Thirteen-year-old Grace is not looking forward to her summer vacation. She’ll have to fend for herself and take care of her siblings while her mom smokes the day away in the back bedroom of the cabin. But when an unexpected companion shows up in the middle of a crisis, she gains hope that maybe the summer won’t be a disaster after all. In Grace Above All, readers will experience a young summer romance and join Grace in gaining a newfound appreciation of family.
About the Author
Jane St. Anthony is the author of The Summer Sherman Loved Me and Isabelle Day Refuses to Die of a Broken Heart. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Read an Excerpt
Grace Above All
By Jane St. Anthony
Farrar Straus GirouxCopyright © 2007 Jane St. Anthony
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe morning sun streaked through the cobwebbed porch windows into the big room. On the rollaway, Grace squinted, then turned her face from the brightness. Across the expanse, her brother Chuck lay curled on the daybed, his back to Grace. Grace winced. Today began almost two weeks of summer vacation that would be wasted at this cabin with Bernadette and the kids, although Dad would enliven the weekend.
Squeezing her eyes shut, Grace pictured her friend Margaret in the city. Margaret's day would begin as soon as she finished her mother's job list. Here there would be no escape. Job list? Her life was a job list.
Rubbing one eye with her fingers, six-year-old Beth emerged from the hallway into the main room, a jumble of sofas and recliners, a dining table, and the disguisable beds occupied by Grace and Chuck. The refrigerator, sink, stove, and doorway to the bedrooms shared one wall. When the family had arrived after dark the night before, Bernadette sent Beth as well as Polly and Pinky through that doorway to one of the two real bedrooms. Bernadette commandeered the other.
Grace shut her eyes again. She wasn't fast enough.
"Will you take me swimming, Gracie?" Beth asked. The family baby was a timid,smaller version of Grace, complete with a strawberry blond ponytail that drooped after a night in bed.
"Bernadette will take you when she gets up."
"What did you say, Gracie?"
"Mom will take you when she gets up."
"Oh," said Beth, already dressed in a pink-skirted swimsuit. She dragged her "Oh" out softly, easing into a long sigh. Grace worried that Beth might turn out to be a freak, the kind of kid who printed her letters backward and stared at people as if she couldn't understand them.
"I'm still sleeping."
"But you're talking to me, Gracie."
"I was sleeping. I'm going back to sleep now."
Grace opened one eye and watched her sister disappear onto the porch. She heard Beth settle into a wicker chair.
A door closed within the hallway. Bernadette surfaced at the same spot Beth had occupied moments earlier. Her floral orange-and-red shift was as wrinkled as it would be if it had been wadded up under her pillow. She frowned into the sunlight.
"Two bodies accounted for in the bedroom. Did we lose Bethie already?" Bernadette paused to flip open her silver cigarette lighter and start her day with smoke.
"She's out there," Grace said, lifting her face from the pillow, hand gesturing at the porch. Pretending to be asleep was pointless.
Beth appeared in the doorway. "Mommy, may I go swimming?"
"What's all the noise?" groaned Chuck from his bed as he pulled a sheet over his head.
"Jeez, Bethie, I'd like a cup of java before I go on patrol," Bernadette said, banging cupboard doors as she searched for coffee. "Finally." She plucked a can from the shelf.
"Mommy, may I go swimming?"
"Let me wake up first," Bernadette said, her hand crashing around in a drawer. "You would think she owned a can opener."
"Who owned a can opener?" said Chuck.
"Aunt Marie, you idiot," Grace answered. At fifteen, Chuck was two years older than Grace and, Grace thought, about a century dumber. "This was her cabin."
"Oh, yeah, Grandma's dead sister."
"Gad, did they bury it with her?" said Bernadette, finally extracting her prize from the drawer, which she shut with her hip. She positioned the can opener's little cutting wheel and turned the handle.
"Mommy, maybe?" Beth's gentle voice floated from the doorway.
"What's for breakfast?" Chuck demanded loudly.
"That's an original question," Bernadette said. "Am I supposed to turn into a waffle iron because you're on vacation?" She pulled a Good Housekeeping magazine out of a stack piled on a shelf built into the wall. The fire hissed under the coffeepot.
Even though the sun was heating the cabin, Grace slipped deeper under the bedspread for privacy. She wondered whether Bernadette had bought hot dog buns. She didn't remember seeing them when she had unpacked the grocery bags last night. Hot dogs wrapped in Wonder Bread were hateful.
"Are there any bikes up here?" Grace asked. The last town they had driven through couldn't be too far away, could it?
"Never were a hundred years ago when I was here last," Bernadette said.
The coffee began to perk on the stove, the water beating against the little glass dome.
