"A beautiful and expansive novel. . . As I neared the end, I read more and more slowly, increasingly reluctant to leave this intricately imagined world behind."
"One of those novels that works its way into your very dreams."
"This mesmerizing novel is pitch perfect . . . utterly unforgettable."
"A taut, gorgeously written odyssey of heartbreak and self-forgiveness."
"I loved this wonderful bookits strangeness, its obsessiveness, its beautiful sentences."
"About Grace celebrates the blessings all around us, whether it's the miracle of forgiveness by our loved ones, or the miracle of nature all around us."
San Francisco Chronicle
"Truly beautiful. . . Doerr has a talent for painting vibrant, enchanting scenes."
Los Angeles Times
"About Grace is an extended meditation on the tides and eddies of life itself, spun out in sentences that never fail to thrill, amaze or edify."
New York Times
"There's a rapture with nature expressed in prose that sings off the page; an infinitely subtle algebra of resonance and sympathy between minds, lives, objects, light, senses, weather."
Karen Joy Fowler
"A stunning meditation on chance and pattern, exile and home. Gorgeous, transporting, and deeply, deeply satisfying. Equal parts science and magic (but all of it magical)."
"Doerr deftly weaves a tale of one man's struggle to make peace with his life."
Times Literary Supplement
"A remarkable novel."
… as I turned the pages of About Grace, I realized how fully I had come to believe in [Winkler], how much I wanted him to reconnect with Sandy and Grace; I felt myself, like Winkler in his dreams, in the presence of an experience. As I neared the end, I read more and more slowly, increasingly reluctant to leave him and his intricately imagined world behind. Happily, now that the last page has been turned, I find I haven't: Winkler, with all his virtues and foibles, has taken up residence in my brain.
The Washington Post
Doerr traverses again the territory he had marked out in the stories of his lucent first book, the short-story collection 'The Shell Collector: a rapture with nature expressed in prose that sings off the page; an infinitely subtle algebra of resonance and sympathy between minds, lives, objects, light, senses, weather; the majestic indifference of nature; the proper measure of man against natural forces. Doerr has a compulsion for observation and a passion for nature that borders on the religious.
The New York Times
The majesty of nature, the meaning of courage, the redemptive power of love and the pathos of isolation--all are gracefully explored in Doerr's story of the price paid for a gift. So why does so little seem to happen in this beautiful, ponderous and sometimes monotonous first novel by the author of the exquisite collection The Shell Collector? David Winkler has seen glimpses of the future ever since he was a boy. As a 32-year-old hydrologist in Anchorage, Alaska, he dreams of his future wife; soon they meet, fall in love and run away to Ohio, where she gives birth to their daughter, Grace. But when he dreams that he fails to save Grace from a flood, Winkler abandons wife and child, hoping to flee the future. He becomes a hermetic handyman on a Caribbean island near St. Vincent, befriended by a local family. The years pass until, emboldened by his surrogate family's grown daughter, a gifted marine biologist, Winkler realizes that he must embark on a journey to discover if Grace is alive. This is a lyrical tale tuned a bit too fine: Doerr's dreamy prose accords more attention to nature than character, so that Winkler, transfixed by the wonders of water and snowflakes but singularly unreflective about his actual life, is a frustratingly opaque protagonist. There are gorgeous moments here, but a stifling lack of story. Agent, Wendy Weil. 9-city author tour. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
As in his stunning short story collection The Shell Collector, Doerr explores human connections and the natural world in his first novel. Nature's power is a major character in its own right, fascinating a lonely young Alaskan named David Winkler. Obsessed with the mysteries of weather, David pursues a career in meteorology and is seemingly the ultimate scientific nerd-except for dreams since childhood that have regularly and accurately portrayed events before they happen, including the sudden death of a stranger and David's first meeting with the love of his life. When a recurring nightmare depicts the drowning of his baby daughter, Grace, the terrified father exiles himself for a quarter-century in a frantic attempt to change the future. His tragicomic odyssey in the Caribbean and across the United States before his return to Alaska plays out in ways that would defy the most gifted medium to predict. With clear, precise writing, Doerr creates cinematic images of gorgeous landscapes and of the highly individualistic characters who populate David's circle of acquaintances in this unusual tale. Recommended for most fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/04.]-Starr E. Smith, Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
