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Saying Grace

3.43  ·  Rating details ·  401 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
Rue Shaw has everything--a much loved child, a solid marriage, and a job she loves. Saying Grace takes place in Rue's mid-life, when her daughter is leaving home, her parents are failing, her husband is restless and the school she has built is being buffeted by changes in society that affect us all. Funny, rich in detail and finally stunning, this novel presents a portrait ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published May 3rd 2005 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1995)
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Jun 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The head of a small private high school that is student-centered and process-oriented in its philosophy, Rue Shaw, is met with a new challenge in the results- and exam-oriented new president of the board. She also deals with uninspired teachers, incensed and irrational parents, and ethically-challenged students. She manages to rally the troops against ever increasing pressures, until two events destroy her personal life, and the professional side quickly follows.

It’s a “year in the life” story,
Sep 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
I'm not sure where I got the idea that I would enjoy a Beth Gutcheon book...wandering through the library I picked this up. time, just shoot me.

A cast of millions, many of whom are introduced and then never heard from again. Parents and children who were difficult, at least for me, to keep track of. A gratuitous list of "cool music" - perhaps to establish Ms. Gutcheon's hip factor? An affair never discussed, a perfect daughter, bla bla bla....

Not recommended.
Aug 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
I was assigned this book for summer reading for my new school. What a great choice! Bet Gutcheon has independent schools pegged! Anyone that teaches, sits on the board of, or sends their children to private school should read this book!
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
So-so story -- a bit draggy, but not awful. Except when the main characters headed off to the desert in Arizona and suddenly it was like reading the brochure handed out at the historic sites. Page after page that had nothing to do with the story, but was certainly a lot of history of the Navajo and the canyon lookouts. Seemed like the author had to provide a certain number of pages and filled up her book by copying or paraphrasing from local guidebooks. Added nothing except making it drag even m ...more
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
One of the books I wish I'd written. Beautifully told story, both heartwarming and heartbreaking. I found a copy on a remainders of my favourite finds.
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very relatable story for me since Rue Shaw is the head mistress of a school! Needing to keep trading it but...,the end left me hanging.
Ms. B
Aug 21, 2012 rated it did not like it
Rue Shaw has everything—a much loved child, a solid marriage, and a job she loves. Saying Grace takes place in Rue's mid-life, when her daughter is leaving home, her parents are failing, her husband is restless and the school she has built is being buffeted by changes in society that affect us all. Funny, rich in detail and finally stunning, this novel presents a portrait of a tight-knit community in jeopardy, and of a charming woman whose most human failing is that she wants things to
Aug 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Rue was head of a school called Country. She had been there for 20 years. Everyone loved her.
She took care of her teachers and had a wonderful second in command, Mike. They worked great together.
There were the kids who got into trouble but she always worked through it. But teachers were being complained about and the Board president, Chandler, was also complaining to her.
She husband, Henry, was a doctor. They had been married for 25 years. Their daughter, Georgia, had graduated and gone to NY to
Nov 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
I was doubtful about this book with its pastel cover and religious-sounding title. Of course, we should not judge a book by its cover.

Beth Gutcheon clearly knows the characters that inhabit the private school universe. Anyone who has worked in a private school has met real-life counterparts for all of the outrageous individuals walking the pages of Saying Grace. Many of the characters are not fully developed, but I can forgive this. There are too many characters to keep in mind, especially at t
Feb 14, 2015 rated it did not like it
1.5 stars - the extra half star because the writing is pretty good and makes it a page turner. But I really didn't like this book. It starts out ok, but as I read through, it becomes more and more negative, with troubled children, angry parents, death threats, heated arguments, and worse. It started making me feel stressed to read it, but I read in the evening in bed to relax so I can fall asleep. About 2/3 through, when it became clear that things would get worse and a happy ending was unlikely ...more
Feb 09, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, kindle
I read this book years ago, and had remembered it as one of my favorites. Sadly, my memory didn't stand up to present-day reality. Saying Grace is an interesting story about a private school head, Rue, and the people around her, but important characters and plot strands are abruptly dropped and never developed. Any one of the storylines (Rue's daughter, the school/teacher/board turmoil, Rue's marriage, child abuse) would have made a better book, but all of them together constitute a soap opera. ...more
Jan 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was something I randomly picked up at a library book sale. It was good - but there was a little too much going on here. Perhaps it is supposed to approximate the chaos of real life, but things didn't go anywhere, or plotlines were dropped (with a few bombshell revelations at the end!), and that was a little frustrating. The sad twists were emotionally difficult to read. I really really liked the first half, though - I liked the depiction of all the craziness of running a school, and I LOVED ...more
Oct 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Another exceptional book! Another very talented writer. I completely was not expecting this from such an unimposing looking book. The story was not something that I would be normally interested in but the author kept the story moving the whole time. I did not want to put the book down even though the story was about a principal of a private school in USA, the staff and the familiies. It was a fast moving right until the last page even though it was all about the life of ordinary people. I will f ...more
Peter Spencer
Dec 08, 2013 rated it liked it
As a product of a private school, albeit in the UK where they are curiously called "public schools," I was interested in reading this book.
It was initially quite fascinating, but seemed to run out of steam as it progressed. Far too many of the characters who appeared to be important were never developed, and after the gruesome tragedy the narrative took such a divergent turn that one wondered if one was reading the same story.

