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Act of Grace

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  106 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Why would Grace Johnson, a bright, African-American high school senior, save the life of a Ku Klux Klansman named Jonathan Gilmore? That question hovers over Grace's hometown of Vigilant, Michigan, and few people, black or white, understand her actions-especially since rumor has it that many years ago, a member of the Gilmore family murdered several African-American reside ...more
Paperback, 306 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Plenary Publishing
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Average rating 4.31  · 
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 ·  106 ratings  ·  31 reviews

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Jul 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Susan by: Nicola's Books
Y'know, as I started reading this book I was thinking I would give it 3 stars... pretty much entirely because it has got a paranormal premise (Grace talks to and acts on behalf of "the ancestors"), and that is so COMPLETELY not "my thing." But I kept reading because Simpson is a local Michigan author, and because my favorite local indie bookstore recommended it, and because the writing was good.

And the author won me over. Paranormal still isn't my thing, but this book used that idea as a tool to
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. And our bookclub got to discuss it with the author via Skype! She's an awesome lady! This book will be a best seller! ...more
Skipper Hammond
Jul 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Karissa Williams
Jul 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I was totally "Holden Caufielded" by this book...that's my term for feeling the way Holden feels about Ring Lardner: You want the story to go on. You want to know the characters and be friends with them. You want to meet the author and shake his/her hand.

Karen Simpson's ability to spin a tale that is both cemented in reality and floating in the ethereal is phenomonal. Grace is a grounded young woman who is confronted by a world that she doesn't fully understand, and is not sure she wants to expl
Debbie Williamson
Dec 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Act of Grace is beautifly written with discriptives that left me in wonder. The horrible history of my ancestors will sit with me for a long time. Not that I was not aware of them, Act of Grace brought them to realistic light. I am not only ashamed but outraged and sick that we as humans could act in such horrific ways. What I loved most about Act of Grace, was the love and forgiveness that Grace showed. Forgiveness is the only way our world will ever change. We have advanced in technology and s ...more
Mary Shue
Jul 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and not just because I know the author. It has action, romance, mystery, tradition, history, and a main character that makes you wish she really existed. I was a little sad when I came to the end of this book and really hope that there will be a sequel. I bought two books because of references either in this book or about this book. One was Redeeming Time: T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets by Kenneth Paul Kramer and the other was Red Summer: the Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Bla ...more
Jul 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. Though it wasn't part of the bees "spooky reads" selections, maybe it should have been! Normally getting in touch with ghosts is not my thing, but this lyrical, well-paced read was refreshing. I also thought the dialogue was pitch-perfect. This is why I like Ann Arbor--such talent! ...more
Apr 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-it, contemporary
This book surprised me. I bought this book after hearing this author speak at a conference and having a conversation with her . . . . and I was still surprised by this book. This novel is like nothing I have read before. It includes mysticism and the paranormal, but it is not fantasy. It is centered around themes of forgiveness, love, and self-sacrifice, but it is not simply Christian fiction. Grace is an average 18 year old ready to leave childhood behind and strike out on a path that leads to ...more
Jan 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a book steeped in mysticism, hatred and the power of redemption. Grace grows up without her father in a home where her mother treats her quite abusively. She does not know the history of her family, she does not know about her grandmother, she does not know how her father died. She does not know that her mother is crazy.

After reading the synopsis I was expecting a book about racial attitudes and how they played out in a small town. This is not what I got per se. Racism was an underlying
Hannah Courtney
Feb 26, 2012 rated it really liked it

Act of Grace is a very different book than I have read before. It’s all about the African-American culture in the town of Vigilant, Michigan. I will admit I originally picked this book because it was about a girl growing up in Michigan and since I am from Michigan we are going to have so much in common! Wrong.
Grace Johnson is a senior in high school who is funny, smart, and has so many witty thoughts that will leave you howling as you read. This story is not a comedy though and early on we lear
Jan 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Grace has not had it easy and is looking to get out of her small town and get away from her mother. Her mother appears to hate Grace at times for no reason, her dad passed away long ago. Grace just wants to graduate and leave. Grace turns eighteen and experiences an unusual event. Her paternal side contacts her and tells her that she is special, she is able to access the spirit world. From the spirit world she learns disturbing things about the death of her father and disappearance of town child ...more
Cheryl Malandrinos
Act of Grace by Karen Simpson is an eloquently written, intriguing mystical novel. Raised by an abusive, unloving mother, Grace is looking forward to graduation. Little does she know that her old life will soon be just a memory, as she is called by the Ancestors to bear witness to Vigilant's violent, racially charged past.

I can honestly say, I've never read a book like Act of Grace before. It captivated me quickly, and Simpson's eloquent prose unfolded the story slowly, like the blooming of a f
Sep 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Act of Grace deals with racism in a very different way, a town in Michigan with huge secrets about it and how a 18 year old girl with a "gift" made it all come out. The story is written in such a way that you could feel the confusion of how she was dealing with it all including the "gift" which related to African ancestors which her mother tried to beat out of her when she was very young and seeing people. It was very good and interesting reading and the author had some very interesting descript ...more
Laurel Mojica
Jan 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
What a great novel. Reminds you that mercy is not the same as leniency, true love is not an emotion, and forgiveness never ever comes cheap-- yet all these things are more than suggestions for those who claim to follow God and each of them is available to any of us who choose to die to our own desires and live for Him. The main character's vulnerable honesty about personal pain and racial injustice brought back memories of books I've read by Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and Alice Walker, but this ...more
Marcy prager
Apr 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I am proud to be a friend of Karen Simpson's! Karen describes the pain of Grace, a young teenager whose father supposedly commit suicide, and a mother who physically and emotionally has bruised her for years. Grace's daily suffering enables her to be ready to receive the "messages" from her ancestors. Grace comes of age as she discovers that her father was murdered by a white man who had also murdered countless white children, all hate crimes. Connecting with her ancestors from the other world i ...more
Apr 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is Simpson's first novel. It is a must read. Her poetic style of writing soothes you into the harsh realities of racism, violence, and absolute hate based horror. The hero, Grace, puts an end to historical and current race based violence by her own sacrifice--after learning much from her ancestors. Simpson reveals the truth of the crossroads metaphor, saving Robert Johnson, by allusion, from misrepresentation. Music and food are the backdrops of Simpson's work: "better than sex" chocolate c ...more
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
I loved the prose in this book. Simpson gave Grace an amazing voice to a wonderful character, and the descriptive phrases were delightful. I was particularly fond of how she described food, which at times was a problem because many of the meals she mentioned I don't have access to ;_;

