Originally posted at goodreads.com October, 2009
According to one version of the old gospel song Old Time Religion, "it makes me love everybody." Unfortunately, that old time religion has often been less than kind to women. In the hands of a fundamentalist zealot preacher like Luther Harmon in Redeeming Grace, it can be cruel and potentially deadly. Loving everybody is an idea Harmon sets aside.
Luther Harmon was a loving father before his wife and two of his children died. After that, his figurative drug of choice was child abuse backed up by a literal interpretation of scripture that demands a vengeful father and submissive women, children and other chattel.
Even as she does her best to safeguard her younger sister Miriam, Grace loves her father. Grace mourns the disruptive changes in him. She strongly feels the absence of her mother -- her calming role and her more liberal religious views. She tries to fulfill her role as a dutiful, yet questioning daughter, a steadfast peacemaker, and Miriam's primary caretaker. Grace is in many ways grace personified in spite of her inner struggles.
The novel begins in rural Maryland in the summer of 1928 and ends in the spring of 1930. During this time, Smoky Trudeau's impeccable and often lyrical prose carries a haunting story of families within a beautiful natural world assaulted by the daemons of insanity, loss and ill-conceived beliefs. Redeeming Grace is a beautiful and inspiring novel that portrays without rancor the hell of that old time religion en route to the heaven of unfettered love and trust.
Reviewed by Malcolm R. Campbell