New York Times bestselling author Barbara Delinsky delivers a touching and heartfelt story in which love and devotion are put to the ultimate test, first published in 1996.
Grace Dorian is The Confidante, America's favorite advice columnist. Her wisdom has helped to guide two generations—including her daughter, Francine, and granddaughter, Sophie, who manage the vast Dorian empire and oversee the thousand details of Grace's world.
But a national treasure is losing her brilliance. Her once razor-sharp mind is showing strain; her columns have begun to wander. Concerned about Grace's health and future, Francine must step in to fill her legendary mother's shoes and somehow also live her own life, which now suddenly includes her confusing feelings for Grace's handsome doctor and new worries about tempestuous Sophie, who needs more guidance than Grace's public.
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About the Author
Barbara Delinsky is the author of more than twenty-two New York Times bestselling novels. Her books have been published in thirty languages, with over thirty-five million copies in print worldwide. A lifelong New Englander, Delinsky currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband. She is a passionate photographer, an avid tennis player, a drop-all-when-they-call mom and Grammi, and a confidante to friends of all stripes.
Date of Birth:August 9, 1945
Place of Birth:Boston, Massachusetts
Education:B.A. in Psychology, Tufts University, 1967; M.A. in Sociology, Boston College, 1969
Read an Excerpt
"Character is a commodity best set off by tasteful clothes, refined speech, and dignified carriage. Any good merchandiser knows that the wrapping is a preview of the gift inside." --Grace Dorian, from an interview with Barbara Walters
Grace Dorian stared in bewilderment at the papers on her desk. She had no idea how they had gotten there, had no idea what they were for.
She riffled the stack, searching for hints. Not papers. Letters. Some were handwritten, some typed, some on white letterhead, colored stationery, torn notebook paper.
"Dear Grace . . . "
"Dear Grace . . . "
"Dear Grace . . . "
Think, she cried, fighting panic. People were writing her letters, lots of people, judging from the courier pack that stood open on the chair. It brimmed with more of what she had on her desk. They were there for a reason.
She put a hand to her chest and willed herself to stay calm. The heel of her hand pressed her thudding heart. Her fingertips touched beads.
Rosary beads? No. Not rosary beads. Pearls, Grace. Pearls.
Frightened eyes cast about for the familiar, lighting on the mahogany credenza, the velvet drapes, the brocade settee, the burnished brass lamps. The lamps were off now. It was morning. Sun spilled across the Aubusson.
Shakily she fitted her reading glasses to her nose, praying that if she studied the letters long enough, hard enough, something would click. She noted return addresses--Morgan Hill, California, Burley, Alabama, Little River, South Carolina, Parma, Ohio. People were writing her from across the country. And she was in . . . here was . . . she lived in .. . Connecticut. There, over the rim of her glasses, scripted elegantly on an antique map on the wall. Setting the glasses aside, she crossed to the map, touched the gilded frame, took comfort in its solidness and, yes, its familiarity.
She lived in western Connecticut, on the sprawling estate left her by John. The original house had been in his family for nearly as many generations as the old sawmill had. The sawmill was silent now, craggy with vines and as bent as John in his final years, but what time had taken from the mill, it had given to the house. Initially a single stone homestead facing west, it had grown a north wing, then a south wing. A garage had sprouted and multiplied. The back of the house had swollen to include a suite of offices, the largest of which she stood in now, and the solarium. Beyond the solarium was the patio she adored, flagstoned and April-bare, but promising. It opened to a rolling lawn beyond which, framed by firs, lay the Housatonic. In late summer it meandered along the eastern edge of her property. This time of year it rushed. She could hear it even now, through the mullioned panes.
These things were familiar. And the other? She glanced anxiously at the door before reaching again for her glasses.
"Dear Grace, I've been reading your column for almost twenty years, but this is the first time I've written. My daughter is getting married next fall, but my ex-husband says that if she wants him to give her away, the children from his second marriage have to be in the wedding party. There are five of them. They are all under ten and unruly, and they've been awful to my daughter . . . "
"Dear Grace, You have to settle an argument between my boyfriend and me. He says that the first guy a girl sleeps with shapes her insides to him, so it's never as good with another guy . . . "
"Dear Grace, Some of the letters you print are too far-fetched to be real . . . "
"Dear Grace, Thanks for the advice you gave that poor woman whose gifts to her grandchildren are never acknowledged. She has a right to a thank-you, family or no. I clipped your column and posted it where my children could see . . . "
Grace held the last letter in her hand for another minute, trembling with relief now, before gently setting it down.
