behind a series of murderers years ago in Vigilant, Michigan, and confront the racist grandson of their perpetrator.

The main character, a true heroine, is also very real, a teen with weaknesses, passions, fears that make the reader want to embrace her, cheer for her, send her get well wishes--or stuffed rabbits. We can believe in her growing courage and wisdom as she discovers and begins to understand her destiny, meeting obstacles not only from her adversary but from her family and as she responds to unexpected revelations.

But Act of Grace is not only a story grounded in reality, it is a book of magic wrought by Hoodoo power and wisdom. And also by the magic of Simpson’s words. The language brings the pages to life. Inanimate objects and abstractions take on human personality, desires, attitudes. I could almost feel them jumping, dancing, contending on the page. Listen to a few:
Where a more mundane author might have written that “morning light broke through the dark,” Simpson tells us “The sky was peeling back the darkness to reveal a watery blue.”
Rather than “I hoped,” Grace says “If my luck wasn’t stingy.”
She doesn’t fear disappointment, she “Told my hopes to lay back down.”

I had only one problem with this book: being torn between racing through to learn “what happens next” and wanting to savor every delicious, sparkling word.

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