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Grace and Serenity

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Living on the streets is terrifying and exhausting. Grace's only comforts are a steady stream of vodka, and a strange little boy who’s following her around.

At nineteen, Grace has already had a child and endured an abusive marriage. But she’s also had her baby abducted by her vengeful husband and been framed as a neglectful mother. Even her own parents doubted her version of the story. So she did the only thing that made sense to her—run away.

The streets are unforgiving. Winter is drawing in. And Grace isn’t prepared for the harsh realities of survival. At her very bleakest, a Good Samaritan swoops into her life and rescues her. With a roof over her head and food in her stomach, she longs to see her baby again.

But nothing ever comes for free.

284 pages, Paperback

Published July 7, 2020

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About the author

Annalisa Crawford

11 books81 followers
Annalisa Crawford lives in Cornwall UK, with a good supply of moorland and beaches to keep her inspired. She lives with her husband, and canine writing partner, Artoo. Her two sons have flown the nest, but still like a mention.

Crawford writes dark contemporary, character-driven fiction with a hint of the paranormal. As well as novels, she has had short stories published at Fairlight Books and Fictive Dreams.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 39 reviews
Profile Image for Dash fan .
1,464 reviews707 followers
July 11, 2020
5☆ Dark, Taut, Heartbreaking, Raw and Powerful Read, That will get under your skin!

Grace & Serenity is a highly compelling yet taut and dark Domestic Drama that got under my skin and played with my Emotions.

Grace was just Seventeen when she fell pregnant with her baby Serenity. At the time she was naive and head over heels in love with Neil who is a good few years older than her.

But little did she know that Neil wasn't the person she fell in love with. All the signs were there, he was over protective, stopped her seeing her friends. Even on their wedding night he left her alone and heavily pregnant. Oh it gets worse, much worse, as this evil manipulative scum bag just keeps grinding and beating her down.
It's utterly heartbreaking to read.

But can Grace escape Neil's hold or will things get worse before they get better?

My heart literally went out to Grace, you read so many stories that start the exact same way, young girl enamored by the attention of an older man until that attention turns violent. It's all too real.

Grace & Serenity is a very powerful, heartbreaking and taut read. Some of the scenes maybe a trigger to other readers such as Domestic Abuse, homelessness, abduction.
Despite this book being dark and shocking it also has an very engrossing storyline that you can't help but keep turning the pages as you champion Grace to find happiness, love and safety with her child.
I just also have to mention how Captivating and Haunting the Book Cover is, I love it!

If you are looking for a new Contemporary Fiction that will get under your skin, make you feel a roller coaster of emotions, but your compelled to keep reading then I highly recommend reading Grace & Serenity by Annalisa Crawford.
I for one can't wait to read more from Annalisa Crawford.

Thank you to Rachel Random Resources for this copy which I reviewed honestly and voluntarily.

You can Find this Review and all my Other Reviews on My Blog :-

Profile Image for Tom Gillespie.
Author 11 books25 followers
May 29, 2020
Annalisa Crawford has crafted a soul-searing, pulverising powerhouse of a novel that left me punch drunk and breathless by the end. The tale follows the tragic fall of Grace, a sensitive, innocent and vulnerable teenager who is thrown to the monsters of adulthood and rapidly torn limb from limb. The story begins with an unexpected pregnancy and then the fateful wheels of trouble and misfortune start to spin. Her descent into hell is both terrifying and seemingly unstoppable, as she tumbles from one abusive situation and relationship to the next. Many times I wanted to reach into the pages of the book and rescue her, guide her away from the violence and abuse, towards the daylight and illumination of her own inner strength and identity. While this may be a tragically
familiar story of misogyny, exploitation and the abusive, controlling consequences of male hegemony, the writer is very careful not to turn this into a political polemic. The power of Ms Crawford's story resides in her mastery of language and the intense reality of her characters.

Throughout the novel, there is a resonating tension between the elegant, poetic, and beautifully confessional thoughts and feelings of Grace, and the terse, raw, visceral, terror-filled prose recounting her horrifying experiences. It is Grace's inner voice that we hear throughout, and it is this use of POV that draws us in to her terrifying world and places us directly in the firing line. Short chapters add to the sense of panic as Grace's fragile young life spirals out of control. At one point she even changes her name and invents a new personality to cope with the pain and
suffering she is enduring at the hands of yet another abuser; a powerful metaphor for her own loss of liberty, control, self-worth and identity.

