About Grace: A Novel

About Grace: A Novel

by Anthony Doerr


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781476789019
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 10/06/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 69,909
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Anthony Doerr is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel All the Light We Cannot See. He is also the author of two story collections Memory Wall and The Shell Collector, the novel About Grace, and the memoir Four Seasons in Rome. He has won four O. Henry Prizes, the Rome Prize, the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award, the National Magazine Award for fiction, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Story Prize. Doerr lives in Boise, Idaho, with his wife and two sons.


Boise, Idaho

Date of Birth:

October 27, 1973

Place of Birth:

Cleveland, Ohio


B.A., Bowdoin College, 1995; M.F.A., Bowling Green State University, 1999

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

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

Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions from the Publisher
1. The novel is rich with description and symbolism. The symbolism of water is present throughout the story ranging from floods, snowflakes, lakes and oceans to the nature of Winkler's profession. Discuss this symbol in the novel as a whole.

2. Discuss the nature of Sandy and Winkler's relationship. Sandy's point of view is not known to the reader. What do you think motivates her? Why do you think she avoids discussing Winkler's premonitions and sleepwalking?

3. Discuss Winkler's character. What do you think of the choices he made? What were the most important events of his childhood? How did the relationship with his parents along with his earliest premonition shape his character? What is your overall opinion of Winkler?

4. How do the lives of Felix and Soma compare to Winkler's? Why do you think Winkler becomes so attached to the family and, in particular, Naaliyah? What do you think prompts Winkler to return to Ohio after almost two decades on St. Vincent's? Why do you think he stayed so long?

5. While Winkler visits the first Grace Winkler, her son Jed "predicts" certain things about Winkler's journey. Where does Winkler's journey lead him? Was Jed's prediction accurate?

6. Winkler describes his journey at one point as "Another kind of purgatory: a waiting to wake up." What does this mean? How is the notion of purgatory explored throughout Winkler's story?

7. Discuss Naaliyah's character. What is the nature of her relationship with Winkler? What aspects of her personality are revealed during her time at "Camp Nowhere"?

8. What is the significance of the winter spent at "Camp Nowhere"? How does Winkler change during this time? What is the importance of the snowflakes he works to collect?

9. Herman Sheeler figures prominently later in the story. Describe his personality. Why do you think he makes the decision to befriend and help Winkler?

10. Describe the relationship between Grace and Winkler. How does she ultimately come to accept Winkler in her life?

11. The story takes place in a variety of richly described locations. What are some of the most memorable? What aspects of these locations help or hinder Winkler through his turmoil? How do you think these various environments help to tell the story?

12. Do you think Winkler's story reached a resolution? In the final chapter of the book, Winkler dreams. Explain the symbolism of this final dream.

