Thursday, June 6, 2013

SUFFICIENT GRACE by Darnell Arnoult

Gracie Hollaman follows the instructions of voices in her head telling her to paint Jesus on three walls of her house, then leaves her wedding ring in the middle of her bed, gets in her car and drives away, leaving behind her husband and daughter to wonder what has become of her. After Gracie crashes her car in a small Southern town, she is taken in by Mama Toot, an elderly black woman, and her widowed daughter-in-law who accept her taciturn behavior and need to paint Jesus on rusty automobile parts. Gracie’s husband Ed, convinced she has left him, slowly begins to rebuild his life, unveiling a love for cooking which opens doors for him to a different kind of life. When Mama Toot discovers who Gracie’s family is, Gracie refuses to return to them and claims the voices in her head tell her her circle is closing and she needs to be the ex-wife. Although Gracie is placed under psychiatric care, she insists on listening to the voices while exhibiting an artistic talent that is being professionally noticed. Like ripples from a pebble thrown into a pool of water, Gracie’s impact on those around her is profound as each finds their own circle closing and another world opening to them. Arnoult joins the likes of William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and Harper Lee in penning a poignant story of family dynamics, faith, heartache, love and salvation revolving around a woman suffering from schizophrenia. Arnoult’s beautifully written poetic prose invites re-reading and savoring of certain passages. She slowly peels away personas of her characters, revealing depths they are not initially aware of, while taking her reader on a journey of love and forgiveness, faith and healing.

RELATIVELY RISKY by Pauline Baird Jones

When artist/children’s book author Nell Whitby slams her bike into the perpetrator trying to steal New Orleans Detective Alex Baker’s truck, she sets off a chain of events that leads to danger for both of them. Nell is a misplaced librarian who moved from Wyoming to New Orleans after her parents’ death and works for her best friend’s catering company while trying to get her writing career off the ground. Unaware she is related to two families of a mafia trifecta active in New Orleans for years, Nell is the last person to speak to her mobster grandfather before he is killed. Her life as she knows it comes crashing down around her when she learns this and that her parents were the offspring of two of the mafia families. Alex, trying his best to protect a woman he likes more than he wants to, begins to wonder what his father, a retired cop, and his former partner are hiding from him. As Alex and Nell dodge bullets and thugs trying to kidnap Nell, the chemistry between them jumps into high gear and it’s all Alex can do to keep himself and Nell alive. This author’s writing style is unique: a strong dose of noir balanced with humor and witty dialogue. The plot moves at a fast pace as does the chemistry between Alex and Nell. The characters are well-developed and likeable, the relationship between Alex and his 12 siblings fun, and the New Orleans ambiance conveyed so realistically the reader will feel as if they have been plopped down right in the middle of the Big Easy.