The Saving Graces

The Saving Graces

Audiobook(Cassette - Abridged, 4 cassettes, 5 hrs.)

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Friendship sustains and enriches women's lives in ways no romantic or family relationship ever can. Now, in this wonderfully warm, humorous, and moving novel, Patricia Gaffney paints a rich portrait of this sometimes delicate yet resilient bond through the lives of four charming, vividly real women you'll swear you know—women who will become old friends you'll always remember.

For ten years, Emma, Rudy, Lee, and Isabel have shared a deep affection that has helped them deal with husbands, lovers, careers, children—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, they will not be prepared for a crisis of astounding proportions that will put their love, loyalty, and courage to the ultimate test.

Captivating from the first chapter to the last, this mesmerizing story illuminates the emotional links that define and join us as women. Funny, inspirational, joyous, and oh-so-true, The Saving Graces is an audiobook no listener will forget—a story to be passed from friend to friend.

Reader Bio:
Judith Ivey has earned Tony for her work in Hurlyburly and Steaming and an Emmy nomination for the television movie What the Deaf Man Heard. Her many film credits include Devil's Advocate, Brighton Beach Memoirs, and Mystery, Alaska.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375407147
Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/28/1999
Edition description: Abridged, 4 cassettes, 5 hrs.
Product dimensions: 4.50(w) x 7.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Patricia Gaffney's novels include The Goodbye Summer, Flight Lessons, and The Saving Graces. She and her husband currently live in Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania.

Read an Excerpt

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.

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)

Reading Group Guide


Isabel, Emma, Rudy and Lee are four Washington, D.C. women of different ages, from very different backgrounds, who share an unbreakable bond. They've named themselves "The Saving Graces" after Grace, a mutt they accidentally hit with their car, then rescued. For ten years the women have met weekly to eat, chat, and shore each other up in the face of anything life can dish out.

As The Saving Graces begins, each woman is on the cusp of a major challenge: Emma will fall into tormented love with a married man; Rudy's controlling husband will close in on her just as she's making progress overcoming her troubled past; Lee will be unable to conceive a baby; and Isabel's cancer will relapse. It's Isabel's illness that draws the four women together more tightly than ever and takes their friendship, love, and courage to the limit.

Told from four different perspectives, The Saving Graces is a captivating, complex story, and a heartfelt tribute to the beauty of female friendship.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Which Grace do you relate to most, and why? What do you define as "grace"? Where do you find it in your life?

  2. Why do you think the author starts and ends the story from Emma's point of view? Would you consider Emma the main character?

  3. When Lee is describing Isabel for the first time, she says, "Some people are born knowing things the rest of us spend our lives trying to learn." What kind of things do you think she's talking about? Do you agree with Lee? What do you think Isabel had, or knew, that the other Graces didn't?

  4. The night Emma finds out that Mick Draco is married, she describesmen as "speed bumps ... aggravating distractions scattered along life's otherwise pretty nice highway," and also says that good women are easier to find. Do you think she really believes this? Have you ever felt the way Emma says she does? Do you think men feel that way about women -- that, on the whole, men are the better sex -- or that this a uniquely feminine perspective?

  5. At one point, Rudy says about Curtis, "I tried not loving him -- just for a second; an experiment. To my horror, it worked." What does she mean by this? That her love for him isn't real? What do you think of Rudy and Curtis' relationship, overall? How did your feelings change about him over the course of the book? When he told Rudy he has leukemia, did you believe him? What do you think Rudy's dream means?

  6. There's a remarkably small amount of jealousy and possessiveness among the Graces. Do you think this is realistic? Have you had the same experiences with your women friends?

  7. When you tally it up among the four of them, the Graces experience just about every tragedy known to womankind -- cancer, infidelity, alcoholism and drug abuse, mental illness, infertility, and devastating heartbreak, to name a few. Do you think the author has woven these themes in realistically, or does it feel contrived? Would you say this group of women experiences more than their share of suffering? What about joy?

  8. The only time the idea of romantic love between women comes up in the book is via Jenny, Henry's lesbian plumber mom. Why do you think the author wrote Jenny into the story? What purpose does she serve? Do you think Jenny really assumes The Saving Graces is founded on the same basic ideas as the women's group/commune she belonged to in the late '70s? Is it? If so, how is it the same, and how is it different?

  9. Have you ever belonged to a formal group like The Saving Graces? Do you think it's difficult to form close friendships with women later in life, after school and other settings? How do you think friendships among women change as they age?

  10. At one point, Emma describes Isabel as her "mentor, although neither of us would ever say that out loud, and certainly we'd never use that word." Do you think that's an accurate way to describe their relationship?

  11. What about mothering -- is Isabel the mother figure in The Saving Graces? Or is Lee? Do you think any one member takes more than she gives, or is it all pretty equal?

  12. Why do you think Lee holds out for so long trying to have her own baby? Do you think she's justified in feeling so angry and desperate, especially when she has a loving husband, a good job, a nice home -- and other people have much bigger problems, like her friend Isabel, who's dying? How do you think Lee's experience with infertility affects her reactions to what's going on with Isabel?

  13. Isabel says "sometimes kindness is as excruciating as cruelty." What do you think she means by that? Do you agree with her?

  14. Why do you think the author wrote in Isabel's encounter with Sheldon Herman, the old man on the bench?

  15. When Isabel and Kirby sleep together for the first time, she's able to forget for a moment that she's dying -- then abruptly remembers again. Do you think that sex and death are related in any way?

  16. What do you think of the scene where the Graces take on Curtis? Is it realistic? Is it everybody's fantasy, in some way, to have their best friends there for them in the hardest moments? Can you really have help with these things, or do you need to face them alone?

