My Aunty G, who is always reading something interesting, recently recommended that I read All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I dutifully trotted off to my library only to find the book was already out, so instead borrowed About Grace, Anthony Doerr’s first novel.
About Grace follows the life of David Winkler, a hydrologist with a particular love of snow flakes. I found this character’s love of snow incredibly interesting and exotic. Living in Australia, I’ve rarely seen snow, and had no idea that each snowflake is different. I spent ages Googling actual photos of individual snow flakes while reading this story. In real life, I love sunshine and the beach, but from the safety of my computer screen, have developed an appreciation for snow flakes and weather at the other end of the scale to Melbourne’s more temperate climate.
Anyway, back to the story. As a very young child, David dreams about a man who is hit by a bus while he and his mother watch in horror, only for this event to happen later in real-life. For the rest of David’s life he suffers from repetitive dreams about harrowing events which later come true.
As a lonely man in his early thirties, living in Anchorage (Alaska) during the 1970’s, David dreamed about meeting the love of his life, Sandy. The actual event unfolded exactly as David had dreamed it would, although when they met Sandy was married to another man. David persevered, believing that his and Sandy’s love was inevitable and eventually she succumbed, although I never felt sure of whether Sandy truly loved David or if she wanted to escape her real life.
Sandy eventually fell pregnant, then she and David ran away together to Ohio. They married bigamously before their daughter, Grace, was born.
David was as happy as a cricket until he started to dream of a flood, where he tried to save baby Grace and failed. When heavy rain began to fall and David believed that his dream was about to come true, he panicked, and not knowing if Sandy and Grace survived the flood, ran away to live on a Caribbean island.
Twenty years later, David returned to the USA hoping to find Sandy and Grace still alive.
Perhaps not surprisingly since David is a hydrologist, there are a great many passages about snow flakes and descriptions of water in its many forms, running through the entire story. The story moves quite slowly at times, but it is worth reading carefully to enjoy the beautiful descriptions. The characters can be irritating, in that their actions very often seem ridiculous and implausible, but I fell for them and the story just the same.
It is always a pleasure to find a good new-to-you author, and to read their stories in the right order. I’m glad I started with About Grace, and am looking forward to reading All the Light We Cannot See. I’ll be recommending About Grace to Aunty G too.