Grace and Serenity is a heart-wrenching, thought-provoking, anger-inducing, and painfully moving novel that resonates far beyond the final page. It serves as a damning inditement of our so-called civilised society where we continue to allow the monsters to run free, and the tragic plight of Grace and her baby, Serenity, will linger in my soul for a long time to come.
Profile Image for Paula  Phillips.
4,846 reviews294 followers
October 24, 2020
As soon as I heard about this book, I read the blurb and knew I would enjoy it. The other thing that caught my eye was the release date of the book as July 7th is my birthday. The book starts off with our main character Grace falling pregnant in her senior year and the father of the baby - a 19-year-old guy she met at a party Neil acting like she trapped him and then he calls her names and brands her a liar. He then walks out the door and leaves. Grace then tells her parents and thinking it's early, they go to the doctors to see what options they have and imagine their shock when they learn that Grace only has four months of her pregnancy left which means she has to go through having the baby. In Grace's mind, she calls the baby Serenity aka Ren/Wren. Neil comes crawling back and offers to marry Grace and provide for her and the baby. All is good until he develops a dark side and Grace is soon stuck in this awful cycle of abuse and harm. When Neil almost kills her, Grace realises she must try and leave. However, Neil is savvy and will trap Grace and prove to the world she is a bad mother and wins custody of Ren or as Neil calls her Sarah. Grace found it hard to bond with her baby and now having her ripped away and even worst her family taking Neil's side, Grace feels helpless and desperate for her life to end. She ends up on the street and soon a little boy Jacob appears like a guardian angel for Grace. As Grace spends more time on the street, she ends up in a bad situation where she develops a new name/personality to protect her - Charis. This book I did not see coming, the powerful punch that it would pack and I am not normally a crier in books at all, but this book started my eyes tearing up and watering. If you get a chance to read, check it out as Grace and Serenity by Annalisa Crawford is one of those "indie-published diamond in the rough" reads.
Profile Image for Michelle.
264 reviews67 followers
May 8, 2020
This stark portrayal of abuse is from the victim’s perspective and highlights a slow and torturous mental decline.
The textbook scenario is that things are really bad but the character hangs in there because there is always hope and the thinking that bad things don’t last forever; so she clings to hope and continues on the journey; but things continue to worsen and she slips into a state of ‘acceptance’ even though she knows that she should be doing something, but what and how?
Hope lingers, erodes, frays... until it becomes a fragile thread that is about to snap; but the acceptance and fragility have become the ‘new normal’ and so the cycle continues... sink deeper and deeper until there’s no clear-cut solution.
A descent into a deep and dark place.
Hit rock bottom.
Try to pull yourself up from the swirling vortex.

You’ll really feel for the main character who has all the odds stacked against her. It’s so unfair.

Domestic abuse is a scourge on society and Gracie’s story is universal.

Each one of us knows a Gracie.
Profile Image for Vikki Patis.
Author 10 books183 followers
May 19, 2020
Grace and Serenity is a dark, gripping novel that kept me reading late into the night. Set in Plymouth, a city I know well, this book shines a light on the reality of domestic abuse. It tells the story of a desperate young woman who finds herself on a difficult path, and hurtles towards a thrilling conclusion. A tense and compelling read.
Profile Image for Cathy Ryan.
1,161 reviews64 followers
July 14, 2020

This was quite a dark, although sensitively addressed story, and one that emphasises how easily someone can get sucked in to situations they feel unable to control.

Grace was just sixteen when she met Neil, and not much older when she became pregnant. Neil had charmed Grace from the beginning but she saw another side of him when she told him she was expecting their child. He didn’t want to know and made his feelings plain. This was the first sign of his true character and a precursor of what was to come.

'A moment ago I was fifteen, lying on my bed watching Rihanna and Katy Perry on YouTube, my legs swinging in time with the music.

A moment ago I was meeting Neil for the first time, at some stupid party.

Run, run away.'

In an about face, Neil decides to take responsibility and asks Grace to marry him. Grace’s plans for university morph into dreams of a happy home life with a loving husband and beautiful baby, but real life is nothing like she imagined. Instead Grace becomes exhausted with a fussy baby and no help from her husband who acts like he’s still single.

Grace descends into an abusive and manipulating relationship, which sees Neil’s cruelty and deviousness escalate, making it look like Grace is at fault. Although Grace tries to take back control of her life, things get even worse as Grace feels betrayed by her parents and spirals into a desperate situation that includes homelessness, alcohol abuse, prostitution, physical and mental abuse.

Grace and Serenity is hard hitting, shocking and emotional. Events are seen through Grace’s eyes in all their stark reality. Annalisa Crawford pulls no punches in this all too plausible and heartbreaking story. The writing is full of imagery with a touch of the paranormal and without going into unnecessary, gratuitous details, evoking a myriad of emotions.

It’s a compelling story and, although I couldn’t see how, I really hoped Grace would somehow get her life back on track.
Profile Image for Stephanie Jane.
Author 6 books231 followers
July 5, 2020
See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits

Grace & Serenity is a heartbreaking novel which explores how easily childish dreams can be smashed when confronted with the callousness of the adult world. Grace is only fifteen when ninteen-year-old Neil sweeps her off her feet at a party. Even after he uses her pregnancy as an excuse to abandon her for months, the socially conditioned desirability of marriage-and-happy-families leads Grace to immediately accept his eventual proposal, unwittingly putting herself and her unborn child into danger as she ignores or underestimates all the aspects of his behaviour that should ring alarm bells.

