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About Grace

by Anthony Doerr

David Winkler can see the future. As a boy he tells his unsurprised mother of portentous dreams (does she "see" things in her dreams too?). When he dreams of meeting Sandy as she drops a magazine on the supermarket floor - and then it happens - he knows his fate is sealed. But it's when he dreams recurrently of his inability to save his drowning baby daughter Grace, that Winkler decides to change the future.

He chooses to abandon his family and takes a plane from his home in Alaska to the Caribbean - as far away, climatically, from the snow and ice that he loves as is imaginable. Here he finds a surrogate family, the wonderful Felix and Soma and their children. It is the daughter of the family, Naaliyah, who Winkler favours (a substitute for Grace?) and then he has another dream. This time it's Naaliyah who is drowning and Winkler decides he can save her. This he does and realises that, as his mother once suggested, his dreams may not be inevitable. So, after 25 years on this island, he decides to go back and try to find Grace and Sandy.

Winkler's journey is a painful one frequently leaving the reader frustrated at his ineptitude and, frankly, eccentric decisions. (At one point he ends up on the run after entering a woman's home uninvited in the hope that she might be Grace). After a tortuous journey across America he arrives back in Alaska and the real search for Grace can begin.

This book shouldn't be read in a hurry. It is long and rich and needs to be savoured. Doerr's descriptions of the natural world - Winkler's obsession with snow; Naaliyah's insectary; the long winter encampment in the Alaskan wilderness - are stunning. But it is his ability to convey Winkler's pain and sadness that lingers. A great bookgroup read.

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