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Posted November 29, 2011
When Two Worlds Collide
The Third Grace, a debut novel from Deb Elkink, expertly weaves together the multiple story lines that make up Aglaia¿s life. Complex characters place conflicting demands upon Aglaia, and it¿s these complex relationships that shed light on her own inner turmoil. With confident phrasing and a rich vocabulary, Ms. Elkink brings Aglaia¿s world to life, as well as recounting her discarded past and the inner struggles that threaten to overwhelm her. Ms. Elkink transports us from the mountain city of Denver, CO to a Nebraskan farm to the vibrant streets of Paris, each location vivid and distinct in its particular details. As the story develops, it becomes clear that it is a clash of worldviews that ultimately lies at the centre of Aglaia¿s dilemma. This is a satisfying and thought-provoking read, engaging both the heart and mind. Surely Ms. Elkink must have more delightful novels in mind!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 28, 2011
Excellent debut novel
Aglaia Klassen is a thirty-something single woman developing a strong reputation in the world of costume design. Her goal: become a ¿seasoned urban artist¿ and find the inner peace that¿s eluding her.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Born Mary Grace Klassen, she left that name behind with the family farm and the Mennonite faith of her childhood. ¿Aglaia¿ is the name of one of the Three Graces in Greek mythology, and it connects her to a major root of her inner turmoil: François Vivier, the young French exchange student who spent a summer on the farm¿and who left with her heart.
An upcoming business trip to Paris, and François¿ sensual notes in an old Bible, bring the past into the present and Aglaia develops an obsession with finding Francois again. If she can see him now, perhaps she can put the past to rest and find her true identity.
The main influences in Aglaia¿s life are Dr. Lou Chapman, a self-focused feminist who wants to lure her away from her employer to work for Lou¿s upscale university, and Ebenezer MacAdam, Aglaia¿s gentle boss who¿s been quietly grooming her as his replacement.
Aglaia may not know who she is, but everyone else seems to know who they want her to be. Lou pushes, Eb suggests, and François¿ notes reveal his own agenda. Author Deb Elkink presents each character as him/herself without commentary and without judgement and lets the reader worry over whether Aglaia will find herself¿or be shaped into someone else¿s version of reality.
The Third Grace is women¿s fiction with the introspection of a literary novel, and the central characters are well-realized and strong of voice.
This is a thinking reader¿s novel, although it will satisfy those of us who read mainly for the story. The characters of Lou and François see the Bible as only one of the many valid sources of myth, and Lou is selective in the mythology she uses to prove her own view of the universe.
Eb remembers his own questions along those lines, but he¿s found his personal satisfaction in the Bible as truth and he knows it means more than vague philosophy. He¿s not threatened, and he¿s comfortable to pray for others without trying to argue them into his understanding.
The novel itself does not feel preachy or like a philosophical treatise (although Lou speaks that way because that¿s who she is). It¿s written by a Christian, perhaps more for wandering women than for those secure in the Kingdom, and portions of the content are more worldly than some Christian readers will find comfortable. Nothing is gratuitous, though, and each character¿s thoughts and actions are true to who they are. That¿s why the story worked so well for me even when bits were a bit out of my comfort zone.
The Third Grace is the story of one woman¿s journey to reconcile with her past and find herself in the present. It would be a great choice for a book discussion group
[Advance review copy provided by the Greenbrier Book Company in exchange for a fair review.]
Posted November 21, 2011
Bringing together the strands
Deb Elkink draws us into the multiple strands of this story and sends us into three worlds as we search for the three graces - the world of arts and classic culture, the world of the farmer and through the beginning-to-end scope of the scriptures. Her sentences and phrases are rich and often surprising, like some gourmet meal. I was propelled to follow the story through to its completion. Setting aside my mundane life for the intoxicating world of the novel "proved [I] was recovering from [my] habit of temperance" - to quote a phrase that made me chuckle. Elkink has wrapped mythology, aesthetics and theology in a blanket of sexual tension as we unwind the mystery of the life of her protagonist. And we are at peace and relieved when all is unwrapped and in the open.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Terry Olson, Director of Arts & Cultural Affairs for Orange County, Florida, and President of the Florida Association of Public Art Administrators