Title: Wherever Grace is Needed
Author: Elizabeth Bass
Release Date: June 1, 2011
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Grace Oliver has always felt like she’s on the outside of her family; after all, when her parents were divorced, Grace’s two brothers got to stay with their father while Grace was forced to move to Austin, Texas with her mother. Now, Grace’s father has had a car accident, and she goes to care for him while he is recuperating. What she doesn’t realize is that her father’s problems are larger than they appear, and when Grace becomes involved with the family next door, she begins to find more reasons to stay in Portland than to return to her life in Austin.
The title of Wherever Grace is Needed is completely apt and works in multiple ways for this book. On one hand, the traditional meaning applies – each of the characters in this novel needs some grace, some charm, some wisdom. But it also works as a pun on the main character’s name – Grace goes where she is needed. When her father needs her, she’s there. When the children next door need her, especially since their own father is mired in grief at the loss of his wife and one of his daughters, Grace is present. It’s that constancy, that loyalty, that resilience that really defines the character of Grace and make her an immensely appealing narrator for this enjoyable book.
And indeed, Grace is the highlight of this book. I loved getting to know her, her compassion and caring. It is telling that she was willing to put her life and relationship on hold in order to help our her father. Yet Grace is not perfect; she is insecure and unsure of herself. Because she left Portland at a young age, but never really fit in with her mother in Austin, she isn’t sure where she belongs. She doesn’t feel like a part of the family she so desperately aches for, and in some ways, she is trying to prove her worth by taking care of her father. It’s wonderful to watch Grace come to a place of understanding and realize that she is loved for who and what she is, not what she does for others.
Though the book revolves around Grace, there are many secondary characters in Wherever Grace is Needed. From Grace’s father to Jordan, the rebellious teenager next door who feels responsible for the death of her mother and sister, Bass crafts each of these characters very intricately. Readers won’t have a problem telling each person apart despite the large cast in this book because Bass took time to develop the personality of every character, major and minor. It makes for a wonderfully immersive read, as the reader feels they are peeking into someone’s life instead of simply reading a novel.
I haven’t said much about the plot of the book, and that’s because, for me, the strength of Wherever Grace is Needed is in its characters, major and minor. The story is entertaining and heartfelt, and may tug on the reader’s emotions more than a little bit. But it’s because the characters are so real that readers become emotionally invested in the story. Between Miss You Most of All and this new novel, Elizabeth Bass has become a women’s fiction writer that I will be watching very closely going forward.