The novel is narrated entirely in the first person by Grace herself and I particularly loved how Crawford portrays the glaring differences between how Grace perceives herself and the immaturity of her actions. She is an unreliable narrator too, and I often felt as though I was being led to dismiss her words as unbelievable even when physical evidence backed her up. Grace's rapid slide into isolated homelessness is all too plausible though. Crawford vividly describes Plymouth's urban landscape and I could visualise this city in a different light after having been shown it from Grace's perspective.

I would recommend Grace & Serenity to readers who enjoyed Angelica Stone by Susi Osborne or The Tender Birds by Carole Giangrande. Crawford's novel is a dark coming of age story that I frequently found upsetting. It is ultimately a rewarding read however and a book that should be pressed into the hands of all fifteen-year-olds, boys as well as girls, as a cautionary tale.
Profile Image for Phill Provance.
Author 3 books5 followers
August 28, 2020
If only Annalisa Crawford’s debut novel, Grace and Serenity, were required reading for all young people trapped in the sort of abuse cycles so delicately and convincingly presented in her story. Crawford’s “fiction” could easily pass for memoir, as well as for a guidebook to adolescence presenting plenty of hard-won wisdom on how to protect your own, how to spot trouble before it ruins your life, and how to survive when miserable and in danger. Most of all, Grace and Serenity shows how to get away with living in a world where survival can seem the worst of crimes. Crawford displays especial talents for drawing readers in emotionally, building suspense, and propelling us page by electrifying page toward the book's shocking yet satisfying conclusion. It’s a worthy read, both for its entertainment value and for its timeless sagacity.
Profile Image for Martha.
Author 8 books81 followers
May 16, 2020
In this debut novel, Annalisa Crawford uses immense sensitivity and literary prowess to address the inner destruction wrought by domestic violence.

Unsuspecting 18-year-old Grace has everything to look forward to as she approaches graduation, and after that, entrance into university. She imagines a well-paying career and someday a happy family complete with a husband and children.

Her dreams precipitously fall when she becomes pregnant. Her arrogant, manipulative boyfriend initially abandons her. Even worse, he returns to marry her. He quickly turns Grace’s life into a hell of physical and verbal abuse that causes her to spiral downward. The question is whether she’ll be able to save herself and her daughter from the clutches of such a dangerous man.

The descriptions, the dialogue, the close attention to the crumbling inner life of a woman at her lowest point; all are present in force in this moving, heartbreaking tale about the maternal strength necessary to save, and reclaim, a child.
Profile Image for Nick Wilford.
Author 9 books38 followers
July 2, 2020
Grace and Serenity kept me gripped from start to finish. An unflinching look at domestic abuse and its tragic consequences, it's tough to read in places, but what kept me turning pages was the will to see things get better for Grace, who seems to face adversity wherever she turns. I think what makes this book is the sensitivity with which the author approaches the topic - nothing is sensationalized or overwrought, it's all quite matter of fact, even when describing dream sequences. But that's not to say it's unemotional - it packs a hefty punch emotionally, the reader can feel everything Grace is going through without having it spelled out in exhaustive detail. A rewarding and engrossing read.
Profile Image for Anne Goodwin.
Author 10 books58 followers
June 24, 2020
I was gripped by this fast-paced debut novel. Annalisa Crawford perfectly captures the disorientation of new motherhood and the gradual erosion of the self in a relationship characterised by coercive control. I really felt for Grace and her predicament and wanted to rush to the rescue. https://annegoodwin.weebly.com/annecd...
Profile Image for Alison.
Author 2 books12 followers
January 2, 2021
This is a really well-written novel, full of emotion, and it’s good to read a story involving domestic abuse that doesn’t hold back, and that really traces Grace’s story from an innocent and hopeful young girl to someone manipulated into making decisions that ruin her life.

Grace is very well-drawn and her feelings and frustrations are depicted clearly, making the reader really care about her and what is happening to her.

However, I found it quite difficult to accept that Grace’s parents would react the way they did towards the man who treated their daughter so badly. They are supportive and loving and interested in their daughter, so it didn’t seem realistic at all that they would behave the way they do – this really spoiled the story for me, unfortunately. While I could completely understand and believe that Grace could be so manipulated, I didn’t believe that her parents could be, and that they would trust a man who had hurt their daughter.

That said, this is a thought-provoking, sensitive and well-written novel.
Profile Image for Dina Tempere.
124 reviews2 followers
July 21, 2020
This book really wasn't for me...I found it dreary and depressing, and found myself waiting...hoping...for a twist in the tail that never came. The ending was literally one of the worst I've ever encountered, it definitely felt as if the author decided she had reached her total word count so just stopped dead. Very disappointing.
Profile Image for Grass monster.
509 reviews14 followers
March 11, 2021
The Blurb :
At nineteen, Grace has already had a child and endured an abusive marriage. But she’s also had her baby abducted by her vengeful husband and been framed as a neglectful mother. Even her own parents doubted her version of the story. So she did the only thing that made sense to her—run away.
The streets are unforgiving. Winter is drawing in. And Grace isn’t prepared for the harsh realities of survival. At her very bleakest, a Good Samaritan swoops into her life and rescues her. With a roof over her head and food in her stomach, she longs to see her baby again.

