A Gracious Plenty

A Gracious Plenty

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by Sheri Reynolds
     
 

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#1 New York Times bestselling author Sheri Reynolds delivers an emotionally moving novel of Finch Nobles, a girl severely burned as a child, who later discovers she can hear the voices of the dead.

After sustaining terrible burns from a household accident as a young girl, Finch Nobles refuses the pity of her hometown. The brave and feisty loner finds

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Overview

#1 New York Times bestselling author Sheri Reynolds delivers an emotionally moving novel of Finch Nobles, a girl severely burned as a child, who later discovers she can hear the voices of the dead.

After sustaining terrible burns from a household accident as a young girl, Finch Nobles refuses the pity of her hometown. The brave and feisty loner finds comfort in visiting her father’s cemetery, where she soon discovers that she can hear the voices of those buried underground. When she begins to speak to them, their answers echo around her in a remarkable chorus of regrets, explanations, and insights. A wonderfully wrought amalgam of Steinbeck, Faulkner, Spoon River Anthology, and Our Town, A Gracious Plenty is a masterful tale not soon forgotten.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Ms. Reynolds’s poetic gifts are uncommonly powerful.” —The New York Times

“Reynolds . . . is a gifted writer with a deceptively simple style and a keen ear for dialogue.” —The Boston Globe

“The newest and most exciting voice to emerge in contemporary Southern fiction.” —The San Francisco Bay Guardian

“Reynolds is in top form with these beautifully drawn, flawed characters.” —School Library Journal

“Simple prose rich with subtext, convincing dialogue, and a fascinating protagonist combine to produce a heartstring-plucker that’s explicit, tender, sad, and hopeful.” —Publishers Weekly

New York Times Book Review
Sheri Reynolds is a wonderful storyteller.
Richmond Times Dispatch
An imaginative tour de force..a life-affirming novel that gathers the joy and pain of living into a celebration of what it means to be human.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Character, story and metaphor are skillfully intertwined as bestselling novelist Reynolds (The Rapture of Canaan) again creates a courageous young heroine who triumphs over grueling odds. Severely burned as a child on her face and upper body, narrator Finch Nobles has stuck close to home for most of her life. After the deaths of her parents, she tends the cemetery on her family's land. Since the living shun her (children call her "witch" and "Uhg-leee"), her society is the dead, who speak to her as they perform their afterlife duties: controlling the seasons, cracking the shells of bird eggs, directing the winds and keeping the rivers flowing. Two of the dead emerge as fully developed characters: a young, rebellious beauty queen who fled her mother's control and returned to her home town in a body bag, and a reclusive alcoholic from a wealthy family who became the pet project of the local do-gooder, portrayed in scathing caricature. Though Finch remains the focus of the novel, Reynolds also traces the story of local policeman Leonard Livingston, a disappointment to his father, the mayor. Leonard is sure that his father would have preferred his younger brotherwho died in infancy under circumstances that remain mysterious until the end of the novel. A climactic storm rather betrays the book's realism (even with the active dead), turning the subtle sense of menace into the atmosphere of a contrived, ghostly murder-mystery. But Reynolds's lyricism and the gentle voice of her heroine carry this poignant but redemptive story of an emotionally and physically scarred woman who finds her way out of the land of the dead and into the land of the living. 300,000 first printing. (Sept.)
Entertainment Weekly
Mesmerizing.
NY Times Book Review
Sheri Reynolds is a wonderful storyteller.
San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
Raynolds writes with the lyrical power of an inspired preacher.
Kirkus Reviews
Reynolds again hits pay dirt with a third novel, after Bitterroot Landing (1995) and The Rapture of Canaan (1996)—the latter, as everyone knows, a recent selection of Oprah's Book Club and now enjoying its fifth week at the top of the bestseller lists.

As a four-year-old, Finch Nobles pulled boiling water off the stove onto herself; as a result, she's badly scarred, and her appearance makes her a kind of outcast in her small southern town. Her father tended the graveyard, and following his death and her mother's, Finch has inherited the job of gravekeeper, with all its solemn duties. Unsurprisingly, the wise Finch begins welcoming and chatting with the newly planted, whose spirits rise and respond. There's beauty queen Lucy Armour, who escapes the confines of the town but dies mysteriously and is shipped home. Did she commit suicide? There's also William Parker Blott, who left his family, became a filthy, sore-ridden street-bum, but later returned home to money and a mausoleum. As Finch sees it, in a passage that resounds with Francis Phelan's view into his dead son's grave in Ironweed, The Dead possess unique powers and knowledge: "The Dead control the seasons. Everything depends on them. In June, The Dead tunnel earthworms, crack the shells of bird eggs, poke the croaks from frogs. The ones who died children make play of their work, blowing bugs from weed to weed, aerating fields with their cartwheels. They thump the bees and send them out to pollinate gardenias." When The Dead lighten up enough, by learning to let the past go, The Mediator allows them to rise to a level past Finch's knowing. But Marcus, the Mayor's baby, who died of "failure to thrive," can't stop bawling. The slender plot hinges on the story of his death and Finch's loving attempts to free his spirit.

A southern tearjerker with some nice surprises—and likely to be a swift success.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781618580313
Publisher:
Turner Publishing Company
Publication date:
10/02/2012
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
225
Sales rank:
616,837
Product dimensions:
5.24(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.49(d)

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

A Gracious Plenty


By Sheri Reynolds

Turner

Copyright © 2012 Sheri Reynolds
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781618580313

“Ain’t you got no respect for the Dead?” I holler. “Get outta here. Ain’t you got no shame?”

But I’m wasting my breath. The children are running before I open my mouth, squealing and hightailing it around tombstones and trees, racing for the edge of the cemetery. A boy without a shirt dusts his belly on the ground and scrapes his back wiggling fast beneath the fence.

“You hateful old witch,” he cries, but not until he’s in the shrubbery on the other side. “You damn-fool witch.”

I raise my stick and shake it at him.

By the time I get to the plot where they were playing, all that’s left is a striped tank top and a bottle half-full of soda that they were throwing like a ball. They’ve cracked the plastic, and the liquid drizzles out dark. Fizz runs down my arm as I pick it up.

I apologize to Sarah Andrews Barfield, 1897-1949, and wipe the soda off her dingy stone with that child’s shirt. It doesn’t look like rain. Ants will come.

I stuff the shirt through the hole in the fence and then find a brick and a few fallen limbs to block off the space until I can get it patched.

On the way back to the house, I stop to visit with Ma and Papa for a spell. Overhead the wind creaks oak, and beneath me, thick grass bends. Tomorrow I will bring out the lawnmower, but today I catch a nap between them, the way I did when I was small, when their hands were warm and could touch me back.

I have been old all my life, my face like a piece of wood left out in snow and wind.

I was four when it happened. Papa had gone to get the grave diggers and bring them home to eat. He did that sometimes when it was hot and they were busy. Ma didn't mind cooking for a crowd.

But she had that day’s meal fixed and waiting. She was already cutting apples for the next day’s pie, and I was riding the broom in circles around the table.

“You getting too rowdy, Finch,” Ma said. “Calm down.”

“I’m playing circus,” I told her. “I'm a pony rider.”

“You’ve worn that pony out,” she said. “Let him rest.”

So I plopped down on the floor with the broom pony, ran my hand over the bristles, and pretended to rub his mane. Then I decided to get the pony some water. I needed a bowl. Ma had a bowl, but it was full of apples.

“I need a bowl to put some water in. My pony’s thirsty.”

“Give him some apple peels instead,” Ma said. “He'll like that even better.” She was good at playing along.

I was sitting beside the brown paper bag where Ma was dropping the peels. I reached in, grabbed a curled strand of red, and fed it to the pony. Then I looked up and saw the handle of the pot on the stove.

“You still want some water?” I asked the pony, and when he said yes, I reached for the handle of that pot. I reached for the shine.

“Lord, Lizzie,” Papa whispered later, “ain’t right for this child to be widowed by her own skin.”

Ma shivered off oxygen soap, hard and brown, mixed it with honey and flour, and tried to paste my skin back on. She broke aloe fingers and doused my face, my shoulder and arm. She whispered, “I told her to stay away from that stove,” her voice choking out. She brushed my hair away from the places where skin bubbled up.

They thought I was asleep, but I wasn’t. I was dazed and drunk on honey water, lost in the buzzing of the burn. I thought they were washing my hair, but it was just blisters breaking and Ma crying, and water spilling from the cup they held to my mouth. I thought I might wash away.



Continues...

Excerpted from A Gracious Plenty by Sheri Reynolds Copyright © 2012 by Sheri Reynolds. Excerpted by permission.
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.

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What People are saying about this

Janet Peery
A triumph of story, voice, and character...stunning and authentic....A beautiful book.
— Author of The River Beyond the World
From the Publisher

“Ms. Reynolds’s poetic gifts are uncommonly powerful.” —The New York Times

“Reynolds . . . is a gifted writer with a deceptively simple style and a keen ear for dialogue.” —The Boston Globe

“The newest and most exciting voice to emerge in contemporary Southern fiction.” —The San Francisco Bay Guardian

“Reynolds is in top form with these beautifully drawn, flawed characters.” —School Library Journal

“Simple prose rich with subtext, convincing dialogue, and a fascinating protagonist combine to produce a heartstring-plucker that’s explicit, tender, sad, and hopeful.” —Publishers Weekly

Meet the Author

Sheri Reynolds is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of five novels, including The Rapture of Canaan. She lives in Virginia and teaches at Old Dominion University, where she is the Ruth and Perry Morgan Chair of Southern Literature.

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