30 June 2011
Book Review: Freeing Grace by Charity Norman
I didn't know anything about this book until I was sent an email about it from the publishers asking me if we would be interested in reviewing it on the site. I thought the premise sounded really interesting so decided to give it a go. It's Charity Norman's debut novel, and is certainly a book that is going to cause the reader to think about some issues which are quite difficult... is a child always better off with their biological family, no matter the cost? I thought it was pretty clear cut in my head but as the book progresses, Norman weaves a fantastic tale that has readers guessing which way it will go up until the last page. I have to mention the book cover too, its nice and under-stated, and portrays the story within well, but I have to say it isn't a cover that would normally intrigue me... luckily the synopsis managed that by itself!
The book is told through two different narrative threads. On the one hand, we have a first person narrative from Jake, the friend of the Harrison family who is sent to Africa to bring back Deborah, Grace's biological grandmother. This narrative works really well for me because Jake is able to deliver an unbiased and poignant narrative that is interesting, and very thought-provoking. I like that Jake didn't always side with the Harrison's, seeing their bad side as well as their good and thought Jake was a really well rounded character. The other narrative is the third person story following David and Leila. Again this gives an unbiased view of David and Leila, and you can't help but like this couple, and feel so sorry for them in their quest for parenthood.
It's a very controversial subject, but Norman delivers a balanced story which focuses equally on each family, and shows us how hard the decision must be when the court system has to make a decision on one family over another in terms of adoption for a young child. As a reader, we can see the positives and negatives of Grace being placed with both, and as I read the book, I constantly found myself changing my mind about who I thought Grace should end up with. It's a very emotional book, and while I couldn't muster any sympathy for Deborah who I found to be a selfish and dislikeable woman, my heart bled for poor Leila who can't seem to carry her own child yet is desperate to love a child as her own. David, a vicar, is the perfect other half for Leila and I thought they came across so well, whereas the Harrison weren't ever really shown in a good light, the young drug-taking son, depression ridden father and absent mother being just a few of their issues.
I found this book to be very readable, and kept picking it up whenever I could as I wanted to find out the latest developments in Grace's story. Funnily enough, Grace doesn't really appear in the book at all, instead it focuses on those wishing to have custody of her and who morally is best to take care of her. Yes, its an emotive and thought-provoking book but its also very well written and makes really good use of the two stories being told through the two different narratives. There is a great cast of characters, all built up and believable people, not all necessarily likeable but that makes the book that bit more realistic. You're left guessing up until the last page and I love how Norman chose to end the story. A beautifully written debut, and one I definitely recommend.
Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review.