About Grace

abougraceAbout Grace
by Anthony Doerr
2004 / 402 pages (Kindle)
rating: 5 (out of 10)  /21st c. fiction

This book tries to be a lot of things and I don’t think it succeeds at any.  From the beginning there are interesting references to the patterns of science, especially snowflakes,  as a possible theme but that idea never quite takes off –  it’s never really connected to the plot.   I suppose the main idea is the question of whether or not we choose our own lives or if they predestined in some patterned way.   Because dreams, according to this novel, can give us glimpses into the future – perhaps because of the patterns?   (That’s never clear.)

David Winkler, a hydrologist living in Anchorage,  Alaska,  loves the snowflakes and water in its many forms and cycles.  He loves his wife Sandie and their daughter Grace.  But David has a problem –  his dreams can foretell the immediate future and sometimes more.  His dreams brought Sandie to him but since childhood he has had these prediction type dreams.   As he dreams he sometimes sleepwalks and tries to save people who are really asleep in their beds.  This gets him in lots of trouble.

The worst was when he dreamed that a flood would hit and that his daughter would be killed while he was trying to save her.  His wife found him in their car clinging to the child and actually putting her in danger by his own sleeping actions.  That’s when he left home,  before the flood came.  He left Alaska and went into exile in St. Vincent.

The book starts as David is flying back to Alaska after many years of exile in the Caribbean.  He’s hunting for his daughter who would now be grown.

The chronology gets very messy as the reader is dragged through dream scenes,  memories,  backstory (his time in “exile”) and future imaginings as well as the frame story – the one which starts on the flight home where David is 59 years old.   The characters,  including David,  are flattened out by all of David’s dreaming and remembering.

A more favorable review can be found at the NY Times: 

The book Snow Crystals by W.A. Bentley was mentioned several times –  First it was here – page 45 (Kindle):

“His mother the Ice Queen. The only thing he still had of hers was a book: Snow Crystals, by W. A. Bentley. Inside were thousands of carefully prepared micrographs of snowflakes, each image reproduced in a two-inch square, the crystals white against a field of black, arrayed in a grid, four-by-three, twelve per page. Bound in cloth, it was a 1931 first edition her grandfather had bought at a rummage sale.”

It’s also mentioned on pages 46, 57, 275, 290 and 384.

Wilson Bentley:

A YouTube video:

The Jericho Historical Society has a collection;
http://www.snowflakebentley.com/jhstourc.htm   (click on something to see it close up)

This is his book:


2 Responses to About Grace

  1. Alex says:

    It sounds as though this might be a book thatvis trying to be too clever for its own good, Becky. Sometimes it is better to remember that simple is the best answer unless you are very good at signalling the way in which your novel’s elements integrate with each other.


  2. Exactly. The nature writing was lovely but that can carry a whole novel only so far.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s