Holy ol’ Jesus, Amazing Grace is awful. So awful that if it hadn’t been chosen for book club, I would have abandoned it right around the time that Amazing Grace Willingdon, 60, flies off to New York City from her trailer in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, to help her estranged millionaire son, Jonathan, rescue her teenage granddaughter, Melissa, from making bad decisions. You know, the kind that you make because you are sixteen.
We are to understand that Grace is a firecracker because she doesn’t suffer fools easily, the church women give her indigestion and she yells “asshole” at drivers who speed past her. It’s not her fault that she’s curmudgeonly; Grace has had a hard life including a duel with cancer (which she won), a sham marriage and a childhood as a member of a religious cult where she and her sister (Ave Maria – not a joke) and their mother, Trixie, were repeatedly raped by the cult leader. I wish I could say that these are the only difficulties that Grace endures, but amazingly (see what I did there) they are not.
That’s at least part of the problem with Amazing Grace. When I tried to explain the story to my son, Connor, I found that I could not adequately convey the number of ridiculous things that happened to this character or the number of times she was saved by her inheritance or her son’s private jet or just old-fashioned serendipity. But the bigger problem in Nova Scotian writer Lesley Crewe’s book is the writing itself. It’s just…bad.
I point my finger in his face. “You are going straight to hell, Ed Wheeler. You have the devil inside you and we all know what happens to evil people. They burn forever. The very thought of it makes me giddy. You tried to destroy me, but you didn’t. You tried to possess me but you couldn’t. I am the powerful one now. The tables have turned, you creep. You have no one. You are a big nobody. You will never cross my mind again, because I win, you bastard. I win.
I live in New Brunswick – right next door to Nova Scotia – so this landscape and these people should at least be familiar to me. On top of that, I am just a few years shy of Grace’s age; she’s my contemporary. But she’s not even remotely believable to me. I have never once overslept and yelled “Holy macaroni.” I can’t imagine being a grandmother and chasing my granddaughter down the hall, grabbing her from behind and then hauling her “squirming and yelling” back to the kitchen to apologize for a snotty comment because words are “the most powerful force of all.” It’s all so melodramatic and over-the-top.
Ultimately, this is a book about family – our biological family and the family we choose. But the book is so overstuffed and the writing so pedestrian that I just couldn’t have cared any less for these people.