Grace Dorian. The Confidante. Of course.
If she needed proof, there were plaques on the far wall marking addresses she had given to professional organizations and, beneath those, scrapbooks filled with articles praising her nationally syndicated column. The courier pack on the chair was the latest shipment of readers' mail from New York. By the week's end she would have read most, selected a cross section, and written five columns.
But she would. She had to.
What did Davis Marcoux know? By his own admission, he had simply ruled out a few alternatives. But he was wrong. Her spells were momentary lapses, tiny strokes perhaps, causing no permanent damage. She knew what the letters were now. She knew what her job was. She was in control.
The phone buzzed. She jumped, then stared at the instrument for a confused minute before snatching up the receiver. "Yes?" she said to a dial tone. Her finger hovered unsurely over a panel of buttons. She punched one and nothing happened, then another and got a busy signal. She was debating which to push next when the buzzing stopped. She was standing with the receiver in her hand and an irate look on her face when the door swung open.
"I can't use this phone, Francine!" she snapped. "It's too confusing. I've had trouble with it since the day they put it in. What was so awful about the old phones?"
Francine bore her a cup of tea and a smile. "The old phones could only carry two lines, and we need five." Setting the tea on the desk, she gave Grace a squeeze. "Morning, Mom. Bad night?"
Grace's irritation eased. Francine would never be a dynamo, but she was constant--a devoted daughter, a loyal friend, an able assistant. In these things, Grace was blessed, as she was blessed in so much else. Yes, indeed, Davis Marcoux was wrong. She hadn't come this far only to be stopped short. Momentary lapses, that was all, and there didn't have to be a physical cause. All things considered, she had earned the right to a spell now and again.
"I don't sleep the way I used to," she told Francine. "Two hours here, two hours there. They say old people don't need as much sleep. I need it. I just can't get it."
"Sixty-one is not old," Francine said.
Grace welcomed the reassurance. "My mind isn't what it was."
Francine denied this, too. "Your mind is perfect, which is why you're in such demand. That's what I was buzzing you about. Annie Diehl just called to ask if you'd be interested in doing a talk show in Houston."
Annie Diehl was the publicist the newspaper paid to coordinate Grace's appearances. Grace remembered that very well. She also remembered the panic she had experienced the last time she'd been on a plane. Mid flight she had drawn a total blank about where she was headed and why. The disorientation hadn't lasted long and was no doubt caused by the altitude, but Grace wasn't asking for trouble if she didn't absolutely, positively, have to.
"I've already done a dozen talk shows in Houston."
"Four, and none for several years."
"Is my Houston readership slipping?"
"Then I'd rather not fly there. I have too much to do here." She glanced at the desk. "On top of all this, there's my book. I'm already late starting it, and Lord knows when I can, what with six speaking engagements between now and June." She used to be able to whip up a week's columns in two days, leaving three days for what she called The Confidante's fringe. Things took her longer to do now. "Why did we accept all those commencement invitations?"
Francine grinned. "Because you love getting honorary degrees."
"Well, wouldn't you, if you didn't have one of your own?" Grace returned without remorse. "It's sickening to be constantly sitting on panels with people who have more letters after their names than in them. Besides, college seniors, even high school seniors, are such vulnerable creatures." Picturing her granddaughter, she corrected herself. "Except for Sophie. Sophie isn't vulnerable. She is one bold child."
"No child. She's twenty-three."
"And personally responsible for these phones and everything else around here that I can't understand." Grace shot a despairing glance at the computer on a sidearm of her desk. She pined for her old Olivetti.
"Yes, these are an improvement," Francine said just as Grace was about to ask it. "They simplify my work. They simplify Sophie's work. And they make an important statement about The Confidante."
"That she's computerized?" Grace asked in dismay. The Confidante was gentle and personable. She was informative but compassionate, and entirely human. She was definitely not a machine.
"That she's au courant. Really, Mom. When someone writes asking about condom use, you give a different answer today than you did when pregnancy was the only issue. Your advice changes with the times. Shouldn't your technology?" Shades of Grace. Copyright © by Barbara Delinsky. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Good book that deals with a difficult subject. Enjoyed it thoroughly!
This was a very well written story about how an alziemer's patient, their family and acquaintances are impacted by the disease.