Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Cracking Grace

by Steven Stromp


The title of Cracking Grace implies that Steven Stromp has set himself an all but impossible task. This book is an exploration of spirituality, an attempt to "crack" the mysteries of religion and the afterlife.

The story revolves around Audrey, a young girl who has just lost her mother, and Mary, a sentient cemetery statue. Audrey's father tends the cemetery and is very proud of the statues he has created for it. Following his wife's death he has been spending a lot of time there, obsessed with his wife's grave. Audrey tries to look after her father, but he is gradually slipping away from her as grief erodes her sanity.

Meanwhile Mary is trying to understand her place in this world. She is immutable but rooted to the spot, so she enlists the help of Bluebell, a bluebird, to be her eyes and ears. She has observed the people who come to the graveyard to mourn, but she knows very little about what happens to the souls of the dead. Mary wants to discover what the church can teach her about what happens to the soul after death, and to understand the spiritual world.

The only dead person Mary has any contact with is Mrs Grant, the eccentric ghost of an old suicide. Along with two cheeky gargoyles and the cynical statue of Jesus, their banter lightens the mood. And the mood of Cracking Grace does need this touch of humour, because it is an incredibly harrowing novel. In places it is almost unbearably poignant.

This novel examines grief and coming to terms with loss and death. It deals with these kinds of feelings and experiences as much, if not more, than with metaphysical concepts.

What can a short work of fiction tell us about the afterlife, or the soul? We know that any conclusions the characters come to about these things will only apply to their fictional world. So it seems strange at first that Steven Stromp should even set his characters on this quest. But what is intriguing about this novel is the search for truth itself, the questions they ask and the places they look for answers. It's attraction is in such things as the contrast between Mary's unchanging, unmoving nature and the fragility of the mortal characters, and the opposition between the beauty Mary sees and the evil that exists.

Cracking Grace is an unusual, touching and ultimately uplifting novel that will leave you considering its themes for some time.

Book Details

Year: 2006

Categories: Books

    Female Protagonist  

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4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson


Nic     4th January, 2007 04:10am

A beautiful story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and wished it had of been longer.

Although the story does have some references to religion, it's definitely not a religious novel. It's a lovely story about a young girl who has lost her mother and her father who has lost his wife. Both coming to terms with the loss and grieving in their own way, and sometimes the only way they know how.

What I enjoyed about it, was that it was different to what I usually read. I liked that it also focused on something different - talking statues!

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good story! I'm looking forward to more novels from Steven in the future.