Recap: Grace May is both dreading and greatly looking forward to her 40th birthday. The idea of turning 40 is overwhelming for any women in this day and age, but she has a plan. Now that her sons are both going to elementary school full-time, she plans to go back to work part-time. She also wants to get back in shape and make time to reconnect with her husband, Darren, who’s seemed somewhat distant recently.
But then she learns the reason Darren has been distant; he reveals to Grace that he cheated on her a few months back, just once with a waitress on a business trip. Then Grace’s plan for a new job falls apart, and major life-changing news comes down about her best friend, Cameron. In a matter of weeks, Grace’s plan and vision of turning 40 is slipping through her fingers. Everything is falling apart at once. And her inherent need to be perfect isn’t making things any easier. Can she handle it all and persevere? Can she do it if it means changing the kind of person she is and changing her attitude? Is 39-going-on-40 too late in life to make that change?
Analysis: Susie Schnall’s On Grace reveals the spinning mind of a modern-day 40-year-old woman and how difficult it is to balance all of the important things in her life: marriage, children, work, and friends. And for Grace, it’s all about “doing it with grace.” Taken from a first-person point of view, the reader sees the inner workings of Grace’s neurotic mind, and as neurotic as it is, it is completely and utterly relatable. Reading On Grace, I felt so much better about myself, knowing that there are other women whose minds spin and run wild in the way that mine does at times. I think it’s safe to say it’s a woman thing, and Susie Schnall does a nice job of portraying that.
When everything falls apart in Grace’s life, weeks pass in the novel, proving that cleaning up the mess is no easy or time-efficient task. In an odd twist, however, the future of Grace and Darren’s marriage lies in the hands of Darren. That was my one issue with the book; in a book about women and how strong they must be, ultimately the final and most important decision made at the end of the novel is still made by a man. Ultimately, the future of their marriage was dependent on him. But in the end, Grace did have a happy 40th birthday, despite the unexpected, negative turns she had to take to get there.
MVP: Grace’s best friend, Cameron. As much as Grace has to deal with, Cameron has even more. She is easily the strongest woman in the novel, not only putting on a brave face and handling things matter-of-factly, but doing it with a positive attitude and outlook — something that everyone needs, especially in the most difficult of times.