The Mystery of Grace

By Charles de Lint

Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Tor, 2009

Genres: Fantasy, contemporary fantasy, urban fantasy, mythic fiction, paranormal

ISBN: 9780765317568

Intended audience: Adult

Number of pages: 269

Setting: Solona, Arizona (along the San Pedro River and I-10)

Time period: Contemporary

Plot summary: When Grace Quintero’s grandfather died, she started smoking again.  Her abuelo was not only a kind and gracious man; he was also the one who helped Grace discover her calling – restoring classic Ford cars.  After his death, Grace had such a hard time that she succumbed to her old smoking habit.  They say that smoking can kill a person; in this case it’s true.  If she hadn’t needed that pack of smokes, she wouldn’t have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.  To make matters worse, after her death Grace is stuck in her neighborhood with a few other people who had the misfortune of dying in the vicinity.  There’s no escape from this limbo except twice a year when the dead can return to the land of the living.  Complicating her existence even more, on her first trip back Grace falls in love.

Appeal factors:

Pacing: Steady pace – not incredibly fast, but definitely a page turner.

Characterization: Most of the story is told in first person through Grace’s perspective, but a significant portion is also told in third person from John’s perspective.  Many diverse characters are found in this story.

Frame: Death, love, and mystery are all brought up in the short introductory chapter and establish the frames for this book.

Story line: A beautiful story about living a full, rich life – even after death.

Subject headings:

From PCPL:

Magic — Fiction

Fantasy fiction

Similar authors: Neil Gaiman, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Emma Bull, Terri Windling, Robin McKinley

Personal notes: Another beautiful tale by one of my all time favorite authors.  It’s been awhile since I’ve read a novel by him.  This was a great one.

This tale did bring up a couple of questions for me as I was reading it – mostly relating to the dead crossing over.  If there is a new moon on Halloween or May Eve, can the dead still cross over?  (The crossing takes place at moonrise).  What if one drowns in the ocean?  Do those souls never get to go back if they can’t get to the exact spot where they drowned?  I’m also wondering why on the inside flap of the book it states that this is his first book set in the Southwest.  Medicine Road takes place between Tucson and Sedona.  Hmmm….

One little nitpick – while I respect de Lint’s choice for making up a city for his setting – rather than just setting it in Tucson – I think he should have made up the river it was set on as well.  The plant life along the San Pedro is different than it is around Tucson, especially near I-10, and there are not very many saguaros.  The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum actually considers that area to part of the Chihuahuan Desert.

Other (diversity, themes, websites): Diversity – female auto mechanic, Mexican Americans, Black Americans, Native American, physically challenged, gay male, Wiccan, female tattoo artist, White bruja

Charles de Lint’s website

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