  17. Do you think Emma and Mick will make it as a couple? Or were they brought together by the desire for something they couldn't have, and, now that they have it, their passion will be diminished?

  18. Which of the Graces do you think grew the most over the course of the book, and in what ways?

About the Author

Patricia Gaffney was born in Tampa, Florida and grew up in Bethesda, Maryland. She received her B.A. in English from Marymount College in Tarrytown, New York, and also studied at the University of London, George Washington University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

After a brief stint as a high school English teacher, Patricia worked as a freelance court reporter for fifteen years. She and her husband currently live in Pennsylvania where she writes fiction full time.

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Saving Graces 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 69 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book almost 3 years ago and to this day it still sticks in my mind. I am one who reads all types of books from the classics to historical fiction to mainstream lit. THe writing wasn't fancy but the story was extremely well told with real emotion. I wanted to be friends with these girls. I do not agree with the first reviewer when she says it is confusing. If you read the name at the top of the chapter, you know exactly who is taking in that chapter of the book- not too difficult at all. ALL girls should be lucky enough to have a group of friends like the characters in this book. HIghly recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've never written a review but feel compelled to let every woman know what a MUST READ this book is. I just happened across it and grabbed it to take on vacation. Lukily I was with a bunch of women that wouldn't allow me to sit in a chair and read while in Puerto Vallarta because that's exactly what I would have done. I could barely tear myself away. I cried so hard I couldn't read the words and a little while later I was laughing so hard the tears were streaming down my face. I was literally depressed when I was nearing the end. I wanted to still be a part of these womens lives that I had come to love. I've finished the book and I miss them terribly. Every woman should read this. I don't think a man would get it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I like primarily that this book is written very well. It has great passages that all women can relate to, from relationships with other women, with men and our relationships with our kids and parents. Its insightful, smart and real about how we all have ups and downs in life and it just makes you want to have a bonding sisterhood like this one where you can share all the bitter and sweet moments in your life like the saving graces do.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read and read this book! It is amazing!
EBrown More than 1 year ago
I may have been more moved by this book than I normally would due to my own recent diagnosis of breast cancer, however, I wasn't able to put this book down. I chose this book based on other reviews, but not really knowing what the story line was. I was not sorry! I struggled a little getting into it at first because of there being four main characters telling the story from their own point of view. By the end, the author had done an amazing job of defining each woman as an individual within the group. I would strongly recommend this book - especially to those women who have had the blessing of a longterm friendship with another woman. Great read!
teenadag More than 1 year ago
You will fall in love with all 4 ladies. Each has an interesting story and point of view. Hard to put this one down.
Casidk More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed hearing about a woman's group that is there for each other in all times of life. I think a book club would enjoy the camaraderie of the group.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My mother-in-law gave this to me and at first glance, it appeared to be stereotypical chick lit. However, this is not the case. The book was not predictable and there were enough twists and turns to make it very interesting. Once I got into it, I did not want to put it down. The characters are believable. This book is abot 4 close friends and each chapter is told by a different character. You actually get wrapped up in each life. The character's lives are believable and so is the storyline. A great story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I could hardly put it down. Any woman with at least one great girlfriend will laugh, cry and relate to every aspect of this book. The author did an excellent job of capturing that perfect yet unexplainable relationship we have with our girlfriends they make us laugh harder than anyone we know, let us have a good cry when needed, and keep us level headed with an honesty only they cuold get away with, even when we are angry with them their friendships would not be traded for anything! I buying this book for my best friends!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
For the most part, I have given up reading fiction, because so much of it is either unbearably predictable or poorly written. However, I was looking for something fun to read while on vacation and came across The Saving Graces. Although it took a while for me to relate to the characters once I did I was unable to put the book down. I believe that we can all relate, on some level, to at least one of these women. I also believe that we can all learn at least one lesson from them. Ms. Gaffney writes as if she's speaking to you and keeps things interesting by telling the story from each characters unique perspective. Definitely worth reading.
Anonymous 7 months ago
This was a very thoughtful and well written book . I would have been nice to have friends that stick around to grow old with and be your backbone when you needed it.
sakismom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent story of 4 women and their various trials. Well-written, moving, kept my attention thoroughly once I got into it. Recommended it to many people.
CatieN on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a book about the friendship between four women who form a women's group together, but it is very predictable with no real surprises.
RachelPenso on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Four women who are close friends name themselves "The Saving Graces." This book is the story of the struggles they go through and the support they give each other. It is the story of their friendship.
indygo88 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this for book club & enjoyed it more than I'd actually expected, thinking it would be more along the lines of chick lit, but I was pleasantly surprised to find more of a serious tone. It also facilitated fairly good discussion, so that was also a plus. I thought the character of Isabel was especially inspiring & enjoyed quite a few of her character's quotes. I could definitely picture a movie being made from this one.
vanessan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
very good book. I didn't like the ending though.
lisacox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really thought that "Beaches" was the best girlfriend book ever written; however, now I've read this book and decided that "Beaches" is a close 2nd.
edawmik22 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Amazing story of real friendship between 4 women. It's funny and heartwarming. Makes me appreciate my own group of 'Saving Graces'.
Stefuntime More than 1 year ago
WOW!!!! I most say this is one of my favorite books. I just finished it a few days ago and it is purely outstanding. The writting is so well developed for each character and I relate to each one in my own little way. My mother recommend this book and i am so thankful for that! LOVE THIS BOOK.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can't say I disliked this book, just found it boring. I thought the beginning chapters were introducing each character and giving a little bit of background for the story. I like to read a story all put together, not jusr chapters on characters. Got bored and quit reading at about page 83.
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