The Saving Graces

The Saving Graces

4.5 60
by Patricia Gaffney

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Meet The Saving Graces, Four Of The Best Friends A Woman Can Ever Have.

For ten years, Emma, Rudy, Lee, and Isabel have shared a deep affection that has helped them deal with the ebb and flow of expectations and disappointments common to us all. Calling themselves the Saving Graces, the quartet is united by understanding, honesty, and

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Meet The Saving Graces, Four Of The Best Friends A Woman Can Ever Have.

For ten years, Emma, Rudy, Lee, and Isabel have shared a deep affection that has helped them deal with the ebb and flow of expectations and disappointments common to us all. Calling themselves the Saving Graces, the quartet is united by understanding, honesty, and acceptance—a connection that has grown stronger as the years go by . . .

Though these sisters of the heart and soul have seen it all, talked through it all, Emma, Rudy, Lee, and Isabel will not be prepared for a crisis of astounding proportions that will put their love and courage to the ultimate test.

Editorial Reviews

Michael Lee West
Rich, Lovely...An intimate portrayal of friendships through the eyes of four unforgettable women. I hated to put it down!
Washington Post Book World
Anyone who's ever raised a glass to toast her women friends will love this book—its raw emotion, its rueful humor, its life lessons.
Nora Roberts
A jewel of a book and every facet sparkles.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Formulaic but sprightly, Gaffney's debut is a variation on the theme of women's solidarity and bravery. Four friends in Washington, D.C., have been meeting once a week for 10 years, relying on each other for laughter, advice and encouragement. There's Emma, approaching 40 and in love with a married man named Mick; Rudy, the unstable depressive whose marriage is on the rocks; happily married Lee, who desperately wishes to have a child with her husband, Henry; and Isabel, the divorced cancer survivor who is in love with her neighbor, Kirby. They call themselves "The Saving Graces," after a dog they once hit with a car, rescued and nursed to recovery: now "she's old and grizzled like us... but she is the sweetest dog." Each chapter is told from the perspective of one of the Graces, and though Gaffney provides each character with a distinctive voice, the stories are overly emotional and predictable. Together the women help each other with their various love troubles until Isabel's cancer returns, a blow that brings them even closer, "putting things in perspective" and setting the scene for the inevitable weepy ending. The Graces eventually get what they long for; each finds her own brand of bittersweet satisfaction, with hard-won lessons learned. "We don't go around calling ourselves [the Saving Graces] in public," says Emma. "It's corny; it sounds like a TV sitcom... starring Valerie Bertinelli, Susan Dey and Cybill Shepherd. Notice these are all attractive, smart, funny women who happen to be a little long in the tooth." While Graces reads much like daytime drama, it lacks the suspense of that medium; we know how things will work out right from the beginning. But since TV doesn't travel to the beach, this novel may provide a soap opera fix under a sun umbrella. 100,000 first printing; $200,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club selections; author tour; rights sold in Germany, Sweden, Finland, England and Norway. (July) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Historical romance novelist Gaffney (Outlaw in Paradise, LJ 8/97) breaks into contemporary womens fiction with this poignant story about friendship. Emma, Rudy, Lee, and Isabel have been a tight-knit group for ten years. These are real women, full of human flaws, and all are at life-changing crossroads. Emma, single and 40, finds herself in a platonic affair with a married man. Rudy, six years married, must decide whether to sacrifice her mental health on the altar of her husband. Lees inability to conceive a child casts an ominous shadow over her blissful marriage. Isabel is the oldest of the Graces. With their support she has vanquished a philandering husband and breast cancer. But two years later, there are some things that even friendship cant surmount. The Saving Graces is a character-driven novel, and Gaffney has a keen sense of direction. Bring tissues.
— Jodi L. Israel, Jamaica Plain, MA
Kirkus Reviews
A sweetly affirmative if teary-eyed story, Washington, D.C.–set, of four women who find consolation in friendship as they cope with cliché issues from breast cancer to infertility. For more than ten years, Lee, Emma, Rudy, and Isabel have been getting together regularly for talk, dinner, and mutual support. They call themselves the "Saving Graces" because they once hit a dog while driving home after dinner, but managed to save it and named her Grace. Isabel, almost saintly in appearance and action, is the oldest, the group's den mother, and the only one with a child. As the story opens, she's divorced, trying to make a new life, and recovering from breast cancer. Lee, knowledgeable and professional, is married to Henry, a sweet hunk of a plumber, and wants a baby, but can't get pregnant. Rudy, whose family is a mess, is seeing a therapist and trying to make a life without angering her manipulative husband, Curtis. Emma, a single journalist, wants to write fiction and marry. Eventually, Isabel loses her battle with the cancer, but she finds a new love. Lee's marriage is strained by her unsuccessful infertility treatments. Rudy's struggle for autonomy is battered by Curtis's cruel lies. And Emma falls in love with a married man. But each woman can depend on the others for support, so that when the crises come, they're all there to pitch in with help, affection, and food. The dying Isabel, wise and loyal to the end, writes a letter to be read after her death that neatly counsels her friends on what to do with their lives—advice they immediately heed, thereby finding the requisite happiness such a tale demands. Strong characters making the best of an often schematic butalways readable story. It's Gaffney's first hardcover—and a great book for the beach. (First printing of 100,000; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book selections; $200,000 ad/promo; author tour)

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Chapter One


If half of all marriages end in divorce, how long does the average marriage last? This isn't a math problem; I'd really like to know. I bet it's less than nine and a half years. That's how long the Saving Graces have been going strong, and we're not even getting restless. We still talk, still notice things about each other, weight loss, haircuts, new boots. As far as I know, nobody's looking around for a younger, firmer member.

Truthfully, I never thought we'd last this long. I only joined because Rudy made me. The other three, Lee, Isabel, and -- Joan? Joanne? She didn't last; moved to Detroit with her urologist boyfriend, and we didn't keep up -- the other three didn't strike me at that first meeting as bosom buddy material, frankly. I thought Lee was bossy and Isabel was old -- thirty-nine. Well, I'll be forty next year, enough said there, and Lee is bossy, but she can't help it because she's always right. She really is, and it's a tribute to her exceptional nature that we don't all loathe her for it.

The first meeting went badly. We had it at Isabel's house -- this was back when she was still married to Gary. God, these people are straight, I remember thinking. Straight and rich, that's what really got me -- but I'd just moved into a dank little basement apartment in Georgetown for eleven hundred a month because of the address, so I was a little touchy about money. Lee looked as if she'd just come from spa day at Neiman's. Plus she was single, still in graduate school, and teaching special ed. part-time -- you know how much money there is in that -- and yet she lived around the block from Isabel in snooty Chevy Chase, in ahouse she wasn't renting but owned. Naturally I had it in for these people.

All the way home I explained to Rudy, with much wit and sarcasm and disdain, what was wrong with everybody, and why I couldn't possibly join a women's group whose members owned electric hedge trimmers, wore Ellen Tracy, remembered Eisenhower, dated urologists. "But they're nice," Rudy insisted. Which, of course, missed the point. Lots of people are nice, but you don't want to have dinner with them every other Thursday and exchange secrets.

The other thing was jealousy. I was small enough to mind that Rudy had a good friend other than me. One night a week she and Lee volunteered to teach reading to inner-city illiterates, and had gotten to know each other during the training. I never worried, then or now, that they would become best friends; I mean, if ever there were two people with nothing in common, it's Lee and Rudy. But I was my old insecure self (then and now), and too neurotic to recognize the potential beauty of the Saving Graces even when it was staring me in the face.

We weren't the Saving Graces yet, of course. Even now, we don't go around calling ourselves that in public. It's corny; it sounds like a TV sitcom. Doesn't it? "The Saving Graces," starring Valerie Bertinelli, Susan Dey, and Cybill Shepherd. Notice these are all attractive, smart, funny women who happen to be a little long in the tooth. Anyway, the genesis of our name is a private matter. Not for any particular reason -- it's kind of funny, and it reflects well on us all. But we just don't talk about it. It's personal.

We were driving back from dinner at a restaurant in Great Falls (we eat out when the person whose turn it is doesn't feel like cooking), taking the long way because Rudy missed the Beltway turnoff. We'd been a group for about a year by then; we'd just lost Joan/Joanne but hadn't yet acquired Marsha, transient member number two, so it was just the four of us. I was sitting in the back seat. Rudy turned around to catch my impersonation of the waitress, who we all thought looked and sounded just like Emma Thompson. Isabel yelled, "Look out!" and a split second later we hit the dog.

I can still see the expression on that yellow mutt face in the instant before the fender caught her on the shoulder and flipped her over the hood of Rudy's Saab -- quizzical, curious, just mildly concerned. As if she were thinking, "Well, hm, isn't this interesting."

Everybody screamed. I kept saying, "It's dead, it's dead, it's got to be dead," while Rudy jerked the car off the pavement. To tell the truth, if I'd been driving by myself, I might've kept going: I was sure it was dead, and I didn't want to see. When I was twelve I ran over a frog with my bike, and I'm still not over it. But Rudy killed the engine and everybody piled out, so I had to get out with them.

It wasn't dead. But we didn't know that until Lee suddenly metamorphosed, right there on MacArthur Boulevard, into Cherry Ames, Highway Nurse. Have you ever seen a human being give CPR to a dog? It's funny, but only in retrospect. While it's happening it's sort of thrilling and revolting, like something that's still illegal in most of New England. Rudy whipped off her black cashmere cloak, which I have always coveted, and wrapped it around the dog because Lee said it was going into shock. "A vet, we need a vet," Isabel fretted, but there wasn't a house in sight, no store, no nothing except a darkened church on the other side of the road. Isabel jumped up and waved her arms at a car coming on our side. When it pulled over, she ran up and had a conversation with the driver. I stood there and wrung my hands.

The Saving Graces. Copyright © by Patricia Gaffney. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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What People are saying about this

Nora Roberts
Patricia Gaffney paints a vivid portrait of four very different women and the bonds between them. Friendship with its compassion and impatience, love with its powers and weaknesses, life with its triumphs and failures are brilliantly voiced through characters so real they might be sitting in your living room sharing a bottle of wine. Those who don't recognize themselves or their friends in The Saving Graces will wish they did. This is a jewel of a book, and every facet sparkles.
Michael Lee West
The Saving Graces is a rich, lovely novel about women and the emotions at the center of their lives. It's also an intimate portrayal of friendships through the eyes of four unforgettable women. I hated to put it down!
— (Michael Lee West, author of Crazy Ladies)

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