SUFFICIENT GRACE - Amy Espeseth
Winner of the 2009 Victorian Premier's Literary Award, SUFFICIENT GRACE is a difficult book to categorise.
Told from the viewpoint of young Ruth, it's a story about life and survival in a brutal climate, in a brutal, bleak, religious community.
Presented particularly to this reader as a crime novel, I've struggled to get this categorisation to work effectively. Partly I suppose you could call this a psychological thriller, partly there is a small crime element to it, but ultimately it seemed more saga than anything else.
It's beautifully written, poetic almost lyrical in parts, but with a matter-of-factness which is soothing and chilling, all at once. All of which explains why the bleakness of the world that the girls, Ruth and her cousin Naomi inhabit seem even more stark and the existence of secrets and hidden lives perfectly believable. It is, however, talking about a life in which religion is overwhelming and family dynamics are everything - bad-apples and all. Not an area of reading that I'm personally ever drawn to.
It is, however, a book that has at its core, a story about life in a religious, closed, sheltered community. Self-sufficient, this is not a life that's neatly packaged and presented. There is brutal reality - in the way that animals are hunted / slaughtered, in the cover-ups. Not a book that you could call "enjoyable" SUFFICIENT GRACE is a book that many readers will find instructive, moving and very effective.
Ruth and her cousin Naomi live in rural Wisconsin, part of an isolated religious community. The girls’ lives are ruled by the rhythms of nature — the harsh winters, the hunting seasons, the harvesting of crops — and by their families’ beliefs. Beneath the surface of this closed, frozen world, hidden dangers lurk.
Then Ruth learns that Naomi harbours a terrible secret. She searches for solace in the mysteries of the natural world: broken fawns, migrating birds, and the strange fish deep beneath the ice. Can the girls’ prayers for deliverance be answered?
Sufficient Grace is a story of lost innocence and the unfailing bond between two young women. It is at once devastating and beautiful, and ultimately transcendent.