My Thoughts :
From the first page I was engrossed in the story.
We meet Grace as a teenager and right away jump into her life and how she met future husband Neil.
Getting pregnant right away with Serenity, things are already on a downward spiral with Neil due to the mental and physical abuse he is putting her through.
Finally leaving Neil after one to many beatings, Grace goes back to her parents and can not cope when they seem to be taking her husbands side. Although they seem like loving, caring parents to Grace they also seem very niave to what Neil is putting Grace through.
She finally leaves and lives on the streets of her home city Plymouth.
Grace finds herself in many situtaions she would never of dreamed of and that is her only way to survive and cope with the loss of Ren her baby girl. She calls herself Charis to protect her identity on the street.
Months go on and Grace finally plucks up the courage to go back home to her parents, She has to learn to live again and be the mother she always dreamed of and wanted to be but things are not that straight forward. Neil certainly hasnt changed and doesnt make it easy for her.
The short chapters made for easy reading but I was a little disapointed with the abrupt ending as I expected more answers.
At times I was shouting for Grace to just stick up for herself and not take all of Neils abuse.
Annalisa Crawford has written a gripping, emotionally charged story. One that will leave you thinking about after you have finished the story.

** This has been reviewed for Whispering Stories blog, thank you for the copy **
Profile Image for Lynne Piza.
78 reviews
June 22, 2020
Wow this book is NOT for the faint hearted! The author did warn me before I accepted the request that it’s quite hard hitting with some tough situations within the book but it’s even more so than even I thought!

This is an incredibly touching and hard hitting story where one young lady is pushed to her limits! The things she has to experience, and survive are just absolutely horrific! Yet there are DEFINITELY people in our world that suffer how Grace has suffered and experience what Grace experiences in the book!

The main character is called Grace, and she starts off the book with her whole life ahead of her, she’s still in school, soon to take exams and has plans to start uni. However, when she meets an attractive, older guy called Neil she soon starts a relationship with him and when a shock pregnancy drive them apart her whole life changes.

Her old dreams of uni and moving are out and her new realistic life of bringing up a child are in! When Neil turns up on her 18th birthday and proposes, Grace thinks everything is going to fall in to place but she couldn’t be more wrong!

Neil is an extremely abusive partner, controlling, evil, regularily lays a hand on her, it’s brutal. When baby Serenity is born he calls the baby Sarah, and that is the start of a huge down hill spiral. Things over the coming months slip in to a deep hole where Neil becomes even more abusive and controlling.

One day Grace decides she’s had enough and leaves with baby Serenity, but when Neil turns up he hits a new low and takes baby Serenity and sets Grace up and makes her seem like an incompetent mother. Not even her parents believe her version of events.

Things become incredibly tough for Grace at home so one day she ups and leaves and starts a life on the streets, and well, throughout the story things just get worse and worse for her!

Does Grace make it? Will she reconnect with her family and her daughter or does she succumb to the streets and live a life being invisible? You will have to read and find out!

Now, despite how emotionally difficult it was to read this book, I REALLY enjoyed it, because I connected with Grace, I felt her pain even though I’ve never experienced ANY of what she’s been through and I always wanted something good to happen to her!

I love it when a book hits you so hard that it creates conversations within your own household! I couldn’t believe the bad luck and the hard time Grace experienced and I kept talking to my husband about it!

I must warn you, some of the sensitive subjects that are in the book and which are very honestly, brutally and realistically described are domestic abuse, child abduction, drink spiking, homelessness and living on the streets, death by living on the streets, prostitution, random attacks and knife crime and mental illness!

I think this book is brilliant and so very important as I could really see how realistic it was, and how everyone on the streets has a tough story, and how they end up hooked in to prostitution so easily etc! It’s very relevant and current and helps to get these subjects out there and discussed more in the world!

I really felt for Grace, everytime she thought something better was going to happen she was hit with something worse, I cannot believe how much one person was expected to survive in her young life, yet she kept going! Grace clearly had some mental health issues (who wouldn’t in her position) and struggled to find the help she needed! She had no trust left in anyone and just didn’t know how to come through the other end!

I couldn’t believe it when her parents didn’t believe her when she told them what Neil had done, how can one man be so manipulative and change a families opinion on their own daughter! That’s so scary! I hated Neil from the word go, a manipulative, dangerous, devious, out of control man!

Honestly even though I’m writing and writing this book left me speechless! At times it took my breath away! There just doesn’t seem to be enough words to describe how amazing yet hard hitting this book is!

I HAVE to give this book 5 ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ for the emotions it made me feel, how much it drew me in, how much I wanted to swoop in and save grace, for how incredibly touching this story is and relevant and HONEST!

This book is thought-provoking, terrifying and tear-jerking. A really powerful and engaging read with heart wrenching events and dangerous and conversational subjects!

