Grace

Grace

4.4 14
by T. Greenwood
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

T. Greenwood's extraordinary novels, deftly combining lyrical prose with heartrending subject matter, have earned her acclaim as a "family-damage specialist" (Kirkus). Now she explores one year in a family poised to implode, and the imperfect love that may be its only salvation.

Every family photograph hides a story. Some are suffused with warmth and joy,… See more details below

Overview

T. Greenwood's extraordinary novels, deftly combining lyrical prose with heartrending subject matter, have earned her acclaim as a "family-damage specialist" (Kirkus). Now she explores one year in a family poised to implode, and the imperfect love that may be its only salvation.

Every family photograph hides a story. Some are suffused with warmth and joy, others reflect the dull ache of disappointed dreams. For thirteen-year-old Trevor Kennedy, taking photos helps make sense of his fractured world. His father, Kurt, struggles to keep a business going while also caring for Trevor's aging grandfather, whose hoarding has reached dangerous levels. Trevor's mother, Elsbeth, all but ignores her son while doting on his five-year-old sister, Gracy, and pilfering useless drugstore items.

Trevor knows he can count on little Gracy's unconditional love and his art teacher's encouragement. None of that compensates for the bullying he has endured at school for as long as he can remember. But where Trevor once silently tolerated the jabs and name-calling, now anger surges through him in ways he's powerless to control.

Only Crystal, a store clerk dealing with her own loss, sees the deep fissures in the Kennedy family--in the haunting photographs Trevor brings to be developed, and in the palpable distance between Elsbeth and her son. And as their lives become more intertwined, each will be pushed to the breaking point, with shattering, unforeseeable consequences.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
An increasing sense of foreboding marks Greenwood's (This Glittering World; The Hungry Season) eloquent and compelling novel about the struggles of a small-town family. Young Trevor Kennedy, who receives a camera from his art teacher, is the biggest boy in the seventh grade. The daily, incessant, yet unnoticed bullying at school has made him want to become invisible. Somehow, though, the camera promises a change in Trevor's life. While school is his living hell, his parents have huge issues of their own, including mounds of bills and Trevor's aging grandfather, troubled by his own challenges. Grace, Trevor's five-year-old sister, remains the family's only bright spot. As the abuse becomes more extreme, Trevor's life starts to careen out of control. VERDICT Greenwood's harrowing study of a troubled family on the brink of disaster is exceptionally well observed; her skillful use of imagery and foreshadowing sharpens the focus on the Kennedys' dysfunction and avoidance of communication. Readers who enjoy insightful and sensitive family drama (Lionel Shriver's We Need To Talk About Kevin; Rosellen Brown's Before and After) will appreciate discovering Greenwood.—Andrea Tarr, Corona P.L., CA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780758278159
Publisher:
Kensington
Publication date:
03/27/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
139,754
File size:
1 MB

Read an Excerpt

Grace


By T. GREENWOOD

KENSINGTON BOOKS

Copyright © 2012 T. Greenwood
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-5092-6


Chapter One

Winter

Kurt is suddenly aware of the way the snow looks like something living, like something with a purpose. He has always thought of snow as simply falling from the sky, at mercy to gravity. But now, as he marches out across the snow-covered field behind the house, his rifle drawn and aimed at the back of his only son's head, he sees that it is intent in its falling. Resolute, determined, even calculated in its descent.

Trevor is three feet ahead of him, trudging through the snow, bare hands shoved into his pockets, head bowed in deference to the blistering assault. It is midnight, but the sky is opaque and bright. It is only December, but it has been snowing for two days straight; they are up to their shins in it. Trevor is not wearing a coat, hat, or gloves. He is in jeans and the navy chamois shirt he had on when Kurt dragged him from his room into the mudroom, where he had allowed him to put on his boots before pushing him through the door into this cold, white night.

As they pass the unmarked boundary between their property and their neighbors', Trevor hits a deep patch of snow and sinks in up to his knees. If you didn't know better, you might think he was praying, only genuflecting to the falling snow.

As Trevor struggles to move forward, he glances over his shoulder at his father. For years, the arch of his brow, the thick dimple in his chin, the boyish smirk have been like reflections in a mirror held up to Kurt's own boyhood. This used to make him swell a bit with proprietary pride. But now these similarities seem to mock him, accuse him. You made this, they say. You are this.

