By Maren Cooper
Publisher: She Writes Press, 2022
Note: We received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Remember that line from the Mel Gibson movie The Patriot? The one about being a parent? While debating whether or not South Carolina goes to war against the crown, Gibson, portraying colonial militia captain Benjamin Martin, says he’s a parent and he hasn’t the luxury of principles. In other words, family first.
At about 3:55:
Caroline Booker never got the Martin memo.
Indeed, Caroline thinks she’s Peter Pan. Don’t give me that “bold and unapologetic” horse hooey. Caroline the “gifted ornithologist” just doesn’t want to grow up. Or assume responsibility for anyone. Or anything. She just wants to live a life of travel and adventure unencumbered by bothersome little details like her husband, Charles. Or her daughter, Grace.
A foundling child, Charles yearns for a family. Caroline doesn’t. He tricks her into getting pregnant (long story). Caroline’s pretty ticked with this unexpected turn of events. And not interested in her child. At. All.
Chuck hopes Caroline will change her mind. She doesn’t. You see, Caroline’s waaaay too busy “being me” to be a parent. She holds Chuck to his promise to parent their daughter Grace without her, so Caroline can travel the world and follow her birds.
Unsurprisingly, a rift develops between husband and wife. Think Grand Canyon with Toxic Mother a la mode. And Grace grows up caught in the middle of one ginormous familial schism. It leads to her mental illness.
Kimber here. Telling you Mom’s nominating Caroline for life membership in the Big Kitty Litter Box in the Sky Society. In fact, one of us was ready to chuck the book after a few chapters. As in, So don’t have time for this. (Hi, Mom.) But cooler heads and paws prevailed. So we gave it another chance. With mixed results.
Overall, Finding Grace is an absorbing, intense, and complex read. It’s peopled with flawed but carefully crafted characters. Some grow and learn. Others don’t. (More on that in a min.) The title has a double meaning.
Masterfully written and expertly paced, it traces the complicated ties and effects of commitment, community, abandonment, emotional neglect, and hope. It’s a searingly heartrending story about a father’s unconditional love for his daughter and a cold, calculating “mother” who never got the Martin memo. Caroline’s more interested in birds than she is in her own daughter. And that’s a problem. Cuz Caroline the Majorette Jerkette is as appealing as an overcooked cabbage.
For example, in a rare twinge of conscience, Majorette Jerkette flies in from Lisbon after Grace attempts suicide. Following years of physical and emotional abandonment , M.J. sweeps into the hospital like she owns the place. She demands to see her daughter because she’s Grace’s “mother.” Oh, really? When did that start, you overcooked cabbage on Peter Pan steroids?
Another example: On page 130 Charles and Caroline are “on vacation” in – where else? – the Canary Islands. It doesn’t go well. Demanding and utterly self-absorbed per usual, Caroline wonders, “Where has my adoring Charlie gone? And how do I get him back? What’s wrong with him?” Well, sweetie. Try looking in the mirror.
Later in chapter 27, Charlie finally realizes that “the mathematics of marriage to Caroline had been exposed,” and “he refused to participate in her rigged equation any longer. But what damage have I done to my daughter?” The answer is: Plenty.
This isn’t a bad read if you can get past Caroline and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Century. And a triumphant note of hope, grace, and Serenity is sounded toward the end. But Majorette Jerkette overwhelms the story. We just wanted to slap her. And lose the cabbage.
Scene stealers: Dr. Riley and Daisy. Also the Booker dogs Abigail and Bailey. So there’s that.
August 6, 2022 at 7:41 am
Okay, now I want to rewatch The Patriot. 🙂
August 8, 2022 at 10:46 am
I hear ya 😊
August 6, 2022 at 6:28 pm
Yikes! This sounds so complicated. I’m not sure I can read a book about such a selfish person.
August 8, 2022 at 10:48 am
That’s how I felt. The book has its moments. It’s well written and briskly paced. It ends on an uplifting note. But Caroline Booker is such a selfish jerkette, she just overwhelms the story, IMHO. A 2.0 rating is probably more on target.