Grace by Elizabeth Scott
Dutton, 208 pages
A fable of a terrifying near future by critically acclaimed author Elizabeth Scott.
Grace was raised to be an Angel, a herald of death by suicide bomb. But she refuses to die for the cause, and now Grace is on the run, daring to dream of freedom. In search of a border she may never reach, she travels among malevolent soldiers on a decrepit train crawling through the desert. Accompanied by the mysterious Kerr, Grace struggles to be invisible, but the fear of discovery looms large as she recalls the history and events that delivered her uncertain fate.
Told in spare, powerful prose, this tale of a dystopian near future will haunt readers long after they’ve reached the final page.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with Grace when I got it. Okay, so I posted a WoW post about this because I was curious, even if I’m not (yet) a fan of Elizabeth Scott. So far, out of all Scott’s work, the only book I liked was Stealing Heaven, and I am not so sure if I want to read her other books after that. But I made an exception for this because it is dystopian, and I have been liking that sub-genre a lot lately.
Grace was raised as an Angel, a suicide bomber trained by the People to fight against Keran Berj’s oppression. She was brought to the People by her dad after her mother died, and she knew that she will be herald of death, a girl chosen by the Saints to fight for freedom against Keran Berj’s cruelty against the land. She grew up knowing what an honor it would be to die for the cause, but knowing is not the same as believing. On the day that she was supposed to kill the Minister of Culture, Grace decides not to die and instead escapes. She is joined by a mysterious, seemingly compassionate man named Kerr as they rode the train to a border that they were not sure if they could reach.
The story is simple, both in prose and plot. It’s confusing at first, because the story wasn’t told in a linear manner, but in flashbacks and anecdotes of Grace’s past and the history that she knew of about their land and Keran Berj’s rule. After some time, though, as I got used to the narration, I finally got the hang of it and it was easier from there. The chapters were short, sparse and almost poetic and but it does not lack the emotion or action that would pull the readers in Grace’s bleak world. There is very little hope as what little of Grace’s story unfolds, and I felt afraid for her as she rode the train to the border. This is not a book you would want to read for a quick and easy read because it’s not. However, despite all that, Scott manages to weave a little bit of hope in the story, a little spark in the darkness that Grace had lived in almost all her life. Just like Grace, I was hesitant to believe in that hope, but I wanted her to hold on to it because I wanted to believe that there is still something good in the world she lives in.
This is a depressing book. It reminds me a lot of those war movies and books that I avoid, particularly ones about World War II and the Nazis. I never liked watching those movies because it’s scary, and I hate the idea that it could possibly happen again. I know it’s weird coming from someone who likes dystopian fiction, but there is a certain level of separation between reality and the dystopian books I have read. Grace is different, because there is a definite sense of reality in the story, a question that I can’t help but ask as I read this book. That is the most terrifying thing in this novel. This is not fantasy. There’s no magic, no special high technology, nothing. The lack of out-of-this-world elements in this story makes you wonder if this is really happening somewhere else…and if it is, is there anything we can do to stop it?
→ Depressing. Terrifying. Hopeful. Grace is simple but it packs a lot of punch as it paints a part of our world that could be existing right now, and yet, it still manages to give hope.
My copy: hardbound from Fully Booked
Cover image & Blurb: Goodreads