Written by: Charles de Lint
Genre: Modern Fantasy
Pages: 269 (Trade Paperback)
The premise: ganked from BN.com: In a major new novel, Charles de Lint mingles Native American, Hispanic, and Celtic magic to invoke a world where classic hot rods and surf guitar mingle with brujeria and angry ghosts -- and where on nights when the barrier between the worlds is thin, the living and the dead can touch.
Prolific Canadian fantasist de Lint returns to adult fiction with a supernatural love story set in the American Southwest and an odd afterlife. Following her death, auto restorer Altagracia "Grace" Quintero awakens in a timeless realm inhabited by her recently deceased neighbors. Briefly returned to our world during Halloween night, Grace falls in love with John, a young artist, and he returns the feeling even when he discovers her condition. As the obvious pun in the title indicates, this tale of attachments formed and relinquished is also about belief and hope. De Lint doesn't endorse any particular religious system, but he writes passionately about the individual's ability to discover an effective personal magic. The story develops through comforting, warm compassion to reach the inevitable, mostly satisfying solution.
Worth the Cash: Okay, so this book is a tricky beast, so I want to be clear: if you've never, ever, EVER read Charles de Lint before, this isn't the best place to start. It's definitely not his best work (says the reviewer who's read two books by him total, including this one), and if you really want to get a feel for why people love this author so, you need to look elsewhere. My first Charles de Lint title was Someplace to be Flying and I loved it, so I recommend that if you're wanting to try de Lint, you can start there and be fine. I'm fine!
The Mystery of Grace, but any other standards, is a good book. Not great, but good. The problem is that because Charles de Lint wrote it, there's a higher expectation, so a good book by any other standards becomes, OMG-WHAT'S-WRONG by de Lint standards.
My issues came from the fact that everything felt a little washed out, and that may have been intentional given the subject matter, but while I enjoyed all the details and learning everything I could about these characters and their world, I never really connected. The book didn't leave me dying to read more de Lint, whereas Somplace to be Flying did. I never really know Grace as a person, only as what her interests define her as. Which, for the record, is interesting. I also wish the love story had played a stronger role through-out the book. That's one of the reasons this book appealed to me so, was this doomed love story, but once it wraps up, it wraps up, and I wish it'd had more impact. At any rate, de Lint readers may find themselves underwhelmed, but who knows, maybe new readers will be enamored. But if you ask me, there are better places to start with this author, especially if you want to see what the hype is about. Personally, I can't wait to start the Newford series from the "beginning" with all of the short stories, because this felt more like an appetizer to the real deal.
Ah, food for my analogy! The Mystery of Grace is to Someplace to be Flying as a hamburger is to a filet mignon. How's that work? :)
Review style: Much discussion will be had on whether or not this is a smart place to start reading de Lint if you've never read him before. We'll also talk about the story's construction, whether or not it should've been a novel or a collection of short stories, and examine the love story that sort of drives the book. There will be spoilers, so don't click the link below to the full review unless you don't mind being spoiled. Everyone else, feel free. Comments and discussion are most welcome!
REVIEW: Charles de Lint's THE MYSTERY OF GRACE
Book club selections @ calico_reaction. Hop on over! We'd love to have you!
December: Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
January: The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold