Friday, October 19, 2012

[Review] Third Grace by Deb Elkink

About the Book:The Past Casts a Long Shadow. Especially When It Points to a Woman's First Love. Her name was Mary Grace until she fell in love with the French exchange student visiting her family's Nebraska farm. Franc ois renamed her "Aglaia"-after one of the beautiful Three Graces of Greek mythology-and set the seventeen-year- old girl longing for something more than her parents' simplistic life and faith. Now, fifteen years later, Aglaia works as a costume designer in Denver. Her budding success in the city's posh arts scene convinces her that she's left the nai ve farm girl far behind. But "Mary Grace" has deep roots, as Aglaia learns during a business trip to Paris. Her discovery of sensual notes that Franc ois jotted into a Bible during that long-ago fling, a silly errand imposed by her mother, and the scheming of her sophisticated mentor all conspire to create a thirst in her soul that professional success can't quench. "The Third Grace" takes you on a dual journey across oceans and time-in the footsteps of a woman torn between her rural upbringing and her search for self.

My Review:  I found Third Grace to be an interesting read.  I have never read a book about a Menonite before.  Aglaia was a former Menonite that gives up her faith to move to Denver and become a costume designer.  When things in her life start going wrong on a large scale, she begins to question her choices, and whether being a professional was more important than her faith.  Aglaia decides to go to Paris to find her first love, who led her on the path from her religion so long ago.

The book is really well written and the characters are so well developed.  Aglaia is a character you really feel for.  The langauge is beautiful and complex, painting beautiful images in your head. 

This is Christian literature.  It's not overly preachy, though.

About the author: 
I was first published under my maiden name, Debbie Neufeld, in my grade-school yearbook at the ripe age of nine in the form of a letter that I wrote from the viewpoint of John F. Kennedy in Heaven, just after his assassination. I mention this unremarkable poetry in tandem with my second, equally trivial, piece — a junior-high fictional narrative detailing the emotions of Adam waking up for the first time beside the newly created Eve in the Garden of Eden. Both juvenile compositions together signal a theme already emerging in my fledgling attempts: I was hooked on theology before I even hit puberty!

I graduated with a B.A. in communications from Bethel (in St. Paul, Minnesota, just south of my childhood Canadian home of Winnipeg, Manitoba). There I was influenced by writer and teacher Alvera Mickelsen, whose wisest words to me might have been, "Don't fret about not writing if you're too busy living; it will all come out in the end."

I managed to sell a dozen or so short stories and magazine articles before completely immersing myself in a rural life of marriage, ranching, and child rearing in the Great Sand Hills of Saskatchewan. I learned to cook for branding crews of a hundred, I earned my private pilot's license, I helped round up our thousand-head cattle herd, and I homeschooled our three children through ninth grade. In my spare time, I sewed for creative release — cute baby clothes, haute couture Vogue dresses, and costumes for a local shop in town (a wizard, a princess, a little Dutch maid).

When our youngest went off to boarding school, I returned to my own education and graduated (again, summa cum laude) with an M.A. in theology from Briercrest Seminary (Saskatchewan), where my academic advisor, Dr. Bruce Hindmarsh, guided my understanding of what makes literature truly "Christian." Over the span of these many years, Bible expositor Dr. Grant C. Richison has provided my richest education: a founded belief in the verbal and plenary inspiration of the infallible, inerrant Word of God.

Today I live with my husband, Gerrit, on the banks of a lovely creek in the rolling hills of southern Alberta near the city of Medicine Hat, a stone's throw from the Montana border. I'm allergic to cats, but we do offer hospitality to a great assortment of wildlife as well as to a Texas Longhorn steer; Bonehead peers suspiciously over the fence at me as I soak in my hot tub on foggy spring mornings. Our grown kids — Tyler, Meghan, and Challis — visit often, and I prepare roast beef, and make lattes for them with the espresso machine they gave me for my birthday. I'm associated with several writers' groups (including ACFW, TWG, TWUC) and am involved in our local church. I take to the road several times a year to speak at women's functions, always ready to return home again to my babbling brook — to sit and sip chai as I write and research, read and edit. But I also love to travel internationally and confuse the locals with my smattering of foreign phrases; I've visited thirty countries on five continents so far and have offended the ears of Japanese, French, and Spanish alike with corresponding gusto. (I've been told, however, that my English is quite good.)

My little stories are only as original as my research and imagination. That is, there's nothing truly new under the sun. As I say in my very first blog posting, I love listening to the proclamation of the King in His Word. I don't fancy my writings to be inspired, but just an attempt at retelling timeless truths written first by God Himself, the Author with authority to direct our steps. My heart echoes Job's longing (19:23-25): "Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll . . . I know that my Redeemer lives!"


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