Grace is a wonderful character and I loved watching her grow from a girl with very little self esteem to a woman who has more courage and love than anyone I've had the pleasure of meeting. The people around her are
Oct 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book was so well written. It had a rhythm that kept you reading long into the night. Loved the recurring theme of forgiveness and love. Not sure I'm convinced that the gift Grace was given is real but aside from that I will recommend this book to all my friends. ...more
Jan 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Awesome book, very poetic writing, and great characters!!! Loved the mystical mysteriousness of it all!
Jeanne Foster
Jan 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book on so many levels.
Sarah Rigg
Nov 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poc-authors
I'm not an entirely objective reviewer since I helped workshop "Act of Grace" by Karen Simpson in a writers group, and she thanks me in the acknowledgements. However, I really enjoyed this book even more than I expected. In this coming-of-age tale with supernatural elements, Grace turns 18 and comes into her power as someone who can talk to the spirits. They want her to bring to light a history of racial violence that has haunted her town for decades. The book handles the issue of racial intoler ...more
Jan 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grade-ya
Act of Grace is an amazing complex story that had me engrossed from the first page. It hit on themes I am still thinking about weeks after finishing the book. The character of Grace was so well drawn out it was like I was walking beside her the entire time.

Not only was the story so well told and threaded together, but the craft with which the book is written is really some of the best I’ve ever read. I could feel and taste the descriptions. They are so well-crafted I think it should be used in
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This compelling book asks the question: Why would a young, bright, African-American high school senior, save the life of a Ku Klux Klansman? It is filled with well-crafted characters, lively scenes, and rich sensory detail. It is a coming of age story woven together with African-American history and genealogy that is nearly impossible to put down.
Aug 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Act of Grace is full of powerful prose and rich characterization. The African-American traditions, customs, and rituals are tied together with spirituality with the confidence and ease of a seasoned author. It is difficult to believe this is Ms. Simpson's first published novel. I really enjoyed the way the story unfolded and the lovely scriptures and poetic "nuggets" she provided along the way.

I am not sure why this book has seemingly been overlooked by marketing venues and bloggers alike as I s
Sue Merrell
May 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very well written. Simpson has a wonderful knack for description. For instance, she doesn't just say it's a gray day, she says the sky is "the color of dryer lint." Or consider this description: "His dark greasy hair was doing some kind of wild, interpretive dance on the top of his head in honor of his rough night outside some bar." The story is intriguing and the characters complex. Grace is a black high school senior, overweight, doesn't get along with her mother, and haunted by visions of her ...more
Feb 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Carla by: Gloria
Shelves: fiction
I really liked this multi-layered book about the African-American experience in small-town America. Told in first person, the narrator is engaging and genuine, a somewhat reluctant hero in in story loosely inspired by true events. The 1996 photo and read the story of the African-American woman, a teenager, who rescued a KKK sympathizer (or member, I don't think that it was ever clear) at a rally in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This novel only uses that event as inspiration. The story starts well before ...more
Mar 19, 2012 rated it liked it
The story was "eh" and the characters were just ok, what made this story was the language. Simpson is a gifted crafter of word choice and usage and the way she weaved the words together in this story was amazing! Especially her food descriptions! The way she described one of the character's bread pudding made me want to go out and search for anything remotely similar and I don't like wet bread. If nothing else, she definitely has a career as a restaurant food editor. I'd hire her to give descrip ...more
Jun 06, 2014 rated it liked it
Act of Grace was an interesting book and I liked it, except I felt kind of let down at the end and I'm not sure why. Kind of like the punch line was missing, but maybe that's just me and my expectations. I loved the theory of the book that forgiveness can change everything. And, I loved the spiritual part of the book where you're sometimes just drawn to do something even if you don't want to do it. I would read another book by karen Simpson, I did enjoy your writing and character development. ...more
Deedra Climer
Sep 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written with deeply developed characters, Act of Grace is not only a coming of age story, but also a timely and important work for anyone interested in our history with race and how it impacts us today. You'll laugh, you'll cry and if you're not careful, you just might learn something. ...more
Mar 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A coming-of-age story that gives insight into the complicated spiritual life of Grace, the main character. Beautifully written. I wanted to use a highlighter to mark great phrases and sentences.
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My name is Karen L. Simpson. I am the author of Act of Grace (Plenary Publication)

I am passionate about the craft of writing fiction, the art of quilting, and the discipline of historical research. For me all three of these disciplines are deeply intertwined.


Rochester Writers’ 2018 Writing Contest
2nd Place Tulip by Karen Simpson

2017 Springfed Arts 1st Place


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