A compelling protagonist and a lyrical style grounded in precise observation of the physical world: these are the hallmarks of Idaho author Doerr's complex, ambitious first novel. As in the stories of his highly praised debut (The Shell Collector, 2002), Doerr explores the tensions between scientific objectivity and emotional vulnerability-here in the story of David Winkler, a trained hydrologist whose understanding of predictability in natural process is unsettled by mysteries that unfold from his own nature. For David experiences prophetic dreams of mischance occurring in both humdrum and catastrophic forms. We first meet him on an airplane when, at age 59, he's returning to the US from 25 years of self-exile and servitude in the Caribbean Grenadine Islands. Working through extended flashbacks that comprise most of the text here, Doerr patiently fills in the blanks. Growing up a scholarly, solitary youth in Anchorage, Alaska, David "dreamed" his chance meeting with the woman he would wed-then, finding her unhappily married, persuaded her to accompany him to a new life in Ohio. Fathering a daughter (Grace), then dreaming the flood in which he himself accidentally drowns her, David fled his marriage and future, booked passage on a Caribbean-bound steamer, then spent an embattled quarter-century laboring to return to obligations he had shed, meanwhile acquiring a new "family" and a second chance at happiness. About Grace possesses a seductive symbolic intensity, and abounds with gorgeous descriptions and metaphors ("The sea teething" on a coral reef; "the million distant candles of the stars"). But it's much too long, and is significantly marred by its climactic momentum toward areconciliation that simply isn't very credible. Its protagonist's loneliness, regret, and guilt are painfully palpable, and go a long way toward making this risky book work-but, in the end, aren't enough. A bold attempt, nevertheless, by a gifted writer whose own future looms promisingly indeed. Author tour. Agent: Wendy Weil/Wendy Weil Agency
Read an Excerpt
He made his way through the concourse and stopped by a window to watch a man with two orange wands wave a jet into its gate. Above the tarmac the sky was faultless, that relentless tropic blue he had never quite gotten used to. At the horizon, clouds had piled up: cumulus congestus, a sign of some disturbance traveling along out there, over the sea.
The slim frame of a metal detector awaited its line of tourists. In the lounge: duty-free rum, birds of paradise sleeved in cellophane, necklaces made from shells. From his shirt pocket he produced a notepad and a pen.
The human brain, he wrote, is seventy-five percent water. Our cells are little more than sacs in which to carry water. When we die it spills from us into the ground and air and into the stomachs of animals and is contained again in something else. The properties of liquid water are this: it holds its temperature longer than air; it is adhering and elastic; it is perpetually in motion. These are the tenets of hydrology; these are the things one should know if one is to know oneself.
He passed through the gate. On the boarding stairs, almost to the jet, a feeling like choking rose in his throat. He clenched his duffel and clung to the rail. A line of birds ground doves, perhaps were landing one by one in a patch of mown grass on the far side of the runway. The passengers behind him shifted restlessly. A flight attendant wrung her hands, reached for him, and escorted him into the cabin.
The sensation of the plane accelerating and rising was like entering a vivid and perilous dream. He braced his forehead against the window. The ocean widened below the wing; the horizon tilted, then plunged. The plane banked and the island reemerged, lush and sudden, fringed by reef. For an instant, in the crater of Soufrière, he could see a pearly green sheet of water. Then the clouds closed, and the island was gone.
The woman in the seat next to him had produced a novel and was beginning to read. The airplane climbed the troposphere. Tiny fronds of frost were growing on the inner pane of the window. Behind them the sky was dazzling and cold. He blinked and wiped his glasses with his sleeve. They were climbing into the sun.
Copyright © 2004 by Anthony Doerr
What People are saying about this
From the Publisher
"This mesmerizing novel is pitch perfect... utterly unforgettable." —Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"An extended meditation on the tides and eddies of life itself, spun out in sentences that never fail to thrill." —Los Angeles Times
"One of those novels that works its way into your very dreams." —Newsday
"Gorgeous, transporting, and deeply, deeply satisfying." —Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club