Absolutely incredible well done and thank you for creating something that really stopped me in my tracks and just made me think about life!
Profile Image for Gina Troisi.
Author 3 books52 followers
August 20, 2021
This book tackles difficult, real subject matter, and the author handles it with incredible precision and deep, lyrical prose. This book kept me up late into the night in the best possible way. At only eighteen years old, the main character, Grace, finds herself in a dangerous, unpredictable situation with a new baby and a terrifying, abusive husband. While it is difficult to watch Grace suffer, the author is so skilled at portraying the complexity of the human heart and psyche, and examining the complicated nature of all types of intimate relationships, including those between mothers and daughters. You will not want to put this gripping, powerful book down. I highly recommend this gorgeous, powerful read.
Profile Image for Kyra.
Author 36 books286 followers
January 21, 2021
Annalisa Crawford is a phenomenal author who doesn't get the recognition she deserves. Grace and Serenity is a pretty harrowing read, but it's so beautifully written that you can't help but keep turning the pages and rooting for the happy ending.

Outstanding read.
Profile Image for Vikki Clark.
1 review
January 29, 2021
As someone who lives in Plymouth I found this book amazing and immersive as I read I could see and smell the Plymouth that Grace inhabits. I highly recommend this book to everyone
Profile Image for Katy The Sleepy Reader.
277 reviews23 followers
October 24, 2021
4.8 Stars.

I was first introduced to this author through Booksirens and her book Small Forgotten Moments (a fantastic book, pick it up if you haven't already). I had no idea what I was getting myself into with this book. The description sounded sad and yet I was intrigued with it at the same time. As I was reading it I felt a huge range of emotions. Sadness, anger, understanding, and a sense that this could literally happen or be happening at this very moment to any woman out there. I cried in places too, which is something I don't often do. As a mother, this story is gut wrenching and I wonder how the author came up with the story. Did she know someone who went through this, read about it or heaven forbid-did she experience it herself?

Grace is a 17 year old girl who just wants to have a good time. She is about to embark on a new life. One of carefree days and college. She decides to attend a party with a friend, Janie, and it is there she meets Neil for the first time. Neil, a few years older than her, who saw her at the party and made her feel special. From the beginning they were inseparable. Hanging out all the time. But little signs started to show that all was not well with Neil. His saying he didnt like her friends, not liking her hanging out with other boys, being upset she did well on her exams, that she'd go off to college and leave him. Even laughing at her dreams of being a journalist.

All of it comes to a head when she discovers she's pregnant. He instantly denies its his, calling her names and leaving her. By the time she tells her parents, she's only got 4 months left until that baby comes. Some time goes by and Neil returns. Says he sorry for leaving her and proposes marriage. She knows its not the best idea, but succumbs anyway, thinking of her baby and their predicament. From the beginning things are not well between them. He is controlling, taking the keys when he leaves so she's stuck at home, calling her to see where she is all the time, expecting her to cook and clean despite having a newborn baby to care for and no help.

It doesn't get any better. The beating are regular and vicious, even causing a miscarriage. When Neil almost kills her, she decides its time to leave and goes to her parents house. But Neil has other plans and he gets custody of Sarah. This sends Grace spiraling and she ends up a drunk, homeless mess. Things go from bad to worse when she's pulled into prostitution. Eventually she gets out and ends back at her parents house. But things are not what she thought they'd be. Her parents have reconciled with Neil so they can have contact with Ren.

This story is tremendously sad. Domestic abuse if often hidden and many women feel shameful over it. The mental decline that Grace suffers leaps off the page. You are thrown into her spiral and cant help but feel like reaching into to the book to rescue her. Its easy to see how someone can get sucked into believing the things they are told by an abuser, especially one that hides it well.

I decided to give this book 4.8 stars only because I am not too sure how I feel about the ending. Its kind of left open, not much wrapped up. But overall, I really like this story, as much as one can like a story of abuse and sadness. The writing is fantastic and well crafted. There is a clever little addition to the story that helps Grace along but I wont spoil it. This is a book all women should read. I am very much looking forward to more from this author.
Profile Image for Stacey Bryan.
Author 1 book9 followers
July 19, 2020
This was an emotional and highly charged look into the nightmare of domestic abuse including the familiar cycle of attack/apologize/blame/attack/apologize that much of society has been enlightened on by now.

I loved the thought of this story (as much as one can 'love' such a hard-hitting topic) starting from innocence and moving through layers of misunderstanding and accumulating violence and felt the dark journey was well documented, along with deep psychological probings, rationalizations and fears along the way.

However, it was somewhat confusing that the protagonist would succumb to such abuse when her own upbringing had not been filled with any; in fact, her parents seemed very sweet and supportive, and it was a little difficult to swallow their abrupt lack of faith after witnessing months and months of the evidence of the violence that had been happening.