Customer Reviews

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About Grace 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the ten best books I have ever read. From the first page, it was clear that this was written by an author who carefully crafts every sentence. His prose is pure poetry. This beautiful story about love, faith and ultimately the resilience of the human spirit was gut-wrenching at times as you acutely feel David Winklers pain and redemption. If you only read one book this year, you should make it this one!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book sings about the beauty of love in it's many different forms, redemption and friendship. I stayed up all night and into the early morning finishing this book. It is one of the best books I have ever read, and I plan to listen to it on audio; I know it will be just as good. Mr. Doerr has created a magical world of fate and chance out of the most unlikely circumstances and creates a very belivable, intricate story. I didn't want David Winkler's story to ever end...I have had The Shell Collector for 2 years and haven't read it, but it will be one of the next books that I am planning to open up.
Guest More than 1 year ago
David Winkler is an odd loner living in Anchorage, Alaska, who has dreams that foretell the future. He's weird. And his life ends up a mess. And I immediately began to like him. In the chaos of his strange existence, Winkler seeks out and finds (or trips over and falls into) beautiful things. Family, friends, the splendor of nature. It's a painful journey that takes the reader from Alaska to the Midwest to the tropics of an island and back around again. This is one of the most beautiful books I've read in a long time. It's one of those rare books that wakes you up to the good things around you. Doerr's prose is brilliant, and yet it's all so subtle and unpretentious. The book is pensive and profound, it's plot is smooth and compelling, and it's characters are kind and immensely likeable.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mr Doerr writes well. Part of this book resembled Dean Koontz, part Harlan Coben and part Greg Garrett (Free Bird). The prose was excellent, I just had problems assimilating the different plot twists and, in the end, believing in the characters. Starting off with the dream/reality topic, then gravitating into defying fate, I then got lost in the passage of time it took for the main character to decide to do something to right the wrongs, redeem himself, and to set the record straight. Perhaps it was his attempts which, for an educated person which Mr Winkler was supposed to be, seemed so assinine and ridiculous. Yes, some were humorous, some tragic, but why attempt them the way he did? I could never come to grips with that issue. In the end my rush to the finish was in part to find out what happens to the hero but was also to just finish the book. I would recommend this book for style, but it isn't on my top list. The plot just didn't settle well with me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was great! The main character was tragic, awkward and ever stalkerish but I found my heart breaking for him. The style of writting was so beautifully constructed I feel as though I just watched a movie instead of reading a book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read About Grace simply because I loved the imagery in Doerr's short story The Shell Collector. About Grace surpasses the fried and hashed world of genre, and presents a literary, almost poetic, tale of love, fear, and redemption. This is a one of a kind work, and I look forward to many years of equally great books from young Anthony Doerr.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the first book I read by Anthony Doerr. I enjoyed every second of it - it is smart, and strange. The characters are unusual and touching. This books deals with questions of fate, free will, determination, and faith. I strongly recommend it to anyone!
jeannedarc More than 1 year ago
Reading Anthony Doerr is like indulging on a decadent dessert!His style of writing,those gorgeous passages,descrpitions so exquisite. To read another author now will be a hard act to follow.
dleander More than 1 year ago
Anthony Doerr has become one of my favorite authors. His prose is poetic to me.. his words evoke beautiful physical pictures and pictures for the soul. Some of his sentences are so profound to me that I find myself dwelling on them for long after the page turns. Now I'm an avid reader but not all books leave a mark on me the way "The Light We Cannot See" and "About Grace" did. I love that the books are kind of rambling (and very long!) because they exemplify the twists and turns our lives take. The character development in this book is terrific as we follow David and the secondary characters throughout their circumstances, emotions and real lives. If you are a true bibliophile and enjoy true beauty in prose, you'll like this book and Anthony Doerr.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Whew....I thought I'd never finish, and really it was a little 'too dark' for me. I guess it just wasn't my style. Dark.......
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm sorry but this was one of the slowest books I have ever read. While I will admit that the writing was descriptive, 75% of the book seemed to be descriptions of the main characters surrounding while the storyline dragged on, and on, AND ON with nothing of much interest happening. The beginning of the story caught my interest so I anticipated something exciting or fascinating to come of it, but the story line continued on and on with very little happening except a man pining away for his daughter. A complete waste of my time and money.
CarenHope More than 1 year ago
Anthony Doerr has a writing style that can only be described as lyrical, especially when portraying the natural world. My reluctance to recommend this book is based on the protagonist. You can empathize with both good and bad people. But the protagonist in this book can only be described as a cowardly wimp. His next novel, All The Light You Cannot See, has been highly recommended to me as being very different from About Grace.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found the main character's inability to communicate very frustrating.  The story drags on while he wanders aimlessly for over 25 years.  I  have enjoyed some of Doerr's other books, but I do not recommend this one.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't read this book if you want to keep your sanity. True, I could't put it down but the story and main character are just nuts! Forget the non-ending, I kept looking for more and it just stopped like the author got tired of writing
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After enjoying "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr, I hastened to purchase "About Grace" - and read about isolated characters unable to communicate or care about each other. The main character, David Winkler, fascinated with snow and suffering nameless mental oppression, was content to have a child with a married woman, Sandy, who communicates even less than he does. Neither explore themselves or each other. Seeds of loss, loneliness and oppression do not develop, grow or transform. This book however, did succinctly describe what it must feel like to suffer unabated anxiety and did give me pause to consider, as I have before, how taxing is mental illness. Eleanor Cowan, author of : A History of a Pedophile's Wife
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
crossword69 More than 1 year ago
I like Anthony Doerr, however, About Grace is tedious and too wordy. All the Light We Cannot See is much more interesting.  I'm glad I read All the Light first. If you have insomnia, this will help you.
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notasf_n More than 1 year ago
I would LOVE to read some of this authors work, but right now everything he has out is WAY out of my budget. I hope to see 1 free nook book so I can see if I like his style. The reviews have helped tremendously and I have added his work to my wishlist for now. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SEPTEMBER TWENTY SIXTH <p> Diary!!!! What"s up? Can you believe it? Gosh, I was suprised to hear this too, diary! You know my friend Anita? Well, SHE GOT A BOYFRIEND!!! Right. Did you brace yourself for that incoming shock? Well, not to say roller coaster shock, since I love roller coasters and i should know whether i am on one or not. But it is indeed quiye a shock because she is so tall and skinny you thought she will be the last one to get a boyfriend. Well, technically, she cannot because younger people then her will get boyfriends later. <p> her boyfriend is Eric, believe it or not.ooh... i knew eric liked Anita, but I never knew they liked eachother so much to...um...mAybe...smooch. you get what i mean... Eric and anita sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G &hearts !!!! <p> Oh HO!!! Today during reading I read a book called" diary of grace" and I thought that girl"s diary is way more boring and does not have little hearts drawn in spaces. Huh. Say, am i copying her or is she copies me? Whichever one, i am tired. So i think i will think during sleep. Bye! <p> THANKS FOR READING AGAIN! first part at story res one, next part next result. Sorry this one was short, but i had severaal unlucky encounters with the back button. That lowered my patience... let us see how good you are at doing stories: go to contest result one!!! Thanks! By: &#9674 Abigail &#9674