Rue Shaw has everything--a much loved child, a solid marriage, and a job she loves. Saying Grace takes place in Rue's mid-life, when her daughter is leaving home, her parents are failing, her husband is restless and the school she has built is being buffeted by changes in society that affect us all. Funny, rich in detail and finally stunning, this novel presents a portrait of a tight-knit community in jeopardy, and of a charming woman whose most human failing is that she wants things to stay the same.
Saying Grace is about the fragility of human happiness and the strength of convictions, about keeping faith as a couple whether it keeps one safe or not. Beth Gutcheon has a gift for creating a world in microcosm and capturing the grace in the rhythms of everyday life.
In her mid-40s, Rue Shaw, the head of a country day school in a small California town, has much to be thankful for: satisfying and meaningful work; a warm and loving marriage; a talented 19-year-old daughter who has never caused her a moment's worry. Yet in Gutcheon's elegiac fourth novel (after Domestic Pleasures), even a life as well composed and stable as this is vulnerable to unexpected changes. Rue is depicted as a warm, wise woman able to navigate school politics and to accept bravely the changes for her family when her daughter leaves home to attend Julliard. But when an unthinkable disaster occurs, even Rue cannot cope. After an absorbing if slow-paced setup, Gutcheon errs in focusing the denouement too closely on Rue, abandoning the points of view of crucial minor characters (such as the secretary who plays an important role in Rue's marriage) who added dimension to the first half of the story. By relying too heavily on the perspective of a character who responds to heartbreak primarily with dignified composure, this quiet novel fails to deliver sufficient emotional impact.