Saving Grace by Jane Green
Published by St. Martin's Press ISBN 9781250047335
Hardcover, $26.99, 352 pages
In Jane Green's Saving Grace, Grace is married to Ted, a successful author described as a "thinking man's Grisham". They have been married for over 20 years and have a lovely adult daughter Clemmie, who works as a reporter at a small newspaper.
Grace began her career as an assistant cookbook editor, where she met the dashing and older Ted and fell immediately in love. Now she volunteers her time as a chef at a home for abused women and addicted women and children. She and Ted are well respected in their community, and envied by many in literary circles.
She loves her life, except for the rages that Ted flies into, screaming at her and throwing things. These rages are unpredictable and understandably cause Grace physical and emotional problems.
When their longtime assistant Ellen decides to move away to care for her sister, Grace has to find someone who can work for Ted and help run the household. Into their lives walks Beth, a thirty-something rather nondescript woman who is looking for a job.
Grace likes Beth right away. Beth is organized whereas Grace is not, and soon she becomes indispensable to both Ted and Grace. She even calls her a cross between Mary Poppins and Mrs. Doubtfire. But something is just not right.
After a big fundraiser that Grace has planned is a disaster, things go downhill for Grace. She becomes depressed and refuses to leave her room. Ted and Beth suggest she a psychiatrist, and he diagnoses Grace with bipolar disorder and puts her on a cocktail of several medications.
The overmedication destroys Grace and she completely withdraws. Yet through the fog of this, she begins to realize that something is not right with Beth. It seems like Beth is taking over her life- dressing in her clothes, taking her job at the home for abused women, and getting very close to Ted.
Grace runs away back to her home in England to sort things out and try to understand what is happening to her. Can she stop Beth before it is too late?
I had the chance to participate in a Facebook conversation with Jane Green through Reading With Robin's Book Club 411, and we got to hear the story that inspired the book. Green said that she had gone through a similar thing as Grace, being misdiagnosed by a doctor and given too many medications that didn't help, but instead, hurt her.
This kind of thing happens way too often, especially in the US who, as is stated in the novel, has 5% of the population but writes 95% of the prescriptions for psychotropic drugs. Clearly there is a problem here, and often menopausal women are erroneously prescribed these dangerous medications to ease their symptoms.
Green also had a situation where her family hired a bookkeeper who ended up stealing a great deal of money from them. Like Grace, she didn't thoroughly check references and paid a dear price.
It has been said that Saving Grace is very different from Green's other novels, which I can't attest to as this is the first novel of hers I have read. I like that Green's own personal experiences influenced this novel, it definitely comes through in the story. It feels very real and urgent, and many women will feel an affinity for what Grace is going through.
Since Grace is a chef, there are many recipes sprinkled throughout the book, and many of them look like ones I would like to try. I also liked the inside look at the publishing industry, what a successful author like Ted deals with in terms of how he writes, his relationship with his editor and publisher, and what happens when success begins to fade.
Saving Grace is a little heavier than most books in this genre, and the personal connection the author has with her protagonist gives it more depth and meaning. It is a cautionary tale for those who don't follow their own instincts when it comes to their medical care or the people in their life.
rating 4 of 5