Books reviewed prior on this site prior to March 2019 were provided to me, at no charge, by the publisher, or by the author, in exchange for an honest review. I have received no further compensation for these reviews. Reviews beginning March 2019 come from a variety of sources: advanced copies, library loans, and my own purchases. All reviews are my honest opinions.

January 7, 2016

The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee {Talya Tate Boerner}

The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee {Talya Tate Boerner}
Ten-year-old Gracie Lee knows a few things. She knows which trees are best for climbing. She knows how to walk through the hallway without making a sound on the hardwood floor. She knows if Daddy's crop gets one more drop of rain, the whole family will pay the price. There are plenty of things Gracie doesn't know. These things keep her awake at night. Gracie longs for something bigger and grander and truer, and feels certain there is more to life beyond school and dull church sermons. She worries about the soldiers in Vietnam and wonders what it must be like to have been born Lisa Marie Presley from Tennessee instead of Gracie Lee Abbott from Arkansas. Mostly, she wishes her Daddy wasn't so mean. Gracie's unchecked imagination leads to adventure, and adventure leads to trouble. She confides in unexpected characters and seeks solace in a mysterious gray house beyond the cotton field. When Gracie faces a difficult family situation, she must make a life-altering decision, one that will test the very essence of her character.

My Thoughts:
I love reading anything set in my home state of Arkansas, and this book was especially wonderful.

In Boerner's debut novel we get to travel to the Delta region of the state in the mid-1970s. The delta region is full of farm land and residents make their living from cotton, beans, and whatever crops they can grow. It is fascinating for me to imagine that type of life, and very exciting to imagine it in the 70s.

This book is told from the perspective of Gracie Lee, a ten-year-old daughter of a farmer. Gracie Lee has a wild imagination and seems to be wise beyond her years. She and her little sister live their lives carefree and mostly happy. Mom is the typical 70s homemaker, and Dad spends the daylight hours out on the farm. Mom takes the girls to church each Sunday, and early in this story Gracie Lee finds herself at the front of the church with Pastor Brown. Baptism follows although Gracie Lee claims she never intended to be saved.

One of my favorite parts of this book was each Sunday when Gracie Lee would go to the front of the church and have a conversation with Pastor Brown. It is during these conversations that Gracie Lee is fairly honest with her home life - which isn't always rainbows and ponies. Gracie Lee's daddy is a harsh man and I feel like a lot of Gracie's imagination is her escape to a happier home.

This book spans one year of Gracie Lee's life and the ordinary days that fill the life of a ten year old. The characters were so completely real and I felt that by the end of the book I could vividly picture many of them in my mind. I won't give away any spoilers, but I can say that this story has one character that I truly wanted to die. I've never felt that way about a character before, but my heart went out to the people hurt by this character and I just wanted them gone.

In the end Gracie Lee had to make a decision. A decision that would be impossible for an adult to make, much less an 11 year old girl. But we see her willingness to act in a way that both benefits her family and fulfills the wishes of the one person who has hurt her the most. In that moment I felt that Gracie Lee grew up, and completely found her salvation.

This book has a bittersweet ending, but I thought it was perfect for the story that was told. I felt a sense of freedom on behalf of the characters when it was over, and I felt I could close the pages knowing that everyone was going to be okay.

I most definitely suggest adding this one to your reading list for 2016. You are going to enjoy it for sure.

As the daughter of an Arkansas farmer, Talya grew up playing in the cotton fields of Mississippi County while perfecting the art of making mudpies. After high school, she moved to Texas for college. Talya graduated from Baylor University with an economics degree primarily because her Daddy said, “If I’m paying for college, you’ll get a business degree.” So that’s what she did.

For nearly thirty years, Talya lived in Dallas, built a successful banking career, married, raised two incredible children and enjoyed life—all the while planning to someday return to Arkansas.
In 2011, after an “aha” moment, she left banking to pursue her dream of writing. Now she lives in Fayetteville with her husband and splits time between Northwest Arkansas and her family’s farm in Mississippi County.