SUFFICIENT GRACE by Darnell Arnoult

4 LH blue.jpg   I haven’t posted what I’m reading in a while. I just finished half LH blue.jpgthis book, a first novel, by Darnell Arnoult (female). Marvelous! I’m not sure it would appeal to all my readers as it’s . . . well, more literary than commercial. Big on beautiful writing, small on action. Big on Message, too. In lesser hands than Arnoult’s, it might have been preachy, but because the wisest character is an elderly African American woman, the message is delivered in credible pieces by someone who has Been There and Done That. Despite the literary label, the book is engaging and accessible.
The story is about a woman who develops schizoprenia in middle age and leaves home, finding her way to the farm of the black woman she knew as a child. The two families, black and white, come together as they struggle to make sense of Gracie’s illness. Yet it’s not a story about race–I loved that the racial differences were presented merely a matter of fact. It’s more a story about love, tolerance and understanding. What makes it my favorite sort of story is that it’s about good people trying to do right.
Point of view jumps all over the place and that bothered me a bit at first, but it’s so skillfully done that I quickly forgot about the fact that I was in one person’s head one sentence and in someone else’s the next. It’s a “southern book” with all the atmosphere (and allusions to great food!) that give a book that distinction. I hope Darnell has many more books in her. Four and a half lighthouses.


  1. Margo on November 30, 2006 at 12:38 pm

    I’m really glad to hear this is a great book…several months ago I bought it never hearing of the author before but loving the cover painting…got home, opened it up and saw it was in present tense (ugh!)…set it on my stack of ‘to read’ books and haven’t picked it up since…I’ve only read book in present tense and it discouraged me from ever reading a book that way again…but……..I’ll take your word for it Diane and give it a chance (as soon as I finish WATCHERS…almost half way now…Laura finished reading it 2 nites ago and won’t give me any clues…I told her, nothing bad better happen to EINSTEIN!!)!!

  2. Diane Chamberlain on December 1, 2006 at 10:59 pm

    i want to know if laura cried at all when she read WATCHERS. i had a 30 minute sob at one point.
    how cool that you already have darnell’s book. i think you’ll enjoy it. the colors on the cover are wonderful.

  3. Margo on December 4, 2006 at 8:34 am

    I asked Laura if she cried and she said ‘I’M NOT TELLING YOU ANYTHING!…Diane, plz tell me that Einstein’s going to be ‘ok’!…your comment about crying for 30 minutes really makes me wonder…I’m halfway into the book and love it but still have 2 pet portrait paintings to get done before X-mas and didn’t get a chance to read all weekend )-: I’ve never skipped to the end of a book before but am very tempted just to make sure that beautiful Golden is alright……..

  4. Diane Chamberlain on December 4, 2006 at 2:26 pm

    he will be better than all right.
    a normal person might not have the same reaction i did. 🙂 you may even be past the part where i had my meltdown.

  5. Margo on December 4, 2006 at 3:03 pm

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TELLING ME (-:…at least I can relax a little while reading it…Laura looked at where I’m at and told me I have abt 75 pgs to where you had your meltdown…Diane, if we are anything alike (and I think we are) I’m probably going to have the same emotions you had…at least I can approach it with the fact that Einstein’s going to be more than ‘ok’…this is an exceptional Dean Koontz novel and and I want to thank you again for recommending it…

  6. jo on December 19, 2006 at 10:03 pm

    I loved Darnell Arnoult’s book. Her characters are so familiar, so Southern. She is a poet and a storyteller. Check out her poetry book, too, called What Travels with Us. Beautiful.

  7. Diane Chamberlain on December 19, 2006 at 10:27 pm

    Thanks for that recommendation, Jo. I read SUFFICIENT GRACE sandwiched between two other Southern novels. All three had loving African American characters who took care of white people. What set Darnell’s book apart for me was that her AA characters were so richly developed. They had LIVES of their own and existed apart from their relationship to the white characters. Hard for a white writer to pull off, and beautifully done by Darnell.

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