Also, the "villains" of the story felt a little two-dimensional to me in their "evil"--they seemed completely soulless and inhuman--especially the lead villain for whom there was very little back story explaining why he was the way he was. I felt nothing at all for him--he just seemed like a monster--and also began to feel very little sympathy for the protagonist who seemed to whine a lot and feel sorry for herself most of the time. She remained a fairly unsympathetic character, for me, for most of the story because, untenable situation and constant negative reinforcement aside, although she was responsible for her own decisions, most of which were bad ones, self-pity was still her constant go-to

Apart from wishing some of the characters had been more layered and motivations had been more fleshed out, the story moved along quickly in tight, compact chapters with crisp writing which was often biting, lyrical, and haunting. One becomes drawn into the enigma of the mysterious boy who follows the protagonist everywhere and toward the second half of the book, the unique juggling between first and third person was handled deftly and with clarity.

It may not have felt quite as real to me, personally, that someone who'd not suffered from abuse growing up would allow such extensive debasement and torture to go on for so long, but it's not impossible that it could and most likely does happen anyway. In that vein, setting aside those preconceived standards, this is a journey one will want to take if one wishes to witness the ever-downward-spiral of an average teenage girl whose naive idea of love gets distorted into the chilling and grim proportions that only one's worst nightmare could imagine.
Profile Image for Cheryl (I Heart Fictional People).
199 reviews25 followers
July 19, 2020
Review originally posted on my blog: I Heart Fictional People


I was drawn to this book right away. It looks and sounds so heartbreaking. I just had to read it. I couldn’t scroll past this one and say “one day.” I had to read it immediately.


Grace. She is a child who unexpectedly becomes a mother and a wife. She is thrown into this life that is very different than how she dreamed being a mother and wife would be like. She tries her hardest to be good at both. All she wants is a happy life. But she soon realizes that the husband she thought loved her is nowhere close to the man she dreamed he could be. I think we can all relate to this. Our hopes and dreams and expectations shape our future, and when things don’t go as planned, we end up disappointed. However, no teenage mother should have to go through what Grace did. Throughout the whole book, I desperately wanted Grace to have some happiness. She tries her best to deal with the crappy situations that life has thrown at her, and she doesn’t always make the best decisions, but she’s a teenager living in a very dark, adult world. As a reader, I felt like Grace became a part of me. It was a very emotional experience for me.

The raw, real, dark emotions. This book was unlike anything I have read. I expected darkness, but I didn’t expect how honest and deep it would get. Knowing what was going on inside Grace’s head was heartbreaking but also very real. I didn’t want to leave her world because I felt so deeply for her. As a mother, I just connected with her on such a deep level. It was incredibly hard to read at times, but I also couldn’t stop reading. I remember a couple times where I just held the book and cried. I appreciate the impact it had on me.

The short chapters. This may not sound like a big deal, but it really was. When I first saw how many chapters there were and how short they were, I thought it would have a negative effect on my like for the book. But I was so wrong. These chapters were short and simplistic but so very powerful. Each and every chapter, each and every page, was moving and compelling, and I just couldn’t put the book down.


The book blurb had way too many spoilers for me. I knew what was coming. And I think I would’ve been shocked and on the edge of my seat more if so much hadn’t been given away.

The ending. I won’t give anything away, but I CRAVED a conclusion with more self-reflection and answered questions, and unfortunately, I was a little disappointed.


This book will stay with you for awhile. I finished it a few days ago, and I have not been able to pick up another book. It grabbed a hold of me and didn’t let go. I don’t think I can jump into another fictional world and leave Grace behind. And I haven’t felt that way in a long time about a book, so I have to thank Annalisa Crawford for writing such a moving story. Even though I was a little disappointed in the end, this book is still very worth the read. Be prepared to dive in and be immersed into this dark world because you won’t want to leave.

*I received an eBook copy of this book from the author via Rachel's Random Resources in exchange for an honest review*
Profile Image for Billy Buttons.
Author 19 books106 followers
July 27, 2022
This book was entered in The Wishing Shelf Book Awards. This is what our readers thought:
Title: Grace and Serenity
Author: Annalisa Crawford

Star Rating: 5 Stars
Number of Readers:19
Editing: 9/10
Writing Style: 9/10
Content: 7/10
Cover: 5/5

Of the 19 readers:
14 would read another book by this author.
15 thought the cover was good or excellent.
14 felt it was easy to follow.
15 would recommend this book to another reader to try.
Of all the readers, 4 felt the author’s strongest skill was ‘plotting a story’.
Of all the readers, 7 felt the author’s strongest skill was ‘developing the characters’.
Of all the readers, 8 felt the author’s strongest skill was ‘writing style’.
13 felt the pacing was good or excellent.
14 thought the author understood the readership and what they wanted.

