Friday, January 02, 2009

Tender Grace by Jackina Stark

Tender Grace by Jackina Stark
To be released February 2009
Copyright 2008
Bethany House Fiction/Christian
165 pages

Over a year after the sudden death of her husband, Audrey Eaton is still in mourning and deeply depressed, desperately in need of change and hope. To shake herself from depression and in search of healing Audrey decides to take a road trip and packs her husband's Bible on impulse.

Tender Grace is written as a set of journal entries typed on Audrey's computer at the end of each day. During her time on the road, she makes new friends and visits places that either her husband traveled without her or they planned to visit together. In the evening, she reads from the chapter of John, primarily because her husband's Bible was opened to John and still on his lap when he suffered a major heart attack.

Through her travels, hardships on the road (including an armed robbery and a flat tire), new and old friendships, and her readings in John, Audrey eventually realizes she is once again content with her life.

This was an emotional read. At the beginning of the book, Audrey is still very depressed and lonely, in spite of the fact that her grown children and her grandkids live within easy driving distance. I become so emotionally involved when I read (especially if a book is written well enough) that depressed characters can seriously get me down and are difficult to read about at length, so I was really happy when things improved for her. Audrey's transformation is gradual and not forced.

The whole road trip concept actually threw me because I didn't bother with the cover blurb (sometimes they can be misleading or contain spoilers). However, once I got used to the notion of a woman traveling to rediscover hope I found it intriguing and it made sense to me that she needed to walk away from a house full of memories in order to heal. After my father's death, I avoided going home for years -- except during holidays and our annual summer trip -- simply because of the overwhelming absence of his noisy chatter, door-banging, and his TV shows. I can easily imagine how the emptiness of a house that formerly contained a companion, his noises and the comfort of conversation could become unbearable. The author portrayed that feeling painfully well.

Near the beginning of the book Audrey traveled to Tulsa and Oklahoma City, where she visited a few places that are familiar to me -- that was my favorite part of the book. The passages she read in her Bible seemed to fit her needs well and I enjoyed reading about the places she went and the people she met, as well as what she learned from them, even if a few of those strangers were perhaps a bit too friendly and it stretched believability that she was able to keep in touch with not one but several.

In general, Tender Grace is nicely written and slow-paced. I didn't find it gripping or overly engrossing, but at the same time it was a bit of a comfort read. It was particularly enjoyable observing the sights through the eyes of this fictional character and I was rooting for her to rediscover her joy in life. She may have started out quite depressed, but Audrey made an effort to think positive thoughts and, although occasionally a little sarcastic, was a character I cared about enough to root for her recovery.

Next up: Reading and blogging goals for 2008


  1. A book can really affect one, when there is a strong basis to compare and relate to. Shows taht there is an audience for everything, but I don't think it's my thing really. I am happy that you enjoyed though.

  2. Harry!

    I haven't seen you in forever. How are you doing? Yes, exactly, it's harder to read about emotional topics when you've really been there and the author does a good job of portraying the emotions involved. I've had a lot of loss in my life so I really felt Audrey's pain. Plus, I couldn't help but imagine how my mother must have felt when she was widowed fairly young.

    I don't think it's your type of book, either, but I do appreciate you taking the time to comment!!

  3. I have been doing pretty good after 2008, not saying much, huh? Tough year and I totally got dragged under the turbulent current of emotional life, but I swore on New Year that I will return to glorious friends. I organized my blogs with the new feture that shows, who posts when and what so that I can be the first one to comment [that happens on my review blog]. I am basically trying to come back and stay that way.

    The books sounds good enough. I think that any novel that packs an emotional punch is worth its while, especially, if it covers all these points. Just not something that I would experience to teh fullest or understand completely.

  4. Harry,

    That I can understand. I had a pretty turbulent year, myself. My plan is to blog less and try to get a bit more balance in my life but we'll see how that works out.

    That's a good reason to skip a book! :)

  5. I imagine it was an emotional book, just as you said. I am glad you enjoyed this one, Nancy.

  6. Wendy,

    It was definitely emotional, but I liked where it ended up.

  7. Great review. I really enjoy books that pack an emotional punch like this. I'm going to check into this one.

  8. Thank you, Dar!

    I hope your eye is better! I'm going to give away my ARC of Tender Grace with some other Christian books in my upcoming giveaways. Just an FYI. :)

  9. Awesome, I'll be watching for it. My eye is much better-thanks so much!

  10. Dar,

    You're welcome. I'm so glad to hear your eye is improving!

  11. Sounds like an interesting book. Glad to know there's a bit of hope in there.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  12. Anna,

    I think if it hadn't had a hopeful upswing toward the end, I'd have given it a rather scathing review, but the story was paced nicely (slowly, but in a good way) and believable. You had to go through her pain to understand her joy, I guess. :)

  13. I just finished this book today and I thought your review suited it nicely. It was a peaceful read, even during the more active scenes which I liked.

  14. Petunia,

    Thank you! I agree; the pacing was nice and relaxing.

  15. I read this last night and enjoyed it! I don't read much fiction but since the author was my English prof in college, I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy. I too found the pacing just a tad slow, but in a way that kept it believable for me. Had Audrey made her peace any sooner, it would have felt contrived.

    I think your description of "comfort read" is apt, as is emotional read. Made me feel like I was experiencing the very same grief, though I have no personal experience to draw on.


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