I finished reading this book late last night, in fact I stayed up purely just to finish it. After I read the last page I sat there for a bit, not really sure what I thought about it. Most of you probably have heard of Doerr’s fifth novel, All The Light We Cannot See. I read it earlier this year and became entranced with it. It is a beautiful story full of eloquent, vivid language. I saw this book in the bookshop and became interested in reading another of Doerr’s novels, especially as the concept sounded so interesting. After having a peek at other reviews it became clear that it was a polarising book, readers tended to love it or hate it.
The book follows David Winkler, a man who dreams things. Things that come true. A sense of dejavu. He sees himself falling in love with his wife, Sandy. He does, they eventually move from Alaska to Ohio and have a baby girl called Grace. All goes well until David dreams of a flood, of trying to save his daughter but of ultimately failing. Dreaming of killing his daughter David eventually flees, desperate to escape his fate. Flash forward twenty-five years and David is living on an island in the Caribbean still wondering if Grace and his wife are alive. Finally he begins his journey to find out the truth.
Sounds like a great concept doesn’t it? The idea had me hooked and initially I moved through the beginning of the book rather quickly. Although finishing it last night I think I’m sadly in the category of not loving it. Don’t get me wrong, in no way do I hate it. I don’t even think it is a bad book. It just did not quite work for me. The story is fully of Doerr’s eloquent and entrancing prose. The way he writes is a real highlight. The way he can describe the simplest of objects is amazing. I loved the main character’s interest in snowflakes and water throughout the story in particular due to the way Doerr describes it. The concept of the story, as I mentioned is great. I do personally feel that the plot was lost at times in the meandering parts of the story. I think I would have enjoyed the story a lot more if it was a lot shorter and there was al little more urgency, a little more focus on the story at hand, rather than the peripherals. I do understand how others can love this style, it very much represents how life really can be, paths are not direct. Actions take time, even decades. My interest just waned a little through the middle of the book.
The characters were intricate and loveable. David is a beautiful soul struggling with an impossible condition that is difficult to explain to others, let alone have them believe it. I found myself having sympathy for his situation. The most distinctive thought I had about him though was how much he could come across as a stalker. The way he went about things with other characters was passive and patient and it was all I could think of through most of the book. I did enjoy this perspective because I feel it gave the other side of the story, how one perceived to be a stalker can actually have the most pure intentions. I don’t know if Doerr intended this, but this was the strongest reaction I had to the book.
Giving this book a rating is quite hard as in someways I really enjoyed aspects of this novel, while I also don’t feel it is on par with other books I have read and I doubt it will be a book I revisit in the future. With all this in mind, I give About Grace two and a half of Winkler’s snowflakes. It just didn’t quite entrance me enough.