The Meaning of Grace

Deborah Forster

The Meaning of Grace
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The Meaning of Grace

Deborah Forster

Mum is the reference point. If you ever get confused about anything, there she is, waiting with all her knowledge of you.

Grace Fisher, mother of three, one day decides her husband is a sore disappointment and moves the family from Melbourne to a coastal village in Victoria. But Ian’s slow dissolution on the couch masked a depression that will harrow him into an early grave, leaving the kids with a lifetime of questioning: what happened to their father; how did he get so sad?

Between their father’s demise and Grace’s hardscrabble existence working at a local bakery, each child is left to find meaning on their own. Edie, the eldest child, locks herself into a romantic ideal so lofty that it can’t help but fail. The middle child, Juliet, struts and careens through life, filling it only with what she can seduce, steal and manipulate. Sibling rivalry between sisters proves the slowest and fiercest of burns. Love comes easily for Ted, the youngest, but when his wife abandons him to raise two daughters on his own, the perils of fatherhood are laid bare.

When Grace, the distant, imperfect hub of the family, is diagnosed with terminal cancer, the siblings are forced to confront each other as adults, and come to understand their mother.

Written with her hallmark warmth, humour and deftness of observation, Deborah Forster’s follow-up novel to the Miles Franklin shortlisted The Book of Emmett is a moving story of the loves and rivalries that burn at the heart of every family, and the meaning that comes from it.

Review

Grace is wife to down-trodden Ian Fisher, who suffers from depression. She is mother to their daughters Edith (Edie) and Juliet who were born in quick succession but, having decided they weren’t going to have any more, a few years later Ted was born. After several years, Grace decides she can’t put up with Ian anymore and takes their children from Melbourne to live in a small Victorian coastal village called Yarrabeen.

For the kids, life in Yarrabeen is never right without their father who is later said to have electrocuted himself by mistake. Four months later Grace learns the truth about what really happened after receiving his old toolbox that is sent to her by train to Yarrabeen station.

Edie has a particularly hard time growing up, feeling on the outer from her family and peers. The sisters’ rivalry has been in existence from a very young age, and culminates in Juliet seducing Edie’s womanising husband, Southey, and giving birth to their love child Lorrie. Happy-go-lucky Ted, the youngest of the three, blissfully cruises along in life until his wife leaves him and his two daughters to fend for themselves.

When Grace is diagnosed with terminal cancer, the siblings are forced to put aside their prejudices and eventually learn to understand and respect each other and the roles they play within their family unit. While ultimately sounding like tales of woe, it is Forster’s ability to recount the characters’ experiences with integrity and humour in her distinctive voice that makes this book such a fascinating insight into many people’s family lives.

Emily Harms is marketing manager of Readings

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