"Dad," Trevor says, but Kurt can't hear. It's as though his head is full of snow—cold, thick, numb. "Daddy." Snot has frozen in two slow paths from nose to lip. His eyes are swollen.

Trevor is thirteen, and he looks exactly like Kurt did at thirteen. He is the same height, the same weight. He has identical ears, the same bent pinkie finger, Kurt's slight overbite and white-blond hair.

When they finally get to the top of the hill where Kurt used to take Trevor sledding when he was a little boy, to the place where the entire world shimmers then disappears in the valley below, Kurt says, "Stop."

The sound of his voice is like ice breaking. Like springtime at Joe's Pond when the ice goes out. The crack, the shift, the signal that the thaw has begun. But Kurt knows that this is a weakness he cannot afford. He must stay solid, frozen, numb. There cannot be any cracks, any fissures in this ice.

They are far enough away now from the house where, on any other night, they would be sleeping. But the house is empty. There is no one to hear the gunshots.

"Turn around," Kurt says.

Trevor turns to face him again. But this time, it's not the face of a child he sees. Nor is it the face of the monster he has turned into. Instead, his hair is covered in a thin layer of white, and Kurt can see the old man each of them might one day become.

Trevor puts his hands up, as if his palms might be enough to protect him. "Don't, Daddy," he pleads.

At this, Kurt lowers his rifle, turning his gaze from his son to the sky. He watches the shards of ice, the intricate, gorgeous filaments, as they continue to fall. And he thinks of the news footage he saw right after the attacks on the World Trade Center, before the media realized what they were showing—the men who broke windows, climbed ledges, and leapt to their deaths. The falling men, the men forced to choose one kind of death over another.

Kurt looks back at Trevor, who is crying now, tears and snot freezing upon impact with the air. He lifts his gun to his shoulder again, and the snow makes a lens of ice as he peers down the sight.

Last Spring

It started with a gift.

The box was blue, the same color blue as the eggs Trevor found up in the eaves of the shed earlier that morning, the color of crushed-up sky. Mrs. D. gave it to him after the bell rang and almost everybody else had already packed up their stuff and headed out the door. He was messing around in his backpack, worrying about where he was going to sit at lunch, and didn't know that she was trying to get his attention. But then she touched his arm, real soft, with her talcum-powder hands and said, "Trevor dear, can you wait just a minute, please? I have something for you."

Mrs. D. was the art teacher at Trevor's school. A lot of kids were creeped out by her; some of the younger ones even thought that she was a witch or something. She did look a little bit like a witch, with the small hump underneath her moth-hole-riddled green sweater, with the threadbare black wig she wore. She smelled dusty and old too, like wet books. Some kids cackled whenever she turned her back, called her Nanny McPhee, but Trevor liked Mrs. D. So what if she was old and strange? She was a good artist, a good teacher. The fruit she drew always looked like fruit: bananas and apples and a pomegranate, its seeds spilling out all over the table like the insides of the buck that Trevor's dad shot last year. Plus, Mrs. D. was always giving him things to bring home—a box of waxy oil pastels, some tubes of acrylic paint that she was about to throw away. One time she gave him a set of colored pencils that weren't even opened yet. Besides, Trevor liked being in the art room. He loved the smell of paint and paste, the dusty, musty scent of it all. He liked the way the canvases looked like boys leaning against the brick walls. He liked the paint-splattered floors, the rough wooden worktables, the high ceilings, and the quiet. It was almost like being in a library here; and when the doors closed behind him, he felt suddenly secure, sheltered, at peace.

He opened the box and pulled out a camera. A real camera, heavy and black with a glass lens: the old-fashioned kind. For the last few weeks, they'd been doing a unit on photography, and this camera was like the ones each student was allowed to sign out, but this one was brand-new.

"Have you ever had your own camera before?" she asked.

He shook his head.

He thought of the slide show she'd shown them last week. Ansel Adams, that was the landscape guy. Some old lady who took pictures of flowers. But Trevor had liked the picture of people, the portraits, best. Faces. Mrs. D. had explained that photographers could be artists, that a good photographer uses the light to make ordinary or even ugly things beautiful. He thought about the kind of pictures he might take, about the faces he knew.

"The school will probably do away with the darkroom eventually. Move everything to digital. But for now, I can still teach you how to develop the film. How to make prints." Her head shook back and forth like a bobblehead doll, her voice made of tissue paper. "I want to see the world the way you see it, Trevor."