I was disappointed, therefore, that such a promising tale of a school
Jun 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
A slow, sad novel about upheaval in a small private elementary school in suburban southern California, written (mostly) from the perspective of its beleaguered headmistress. One of my former teachers gave it to me in the immediate aftermath of some analogous upheaval at our (ex-)school, but I wasn't old enough to appreciate it then; years later, older and wiser, I was able to summon some empathy, rather than schadenfreude, for everyone involved.
Oct 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
I thought this was a great book. Being middle-aged and in a 30 year marriage with adult children, I was able to relate to it. Fortuneatly I hopefully won't have to worry about my life collapsing around my feet, but certainly it is a profound reminder how things can change in the blink of an eye, or simmer along while we unwittingly assume all is well.
While I read it from the library, I would like to add it permanently to my Sony Reader. It's a keeper.
Apr 08, 2009 rated it liked it
I picked this up from the public library "good reads you might have missed" bookshelf. I loved it -- the insight into how difficult it is to run a school that educates the whole child and deal with all the politics, ethical dilemmas and competing interests while maintaining your own family relationships was the high point for me. The ending was quirky in a good way. It was a little melodramatic in parts, otherwise I would have given it a 4.
Oct 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
I really, really enjoyed this book. The characters are so richly drawn and there's a lot going on. I finished the book and my response as I finished the last page was "wow." A quiet wow, just a pretty amazing character study and people who stay with you long after you close the book. I will definitely read more of Beth Gutcheon.
While this book was very well written, I am only giving it three stars because I was so disappointed with the ending. It just seemed to come out of nowhere rather than being an organic consequence of everything that had come before. But it was very well written and engaging and psychologically compelling up to that point.
Mar 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written, this book contains prose so vivid and well-crafted that you agree with the blurbs on the back: "The reader faces that most wonderful perplexity: whether to read quickly for the story, which rivers, or slowing for the writing, which enthralls" (Sandra Scofield). That it took me over a year to finish this book shows my path.

Heartbreaking and beautiful.
Virginia Markhart
May 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
First book I have read by this autor but will not be the last. I loved all the drama surrounding the private school, and getting a peek at the inside lives of the faculty and administration.

The book was fun to read, ran the whole gamit of emotions from laughing to sadness to frustration. Really enjoyed it thoroughly.
Bridget Brooks
Jun 12, 2011 rated it liked it
Definitely an interesting read. I liked the dynamics of a small town and its functionings and faults. This book is really about change, some good, some not so good, but the meaning is clear change, good or bad is inevitable in life, career, and love. I thought the story was very meaningful and am glad I read it.
Dec 28, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up
This book switches between characters without warning, and doesn't introduce them in a way that lets you know where they fit into the story. I just didn't care about any of them, and didn't want to keep reading in hopes that I'd finally understand what was going on.
Jul 22, 2012 rated it it was ok
First 3 quarters of the book was really good. Then it started to go downhill and had an ending that was not at all satisfying. But I'm not a teacher....perhaps a teacher would really enjoy this book.
Aug 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Realistic story about the politics faced by a principal of a small private school: empty nest, struggles of termination in middle age, politics--I enjoyed this book although it was painfully similar to some experiences in my own life at the time (not termination).
Jan 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly depressing book, but I love what Beth Gutcheon has to say about community, and integrity, and grace. (And while I'm at it -- though this is a novel, it should be required reading for anyone involved in a nonprofit board. Just sayin'.)
Martha D
This is a wonderful picture of "behind-the-scenes" life of the Headmistress of a small private school. I loved the depiction of characters, and the analysis of difficult decisions when problems arose in the story.
Oct 30, 2015 rated it did not like it
Story of Rue who is the head of a small private school. She deals with angry parents, entitled bratty kids and an obnoxious head of the board. Tiresome to read but I kept going, hoping for a redeeming ending. Did not happen.
Feb 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: probably won't
I wasn't crazy about the way it was written. Sparse, which is OK, but too many things were left out which made it confusing to read at times. Said some very interesting things about private schools and more or less tied everything up.
Apr 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book. The story line was creative, rather unique, and well written. It depicted not only the good times for Rue and those around her, but sadness and tragedy as well. But then, those are all part of life. The ending does leave one to stretch the imagination.
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Beth Gutcheon grew up in western Pennsylvania. She was educated at Harvard where she took an honors BA in English literature. She has spent most of her adult life in New York City, except for sojourns in San Francisco and on the coast of Maine. In 1978, she wrote the narration for a feature-length documentary on the Kirov ballet school, The Children of Theatre Street, which was nominated for an Ac ...more
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