Monday, January 6, 2020

Books: "Grace Is Gone" By Emily Elgar

Grace Is Gone
By Emily Elgar
Harper Paperbacks; paperback, $16.99; available Tuesday, January 7

Emily Elgar is originally from the Cotswolds, she studied at Edinburgh University, and then worked for a nonprofit organization providing support services for sex workers in the United Kingdom. She went on to Faber Academy to complete the novel writing course, and her first novel, If You Knew Her, became an international bestseller.

Grace Is Gone is Elgar's new book, and much like her debut, it is an ingenious puzzler. Inspired by real-life events, this haunting tale dives into rich psychological terrain in a provocative exploration of maternal love, justice, and redemption.

Meg and Grace Nichols have been embraced by the village of Ashford ever since they moved in several years ago. Meg is viewed as a martyr, a tireless caregiver to the welfare of her gravely ill daughter. Grace, who is wheelchair-bound, is a teenager who somehow remains a sunny presence despite her grim prognosis, and she adores her mother. Their extraordinary bond warms the hearts of anyone who is fortunate enough to witness it.

One day, neighbor Cara Dorman comes upon a horrific discovery. Meg has been slaughtered in her bed, and Grace is missing from the home. Suspicion for this unthinkable tragedy quickly turns to Meg's ex-husband, a mentally unstable abuser she always blamed for the death of their young son. He attempted to kidnap his estranged child once before, and now it appears to authorities that he succeeded this time, and then vanished without a trace.

Jon Katrin, a disgraced journalist whose profile of the Nichols family enraged Meg and the villagers, understands that he should stay far away from the case. The fallout from that story nearly destroyed his career and his marriage, but since he is filled with regret for getting things so wrong, he vows to help find Grace.

Cara is guilt-ridden, and she wants to make amends for having failed her vulnerable friend by helping Jon find Grace. Guided by Grace's journal, this unlikely duo sets out to locate the sick teen before it's too late. As their search for answers brings up troubling questions, it leads them deep into a dangerous web of greed, manipulation, lies, and betrayal. 

In their dogged pursuit of the truth, Jon and Cara might uncover the story of a lifetime. That is, if it doesn't kill them first.

Grace is Gone is a full of suspense, with a twisty and nuanced story that unfolds from a kaleidoscopic narrative told from multiple perspectives. As the line between victim and villain is blurred, the whodunit and why have rarely been as chilling.

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