He wasn't sure why Mrs. D. took such an interest in him. He wasn't a good artist. Not like Angie McDonald in his class, whose paintings always looked like what they were supposed to. The things he drew never matched what was inside his head. He couldn't get what was up there on the page, and he wasn't sure anybody would want to see that anyway. But since sixth grade, Mrs. D. had looked at him like she saw someone special inside there. Nobody had ever looked at him like that before.

He'd been thinking a lot lately about the way people looked at him. He'd grown so much since last year, he barely recognized himself in the mirror. He'd outgrown every pair of pants, every pair of shoes he owned. He felt like the Incredible Hulk, busting out of his own clothes. Kids had always been mean to him, teased him, but now the same kids moved away when he walked down the halls at school, pretending like he wasn't there but still making sure to get out of his way. His teachers, except for Mrs. D., now looked at him like he was one of the bad kids. Like he was the troublemaker. His mother looked at him with sad eyes mostly, though he knew she was trying not to. If pity were a picture, it would be a picture of his mother. His dad's face was full of worry too, though he tried not to show it. His little sister, Gracy, was the only one who didn't look at him with some shade of disgust or disappointment. But she was only five; what did she know?

"Thanks," he said and took the camera from Mrs. D. and turned it over in his hands, excited to give it a try. He peered through the viewfinder and twisted the lens only to focus in on Jolyn Forchette, who was jealous and smelled like green beans, scowling at him from across the room. He crammed the camera into the backpack with the math homework he hadn't turned in and a banana that had been sitting in there so long it had turned brown and soft.

"It's already loaded," Mrs. D. said. "Just shoot."

He forgot about the camera as he made his way to the cafeteria for lunch. As the sea of students parted for him, liquid and flowing, whispering and sneering, he kept his head down, his gaze at the floor. He tried to make himself invisible, though that's nearly impossible when you're six feet tall in the seventh grade and you wear a size ten shoe. Still, he tried his best to disappear. But then as he made his way past a group of snickering and pointing seventh-grade girls, he started to feel that bad metal feeling. Corroded. That was the only way to describe it. Like his insides were rusted out, like one of his dad's cars at the yard. He could even taste it sometimes way back in his throat. He tried to swallow it down hard, but the metallic taste lingered on his tongue, made the insides of his cheeks itch.

He tried to ignore them and went to a table near the hot lunch line. He only had $1.50, which didn't go far in the à la carte line. The few times he'd tried to get a decent meal there, he'd wound up starving by the end of the day, his stomach roiling and furious. Only losers got hot lunch, but at least the hot lunches filled him up. He threw his backpack down into a chair and grabbed a tray. That was the other good thing about hot lunch; there wasn't a wait, so there would actually be enough time to eat after he got back to his table.

Spaghetti. That meant there would be bread too and those electric orange cubes of cheese. Gray-green broccoli and chocolate pudding with skin on top. He was hungry. His mom had made eggs and bacon and hash for breakfast, but he felt hollow now. His body burned through fuel faster than his dad's pickup.

He pushed the brown plastic tray along the metal rollers and he watched as a group of seventh-grade guys went right to the table where his backpack was. He grabbed a carton of chocolate milk from the bin filled with ice and glanced over at the table, hoping they'd notice his pack and go somewhere else.

"Here you go," the lunch lady said, handing him a sloppy plate of spaghetti. He took a pair of tongs and grabbed a clump of cheese cubes and three spongy slices of garlic bread.

The guys didn't seem to notice Trevor's backpack holding his place. They were all sitting at the table, laughing and eating their à la carte burgers and French fries. Trevor shoved the money at the hot lunch cashier and made his way over to the table.

"Fee Fi Fo Fum," said one of the kids.

"That's my backpack," Trevor said softly.

"That's my backpack," mimicked the kid in a girly voice. He had red hair that covered one eye like a comma. Ethan Sweeney. Of course.

Trevor reached for his backpack but Mike Wheelock, with his greasy black hair and a Patriots jersey, grabbed it first.

"Hey, freakshow, what do you keep in here? Body parts? I bet he's got some dead chick's head stuffed in here," he said, laughing.

"Just give it," Trevor said.

Mike started to unzip the backpack and stuck his head in to inspect.

"Ew, what's that smell?" he said, jerking his head back. The banana.

The other guys leaned over to see inside. And suddenly Trevor felt the metal turning into quicksilver, mercury rushing through his veins.

"What's this?" the Sweeney kid asked, reaching in and grabbing the camera from Mrs. D.

"I said, give it," Trevor said. He thought about Mrs. D., picking out the camera and paying for it out of her own pocket. He thought about what the kid might do to it.

"Give it, give it," Ethan mocked, his voice high and sharp.

Normally, Trevor just tried to ignore these guys, but lately, he couldn't seem to control himself. It was like this new body of his, these new hands, had a mind of their own. So the next thing Trevor knew, the tray of spaghetti was flying onto the floor and his fists were swinging, though they connected with nothing but air. The whole cafeteria erupted, the chanting starting small and growing bigger, like a heartbeat. Fight, fight, fight.

His eyes stung and his mouth flooded with the taste of metal. But before he had the satisfaction of his fist making contact with Ethan's face, someone was yanking his collar hard, choking him. He shook his head like a dog on a chain, and the hands let go, making him stumble backward.

"All right, that's enough. Break it up," Mr. Douglas, the janitor, said.

Trevor blinked hard and when his eyes focused again, he noticed the way the sunlight was shining through the cafeteria window, casting his own shadow, enormous and dark on the filthy cafeteria floor. And he thought about the gift from Mrs. D. About the camera. About how he might capture this picture: his own terrifying silhouette and all of the other kids' faces staring at him with something between fascination and horror.

Elsbeth looked at the catalogues that came in the mail with the models in their bathing suits and flip-flops and dreamed herself somewhere warm. It was April, spring everywhere else but here in Vermont, where yards were still laced with patches of dirty snow and you could still see your breath, like ghosts, when you went outside. Her girlfriend, Twig, went on a cruise for Christmas last year. She and her boyfriend flew down to Miami and then got on a ship to the Bahamas. She came back the color of a ripe peach with streaks of sunshine shimmering in her hair, like she'd captured the sun itself and brought it home with her. This was one of those things Elsbeth ached for, another one of those things she knew that she and Kurt probably wouldn't ever be able to afford to do. Still, she marked the bright green two-piece in the Victoria's Secret catalogue with a coupon for mayonnaise she clipped earlier, and set it on the kitchen table next to the stack of neglected bills.

Elsbeth had worked at the salon all morning and then picked Gracy up from her half day at kindergarten after lunch. Gracy had fallen asleep in the car on the way home and, thankfully, stayed asleep as Elsbeth carried her inside and put her in her bed. Trevor would be at school for another couple of hours, and Kurt would be at the yard until suppertime. There was a roast in the Crock-Pot, so supper was taken care of, and so she had exactly two more hours of peace. Two more hours when she didn't have to tend to anybody else's needs except for her own. This was her guilty pleasure. This solitude. Sometimes she just lay down on the couch and closed her eyes for the whole two hours, waiting for Gracy to call for her and break the spell. She knew she could be, should be, catching up on the laundry. She knew she had dishes to do, grout to scrub, floors to mop, but this was the only time of day when she could hear her own thoughts. The only time of day when she was completely and absolutely alone.

She lay on the couch and glanced at the magazine. The model was bustier than she was, with more up top and in the rear than Elsbeth had. The model had flowing auburn hair, while Elsbeth's was the color of coal tar pitch. She wore it in a ponytail most days like she used to when she was a little girl; it made her feel younger than her thirty years. The model was smiling, and her teeth were even and white like Tic Tacs or a row of shiny Chiclets. Elsbeth hadn't seen a dentist in a decade. And when her wisdom teeth came in, they undid all the work the braces she'd worn in junior high had done. Still, she knew she was sort of pretty to look at. She had her dimples and big wide eyes. She was no Victoria's Secret model, but her stomach was flat and her legs were long and strong. She tried to picture herself in the bathing suit, but the only real beach here was way up at Lake Gormlaith, and only teenagers wore two-pieces there. She thought of the summers when she was still a teenager:those humid nights spent drinking wine coolers and skinny-dipping. She wished she'd known then that she should hold on to that feeling—of strawberry-flavored Bartles & Jaymes on her tongue and cold water on her naked skin—because now it was so far away it felt like a whisper too quiet to hear.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Grace by T. GREENWOOD Copyright © 2012 by T. Greenwood. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More

Videos

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >