Deb Elkink lives with her husband on the banks of a lovely creek in the rolling hills of southern Alberta, Canada—a stone’s throw from the Montana border. The Third Grace is her first novel.
The Third Graceby Deb Elkink
Her name was Mary Grace until she fell in love with the French exchange student visiting her family's Nebraska farm. François renamed her "Aglaia"-after one of the beautiful Three Graces of Greek mythology-and set the seventeen-year- old girl longing for something more than her
The Past Casts a Long Shadow. Especially When It Points to a Woman's First Love.
Her name was Mary Grace until she fell in love with the French exchange student visiting her family's Nebraska farm. François renamed her "Aglaia"-after one of the beautiful Three Graces of Greek mythology-and set the seventeen-year- old girl longing for something more than her parents' simplistic life and faith.
Now, fifteen years later, Aglaia works as a costume designer in Denver. Her budding success in the city's posh arts scene convinces her that she's left the naïve farm girl far behind.
But "Mary Grace" has deep roots, as Aglaia learns during a business trip to Paris. Her discovery of sensual notes that François jotted into a Bible during that long-ago fling, a silly errand imposed by her mother, and the scheming of her sophisticated mentor all conspire to create a thirst in her soul that professional success can't quench.
"The Third Grace" takes you on a dual journey across oceans and time-in the footsteps of a woman torn between her rural upbringing and her search for self.
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Mary Grace Klassen's parents love their family and Nebraska farm. They love their Mennonite faith even more. They study the Bible, attend church regularly, and avoid the wickedness of the world. Family, farm, and faith are not important to Mary Grace, the main character in the novel The Third Grace by Deb (Neufeld) Elkink. Actually Mary Grace sees family, farm, and faith as a three-fold stone she's forced to roll up the mountain of life. In that respect she's like Sisyphus of Greek mythology. It's Francois, an exchange student from Paris, who first stirs in Mary Grace the desire to break free of family, farm, and faith. A teenager at the time, she regards Francois as the epitome of sophistication and sexual attraction. His tales of Greek gods and goddesses thrill her. She's especially intrigued by stories of The Three Graces, mythic goddesses of life's pleasures such as play, rest, amusement, happiness, and relaxation. Mary Grace identifies so strongly with one of the Graces that she takes her name, Aglaia. The smooth-talking Francois is about to relieve Aglaia of her virginity, with her encouragement, when her brother finds them. A faithful Mennonite, he defends his sister's virtue by wrestling Francois away from her. One might think this event would shame Aglaia, prompting her to repent and return to her faith. It doesn't. Even Francois's disgrace in the eyes of her family and his abrupt departure don't affect her that way. As soon as she can, she leaves the farm and moves to Denver. There she finds work as a costume designer. She loves the job, which lets her implement and develop her considerable creative abilities. However, she remains stuck in a time warp spiritually and psychologically. Memorized verses of Scripture hinder her enjoyment of the faith-free life she's chosen. She has no romantic interests. "All her romance was relegated to the vault of her thoughts, where she could keep a close eye on it and steer clear of further pain….her lack of comfort with men stemmed from confusion about what she had to offer—about who she was. She'd lost a piece of herself when Francois left." Her faithfulness to Francois's memory seems pitiful and neurotic, especially since she never hears from him. Even in her thirties, she can't abandon her first love. Aglaia's employer, Eb, exerts a Christian influence on her. Her friend Lou doesn't. Lou teaches at a university, where many of her lectures focus on goddesses and the deification of the feminine. She scorns Christianity for what she sees as its emphasis on male dominance. Furthermore Lou regards the Bible as a book of myths "preceded by equally valid tales of earlier cultures." Like Lou, Eb is interested in stories told by earlier cultures. But his view is different from hers. He says "The Bible fulfills all the longings aroused by fairy tales passed down through the ages and tells us what they really mean. Look into the Word and it will look right back at you; it will see you and change you." Whose lead will Aglaia follow? Answers don't come easily. Complicating her journey are uncertainty about her career goals, the continuing influence of her Mennonite family, and a bittersweet reunion with Francois. How will Aglaia find direction for her life? Will this late bloomer ever come of age? Elkink keeps us guessing almost to the conclusion of the story.
Your Customer Rating: See Detailed Ratings The Third Grace is an amazing piece of writing with twists and turns intertwined with Mennonite heritage, language nuances, fabrics and sewing. At the beginning I thought I must like it because of its many references to fine fabrics and designs. Then I realized I loved The Third Grace it for its plot and depths of meaning. After all, it revolves around an ancient love affair, a return to roots and faith and an intriguingly evil co-worker. I spotted her right off and wanted Mary Grace to see her wickedness¿but then there would have been no story. I was surprised to discover that this novel is Deb¿s very first. Bring on more please, Miss Deb. One small suggestion? I would like a page of translations for words like nietlijch.
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!
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. 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.]
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. Terry Olson, Director of Arts & Cultural Affairs for Orange County, Florida, and President of the Florida Association of Public Art Administrators
G. K. Chesterton recounted the tale of a man who ventured forth only to arrive at home again and know it for the first time. Such is the remarkable pilgrimage of Aglaia Klassen in Deb Elkink¿s book THE THIRD GRACE. Aglaia¿s journey takes her through the labyrinth of Greek mythology and to the heights of Parisian costume design. But in the end the interior journey of self-discovery is the greater distance travelled. Beautifully written, THE THIRD GRACE takes the reader on every step of Aglaia¿s intimate journey to arrive at true peace. Donna Fletcher Crow A DARKLY HIDDEN TRUTH, The Monastery Murders 2
She has even changed her name, yet Aglaia cannot escape the past she despises or the memories that haunt and beckon her. Instead of finding comfort and solace in the faith of her youth, Aglaia seeks fulfillment in her work and fascination in the sensual Greek mythology Francois introduced her to before the dark days came. Professor Lou Chapman compounds Aglaia¿s confusion and discomfort by playing on her weaknesses while childhood friend Naomi Enns tries to protect her from herself. Author Deb Elkink skillfully weaves mythology and faith through plot and theme, emphasizing the stark contrast between Aglaia¿s old-fashioned farm upbringing and her new life in the city. The settings, from familiar to foreign, are vivid with sound, sight, taste and texture. Suspense tightens the weave until several unexpected revelations snap the thread of lies Aglaia has so long believed.