"Keep things under control, Gracie," Bernadette called back as she disappeared into the hallway. "I'll be back for my brew." The bedroom door clicked shut.
"Please, may I go swimming now?" Beth asked quietly.
Grace sat up on the rollaway. She would never get back to sleep.
"Go on, Bethie, but only up to your knees. Got it? Just up to your knees. I'll be out in a minute."
The screen door squeaked open and bounced shut a few times. Beth's bare feet padded away from the cabin.
The old linoleum floor was cool under Grace's soles as she walked to the cupboard where she had put the cereal. At least Bernadette had remembered to buy that before they had left home. Grace looked through the cupboards, memorizing the location of anything that might be useful. Picking up an eggbeater from the utensil drawer, Grace absentmindedly turned the handle. A spider dropped from between the blades and scooted away.
Polly walked into the big room, bumping into an end table as she blinked in the brightness.
"Having trouble walking, Polly?" Chuck muttered.
"At least I'm not paralyzed, fathead," Polly shot back as she rubbed her shin. She stopped to peer through the porch into the sun. Polly was the most nearsighted twelve-year-old-or kid, for that matter-that Grace knew.
"What's that pink thing out there?" Polly said, squinting hard.
"Maybe your brain went for a swim," said Chuck.
Polly put her face up to the window and strained to see through the porch.
"Grace, is that a person?"
Why me? Grace thought. You don't have a mother?
She walked away from the cupboards and stood next to Polly. "Where?" she asked.
"There, floating, I think."
Grace looked at Polly. She wasn't wearing her glasses. She really couldn't see what she saw. Grace's chest seized with panic.
"Can't you see it, Grace? Pink."
Think, think, think, Grace repeated to herself. No lifeguard here. Who else could swim besides her? Bernadette, no. Chuck, yes, but not as well as she could. Polly, slow dog paddle. Pinky, no. Maybe Chuck could float on something. She moved quickly to Chuck's head, which had emerged from the sheet. Grace put her mouth next to his ear.
"Keep your fat trap shut," she said in a hissing whisper. "Beth is floating on something in the middle of the lake. We're going to get her. Now."
"Get Mom," Chuck said in a strained voice.
"She can't swim. She'll slow us down."
Chuck stood up in his T-shirt and boxers.
"We're going down to the beach to check out the situation, Pol," Grace called as she ran through the porch and let the screen door slam. Chuck followed, pushing the door open behind her and following down the steps to the beach. The door bounced in protest again.
At the bottom of the steps, the cool sand shocked Grace.
A weather-beaten rowboat floated next to the dock, joined to it by rope. Should she hunt for paddles under the junk heaped in the boat? How hard would it be to untie it? Grace decided. No time. She had to act.
"What should we do?" Chuck asked.
"Grab that inner tube. I'll swim."
"Where's the tube?"
Grace gestured toward the adjoining beachfront as she moved to the water.
"Too hard to swim with a tube," Chuck protested.
"We need it. Do it."
For a second, Grace marveled that her older brother obeyed her in times of crisis. Dad said that she was born to be a military commander. As a toddler, she had barked orders: "Make food!" "Push higher!" "Move, Chuckie!"
From the cabin, the unmistakable high voice of Pinky, their younger brother, shot down to the beach.
"Bethie's in the lake!" he screamed. "Mom, Bethie's in the lake!"
Excerpted from Grace Above All by Jane St. Anthony Copyright © 2007 by Jane St. Anthony. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Grace is just trying to be a normal kid, but she finds it is pretty hard when her mom sleeps and smokes all day and she is left taking care of her younger siblings.
She thinks things will change when the family takes a trip to a cabin on the lake for a couple of weeks, hoping that maybe her mom just needs to relax.
WRONG! All of the responsibility falls on Grace, as usual.
She does meet a boy, though, named Frankie. He is very cute and likes her back, but they can never be alone because Grace is always stuck caring for her brothers and sisters.
This is a great book, following THE SUMMER SHERMAN LOVED ME.
Grace is just trying to be a normal kid, but she finds it is pretty hard when her mom sleeps and smokes all day and she is left taking care of her younger siblings. She thinks things will change when the family takes a trip to a cabin on the lake for a couple of weeks, hoping that maybe her mom just needs to relax. WRONG! All of the responsibility falls on Grace, as usual. She does meet a boy, though, named Frankie. He is very cute and likes her back, but they can never be alone because Grace is always stuck caring for her brothers and sisters. This is a great book, following THE SUMMER SHERMAN LOVED ME, and I give it 4 stars! **Reviewed by: Audrey
It keeps you wanting to read! I don't really like reading books but with this one there was an exception. Once i read it i loved it!