Melissa, Lauren and I (Lisa) all read Jackina Stark’s novel Tender Grace, offering you, the faithful 5 Minutes for Books readers, three perspectives on one book! So we don’t also offer three plot summaries, here is the publisher’s description from the back cover:
I’ve quit reading—even bestsellers, even the newspaper, even my Bible.
I’ve also quit listening to music.
This lack of appreciation for things I once loved is beginning to define me. More mornings than I can count, I say to myself before I open my eyes, “I don’t want to do this.” In the days shortly following Tom’s death, that made sense, but what does it mean now? That I’m in trouble?
One of the best qualities of the former me was thankfulness. As I was trying to sleep last night, needing Tom to be curled up behind me, his left arm slung across me, I realized to my horror that I couldn’t remember the last time I was truly thankful.
I think of a line from an old hymn: “Awake, my soul, and sing.”
I miss Tom.
I also miss me.
Determined to find healing, Audrey Eaton embarks on a trip to the one place she and her husband always intended to visit but never did. When things don’t go as planned, will she embrace the unexpected graces that guide her journey?
For my take on the story, I (Lisa) thought it began rather slowly, yet upon venturing further into the book I began to appreciate the slow start as it reflects Audrey’s lethargy and weariness due to her unrelenting grief over her husband’s death. The novel is written in a journal format, a quite effective tool for chronicling both Audrey’s cross country journey as well as her emotional and spiritual journey to life beyond loss. On the surface, the plot itself appears somewhat conventional, even overused. A grief stricken woman embarks on a road trip and guess what? finds healing in the end. Yet there is nothing cliche here. Stark writes a beautiful, tender, grace-filled story that reminds us that beauty can indeed come from ashes. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Can I just ditto what Lisa said so eloquently? I enjoyed the journal format, it was different and helped the story move along faster. As Lisa said, it did start a little slowly, but I soon found myself caught up in Audrey’s story, tried to picture myself in her shoes. How does a woman whose days are reduced to watching Law and Order reruns find the wherewithal to embark on trip across the country, alone? Grief? Hope? As Audrey’s journey unfolded, I was most drawn to her study of the Gospel of John. Stark does an excellent job of bringing the reader along in the study, so that we are able to see Audrey grow and change, and that we may be changed ourselves. Like Lisa, I enjoyed the story a great deal, and can highly recommend Tender Grace.
I enjoyed this book as well. I thought the journal format enhanced the story and poignantly reminded me of how life changes over time. Although I have never experienced the death of a spouse, Jackina Stark’s portrayal of grief and loss seemed very real to me. I felt sadness for Audrey and couldn’t help but wonder how I would respond in similar circumstances. As Lisa mentioned, Audrey finds healing, but I appreciated that Mrs. Stark did not force the character into a prepackaged ending. I finished the story feeling a sense of peace, freedom, and possibility. Like Melissa, I also liked the way the Gospel of John was woven into the novel. God’s word is a powerful tool in all circumstances of life, and Mrs. Stark added the scriptures to this story in a very real and applicable way. I encourage you to read Tender Grace.
Wife and mother, Bible teacher and blogger, Lisa loves Jesus, coffee, dark chocolate and, of course, books. Read more of her reflections at Lisa writes….
Melissa has been captivated by books for as long as she can remember. She resides in Virginia at at Breath of Life.
Lauren is a wife, a mother of two, and an avid reader. She blogs at Baseballs and Bows.