Readers’ Comments
“This is a very dark story, but it´s gripping too. Sadly, many young people end up running away which never helps in solving anything. So there´s a good message here too.” Male reader, aged 50
“Firstly, I loved the book cover. It´s hauntingly good! Secondly, the story is amazing. It´s very tense, horribly sad in parts – and a TOTAL page-turner. I felt so sorry for the girl, Grace. This book looks at abuse, drinking, neglect, and revenge, so it´s no Disney film. But it´s very, VERY good!” Female reader, aged 22
“A crisply written story with little or no purple prose. The author did a wonderful job with her protagonist and her downward spiral. However, the secondary characters, particularly the husband, needed fleshing out.” Female reader, aged 56
“Grace is a tragic sort of character who seems to let life control her for most of the book. She´s not particularly strong, so she was hard to root for. But I warmed to her as the story went on. She reminded me of most teenagers I meet, who think they know everything until life hits them and they learn they know nothing at all. A well-written story, good character development and wrapped in a very smart cover!” Male reader, aged 62

To Sum It Up:
‘The gripping story of a girl´s downward spiral to the bottom. A FINALIST and highly recommended! The Wishing Shelf Book Awards
Profile Image for Rebecca.
120 reviews11 followers
July 12, 2020
It’s hard to imagine the struggles the young girlish version of Grace we see at the beginning of the book will go through.

One of the biggest flags for how well a character is written is how much I get emotionally involved with them. Within the first few pages, we see Grace’s planned-out life spiralling out of her grasp and into trouble. A lot of the struggles she goes through throughout the book aren’t her fault and as a reader, my heart went out to her. I wanted to help her get out of the difficult situation she found herself in, just as you would if you met this person in real life.
Another character, Neil, made my blood boil. I can think of plenty of names for this “man”, but for the sake of keeping this review PG, I won’t mention them. Even just the mention of him riled me up. From the very beginning, his controlling nature is apparent, but Grace doesn’t see his true colours until it’s too late.

Many tricky subjects are covered in the book. Domestic abuse is one of the most prominent ones, but I also suspect Grace experiences postnatal depression. It isn’t really made a point of in the book, but there are some symptoms hinted at in the narrative. It just goes to show how easily it can go undetected.

I found the structure of the book to be really easy to read. The short chapters make the text digestible and it’s easy to justify the ‘one more chapter’ before bed. It was never just one more in my case... trust me! The action moves at a compelling yet steady pace, which keeps the narrative moving along nicely.

As the book is written from the perspective of Grace we experience her life in detail. Interwoven with all the action are her intimate thoughts and feelings. It’s really easy to find yourself in her shoes and understand her position. The delicate balance of character development and action means that there is no compromise on either side; Grace & Serenity has an enjoyable, detailed storyline and strong character development.

I really enjoyed this dark contemporary novel.
Profile Image for Nicola Simmons.
79 reviews2 followers
October 25, 2020
Annalisa Crawford has written a beautiful yet powerful read. I must admit I found it a difficult and painful read in places. But the author makes you feel compelled to continue, Grace is a tragic figure innocent sensitive and vulnerable a teenager whose life is turned upside down first by an unexpected pregnancy and a marriage that is clearly doomed from the very beginning.

Life for Grace quickly spirals downwards in a relationship based on violence and manipulation the one good thing is her daughter Serenity but even that is not as it should be. Soon a series of events leads Grace and her daughter to seek sanctuary at her parents home but events lead to Grace losing the one good thing in her life her daughter. How her abuser manipulates and deceives not only her parents but friends and neighbours and controls with cunning that leaves Grace feeling her life is out of control and feeling worthless her identity lost she runs away. Only to fall into another if not more violent abusive relationship. It is only the memories of her daughter that pull Grace finally from the tortuous mental decline of this relationship along with the strength and courage to leave and return to her parents.

On returning Grace finds that her parents are in touch with her husband and daughter. It is the hope to have her daughter back in her life that Grace starts to rebuild her life and a chance meeting with her estranged husband one night leads to tragic events.

A powerful read and out of my comfort zone but a lesson to the reader of how easy for a relationship to fall from love to a toxic and dangerous situation how abusers can manipulate on such a high level and turn situations to their advantage.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Rachel Bustin.
228 reviews47 followers
July 14, 2020
Grace and Serenity isn’t my normal read, but what drew me to the book was the intriguing-sounding blurb. I felt drawn to Grace and her life situation. Which I will just add, isn’t her fault.

Grace met her future husband Neil at a ” stupid party” when she was 16. At 17 she had to tell him she was pregnant. This is at the start of the book, and where you first discover how cruel and mean Neil is. Grace had a dream of going to university and studying to be a journalist, but things were now going downhill fast. She was losing her friends and feeling alone. Neil doesn’t want anything to do with her… at the moment.

On Grace’s 18th birthday he’s back in the picture and proposes. Married life isn’t quite what Grace imagined it to be. Neil becomes possessive and doesn’t want her to see her best friend Janie. This is where I properly begin to get afraid for Grace. Little Serenity is a crying baby and Grace finds it hard to keep up with her’s and Neil’s needs.

Domestic abuse is a prominent theme in Grace and Serenity. I dislike her husband with a passion. He’s not a nice character at all. From the start, I could see how a devious man he was and generally mean.

The novel has shortish chapters which make it easier reading and told from Grace’s point of view. I think this makes it so much more realistic and you feel the pain she is going through. Domestic violence is a hard topic to read about.

