Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Grace-filled Tuesdays (Book Club "Meeting" #13): Reader Feedback, with Some Spoilers

Okay, before I begin, I thought I'd share a new meme that I'm working on for the book club.  I've still got some kinks to work out (because I don't really know what I'm doing!), such as inserting the blog address into the image.  But for now, this is how it looks.
Many of you who read this blog are probably well aware that this is Catholic Schools Week.  So in honor of celebrating these fine institutions and the good work they do in helping to form the minds, hearts, and souls of our youth, I thought I'd share some snippets from an email I received from a young Catholic school student not too long ago.  She is an 8th-grader at one of the Tampa Catholic schools I visited in January.  She was able to get in touch with me because I handed out some business cards with contact information on them, in case any of the kids wanted answers to any questions that hadn't been asked during my presentation.  (I wrote briefly about the experience of speaking to my nieces' and nephew's--the triplets'--class, as well as several other 5th through 8th grade classes, here, if you'd like to read that.)
The incredibly articulate young lady who wrote to me had read Finding Grace, devouring it during a four-day stretch, and deemed it her "favorite book by far"--something that was both gratifying and humbling to hear.

I have been fortunate to receive a good deal of positive feedback since Finding Grace was published in 2012--people have in general been very kind.  But some of the comments from this satisfied reader touched me more than any I'd heard before; her insights were so sharp and so well expressed, especially coming from such a young person.  (Reading through her email just made me more convinced than ever that Catholic schools are doing an amazing job and are worth every penny that parents sacrifice to spend on them!)

My young pen pal aspires to be a writer herself, so I was especially thrilled to be able to correspond personally with her, and to share a bit of information about how the story and characters for this novel came about and then evolved over the years that I worked on the book

[Before I proceed any further, I should warn you that there are some spoilers for my novel Finding Grace coming up.  So if you plan to read it and don't want any hints about how it ends, you should probably stop here.]

I loved her comments on the various characters, who had become dear friends to me during the writing process.  It pleased me enormously that she not only liked Grace, Tom, and Jimmy, who aren't perfect, but are basically very good and relatively uncomplicated teens who never go too far astray; but she also identified with/had empathy for Irene and Kate, two sisters with very human flaws who commit the same grave sin, but then make different decisions afterward--with life-altering consequences.  Although I loved Grace, with her shyness, lack of confidence, and desire to mimic the saints, I loved the misguided Pomeroy sisters, too.  Kate changes so much in the course of the book that in the end, it appears she has won the heart of one of Grace's brothers.  (And I couldn't love those Kelly boys more, as they were definitely inspired by my own five sons!)  Of Kate, my young reader had this to say: "As she matured into a responsible adult, I felt pride, because she became selfless and accountable for her actions."  Yes!  That is exactly how I felt about Kate, and the way the book ended for her was almost as important to me as the way it ended for Grace.

One of my favorite comments in this young reader's email was, "Don't get me started on Tom and Sully!"  She said that they were the type of friends she hoped to make in high school next year, because "They were able to have fun, but follow God's teachings at the same time, a true talent!"  She loved those "two trouble makers," and I did, too.  I always knew which one Grace would end up with (that much, at least, never changed, even though the plot ended up going in different directions than I'd thought it would at the outset); but it was funny to me how many readers early on (including my publisher!) said they secretly hoped she was going to end up with the other guy.

My husband and I have always been strongly Team Tom.  If you've read the book, do tell: which team are you on?  Team Tom, or Team Sully?
Tom My husband (also my high school boyfriend) and I, on his 16th birthday.
As I typed away in my basement office, from August 2007 through December 2011, I kept telling myself (and my husband) that if this book helped even one impressionable teen to grow in the Faith or to make a better decision than some of my struggling characters, then I would die a happy author.  "In a way, it has shaped my decision making and thoughts on the Church as I've read it," wrote this young reader.  "Subconsciously, I found myself asking, 'What would Grace do in this situation?'" Thank you, God, for this concrete evidence that the one goal I had in mind when I set out to write my first novel has been accomplished!

In closing, this thoughtful 8th-grader told me that Finding Grace is "a model for what I want my novels to do: impact young readers and bring them closer to our Father."   The idea that someday, this budding future author will write novels with that purpose in mind, and that she will do so in part because she was inspired by Finding Grace...well, dear readers, my heart is so full thinking about this.  I feel that any purpose for my own books has already been fulfilled--and then some.

I thoroughly enjoyed corresponding with this reader, and I would love to answer any questions you have for me as well.  Just look for the "EMAIL ME" button on the side bar, and send me a message.  I promise I'll get back to you!


  1. This is so awesome. I have to admit to being Team Sully pretty much the whole way through!

    1. Ha ha! Sully is such s lovable goof, and very sweet. But he's no Tom. ;)

  2. I think it's time for a reread of Finding Grace! But I also admit having a fondness for Sully for most of the book. I was not disappointed when it worked out with Tom but I truly only wanted the best for him.

    1. Yippee!! Madeline, you made my day.

      My whole life, I've been a re-reader of best-loved books. (Not that I'm trying to suggest that Finding Grace is one of yours!) When people would say, "Once I've read a book and know how it ends, I never read it again," I simply couldn't understand than mind-set. I can't even count how many times I've read Wuthering Heights, Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice, The End of the Affair, The Thorn Birds, Atonement, One Day, Circle of Friends...and the list goes on...

      I am completely tickled that you would consider re-reading Finding Grace!!