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  • Mandy McHugh

Saving Grace, Debbie Babitt: A Review

Scarlet has put out some amazing titles this year, and 2021 is shaping up to be another fantastic queue. From the cover to the blurb, I was eager to request this one and excited to be approved.

In the tightknit town of Repentance, Arkansas, Mary Grace wrestles her personal demons while trying to maintain law and order. A mother with a troubled past, Mary Grace struggles to find the balance between good and evil, convinced she's damned but striving to do the right thing. When a man from her past resurfaces in Repentance, the line between memory and present-day, she falls headfirst into turmoil. A young girl is missing, just like her best friend who went missing all those years ago, and if history has its way, events will be repeated. And someone else may end up dead. I loved this book. I finished it in one sitting and regret nothing. Mary Grace is a dynamic protagonist with edge and grace. She's not a hero, but you want to root for her, largely because of Babitt's diction and storytelling prowess. MG's voice is nostalgic yet pointed. Her observations about the world are dictated by her own self-reflection, a fact that felt so relatable and authentic in my reading. My favorite parts of this book were the coming-of-age flashbacks. We see Mary Grace navigating through the toughest part of adolescence: body changes, the end of childhood imagination, and the intricacies that come with the friendships between young girls. One particular moment reminded me of a highly-recognized scene from Stephen King's Carrie, but instead of relying on sensationalism of the embarrassment, it's a stark, brutal moment in puberty many women have encountered, and I think many readers will relate to, or at the very least empathize, with Mary Grace's churning emotions. Along with its entertaining and gripping plot, there's also some insightful commentary on social issues, among them: bullying, suicide, mental health, racism, sexuality, classism, and all the discriminations that arise when "the way it's always been" meets transition head on. Given our current climate, this read feels timely and oh-so important. At its heart, Saving Grace is a story about identity, damnation, redemption, and the lengths we go to in order to find ourselves. Are people both good and evil? Can a person be forgiven and still remain damned? A fast-paced psychological suspense with layered twists that will keep you on your toes until the very last line, Saving Grace is a 2021 must-read. I'd recommend this title to anyone looking for a strong female protagonist narrative, fans of Carrie or Dolores Claiborne, or anyone who loves a good coming-of-age mystery. Big thanks to Scarlet and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.

 

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