You can read my full review here - https://rachelbustin.com/books/grace-...
Profile Image for Heidi Lynn’s BookReviews.
1,061 reviews81 followers
July 14, 2020
First, I want to thank Annalisa Crawford and Rachel’s Random Resources for providing me with this book so I may bring you this review.

Annalisa Crawford wrote an intensely powerful and extremely gut wrenching storyline in Grace & Serenity. For me this book was a very emotional read on many different levels. At one time I even needed a few tissues.

The graphic artist that designed this cover did an incredible job. It is so different and unique to anything out there. However, it fit perfectly with the storyline.

Grace and Serenity is not an easy read by any means. This story covers some very difficult topics. Some for me were hard to read as the domestic violence scenes were graphic. You could feel the fear and how scared Grace was. It also dealt with fending for yourself living on the streets, and also prostitution.

My heart went out to Grace so many times and just wanted to give her a gentle hug. Nobody should ever have to deal with what she went through.

You could feel the passion Annalisa had for her characters and her storyline in her writing style.

If you read between the lines you will see that there are a few good life lessons in this book. This storyline is one you won't forget for a long time.

Profile Image for Ian Rogers.
Author 1 book11 followers
November 23, 2021
Domestic abuse is rampant, but all too difficult to comprehend for those who haven't experienced it. With Grace and Serenity, Annalisa Crawford shows us this horrifying world through first-person eyes, a world not only filled with battering and verbal abuse, but of manipulation and gaslighting that has the still-teenage Grace believing that she herself is to blame and that there's nothing she can do to escape her abuser.

The novel covers Grace's downfall from the time of her accidental pregnancy to her marriage to the heartlessly abusive Neil, and onward through her descent into alcoholism, loneliness, homelessness, and worse. Each section of the novel feels bone-chillingly real as we see Grace's world unravel and the psychological repercussions of her torment cause her to lose hope. Before reading this novel, I'd never come across anything that portrayed the manipulative aspects of abuse so grippingly, whereas in the hands of a less skilled author Grace's journey might easily have come across as unbelievable.

If you're looking for a no-holds barred novel that brings alcoholism, teen pregnancy, homelessness, prostitution, domestic abuse, and bitter loneliness on to the page, pick this one up and don't say I didn't warn you.
Profile Image for Eclectic.
1,316 reviews5 followers
July 12, 2020
This is one of the most depressing and saddest books I've read in a long time. Watching Grace's slow downfall from a seventeen-year-old girl excited about going to college to her unfortunate choices thereafter, is heartbreaking and difficult to read.  However, I couldn't put it down because I wanted to know what happens to this poor girl who couldn't catch a break.

Grace is so young to have endured so much heartache that she didn't deserve. Although naive, she has the strength to survive whatever she is given to see her baby again. Her parents are a great support for her and though she feels betrayed by them at one point, they only want the best for her.  There are other supporting characters she meets along the way who are willing to help her, but it comes at a cost.

Ms. Crawford's gutsy debut novel delves into the dark recesses of domestic abuse, homelessness, and abduction that is not easy to read, but one's hope to see Grace safe and back with her daughter is a strong motivation to finish the book.  I look forward to reading more from Annalisa Crawford.

Thank you to Ms. Crawford for giving me the opportunity to read this book with no expectation of a positive review.
Profile Image for Ann Epstein.
Author 33 books13 followers
February 8, 2021
Honest and Unapologetic – Kafka said, “We ought to read only books that bite and sting us. If the book we are reading doesn’t shake us awake like a blow to the skull, why bother reading it?” Grace and Serenity, by Annalisa Crawford, meets that criterion. The novel’s ironic title is derived from its young protagonist and the name she gives her daughter, but the unlucky character finds neither. Her life is a bleak chain of curtailed dreams, domestic violence, homelessness, and hopelessness. Crawford nails the details of how abusive partners behave: the sudden bursts of cruelty, followed by protestations of remorse and gifts to make amends. She evokes an indelible image of flowers that haven’t even wilted before her husband’s next volcanic rage erupts. As a writer myself (see my Goodreads author page https://www.goodreads.com/author/show...), I appreciated Crawford’s unblinking courage in tackling a difficult subject. Grace and Serenity is a painful and difficult book to read, but the author’s honest and unapologetic writing will earn readers’ trust and propel them to the inevitable end.
Profile Image for Betty The Bookaholic.
211 reviews9 followers
November 2, 2020
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. Thank you to the publisher/author!

This is a dreary and depressing story, and sadly, probably very true to life.

The book description is what drew me to this book. The way the description was written made me think the story opened when Grace was 19, the abusive husband and kidnapped baby had already happened, and that the bulk of the story would be focused on what happens with the "Good Samaritan" and the strange little boy. However, this is not the case - the story opens when Grace is 17 and we read all about the pregnancy and abuse and kidnapping. The "Good Samaritan," the element that intrigued me, is actually a small part of the story and the least important part of the plot.

On a positive note, the story is told in a well-crafted wistful, almost haunting tone, and the little boy is a clever addition.

This book is different than what was described, but overall is a quick, sad read with a satisfying ending.
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