As a retired librarian, aspiring writer, and voracious reader, I appreciate the value of categories. They help us to locate books (in the library and bookstore) and search online for titles that match our reading tastes. Talya Tate Boerner’s debut novel does fit into “southern” “rural” and “historical fiction” and a few other categories, but leaving it at that is selling it short. It is also a “coming of age” story, despite Gracie Lee’s being younger than the typical teenaged protagonist. Gracie Lee is precocious as she moves into her teen years, which gives credibility to her insights, questions and rebelliousness.
It could also be a warning tale to parents, to remind us that our own lives don’t always find parallels in our children’s minds, that what may seem mundane to us may translate to the world’s greatest adventure or worst tragedy in our child’s universe. If we aren’t attentive, we may miss the implications of what the child is burying (literally or symbolically) when “digging in the dirt.”
We can’t be blamed entirely for missing those clues, because we are sometimes caught up in our own mundanities and tragedies, as Gracie Lee’s parents were. We can be thankful for a trusted listening ear who can lead our children in the right direction. Gracie Lee found hers, and we can be sure that these characters were as necessary to the story’s conclusion as they were to the beginning of Gracie Lee’s maturation.
The “slow movement” of the story in the middle, which has been mentioned as a criticism, was an opportunity to enjoy Gracie Lee’s observations, sense of humor and reflections on adult life. It was also an opportunity to revisit that time and place in my own life and relive the events, holidays, seasons and traditions in a region that was familiar to me.
The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee would be a wonderful selection for a book discussion. The book-pusher in me could also add another category to my Goodreads shelf: Recommend to Friends and Family.