This Is Graceanne's Book A Novel

P. L. Whitney

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

304 Pages



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This Is Graceanne's Book is a poignant, perceptive, and thrilling novel about the life and the mind of children in smalltown America during the 1960s. The heroine is, of course, Graceanne, who is famous throughout Cranepool's Landing, Missouri, for having the highest IQ in her class as well as an unassailable record for creative misbehavior.

But this mischief, as we learn, is Graceanne's way of stubbornly refusing to surrender to the abuse—emotional as well as physical—of her mother, who has been driven to desperation by abandonment and poverty. We also learn that Graceanne has a secret hidden under the springs of her bed: a stack of notebooks that comprise "Graceanne's Book," an ongoing, marvelously inventive story of emotions both hidden and revealed.

When Charlie—the nine-year-old narrator of this novel, and Graceanne's little brother—accidentally finds this hidden diary, he begins to see Graceanne in a new light. Despite the way she often teases him, Graceanne becomes a role model to Charlie: a spirit that cannot be broken, a mind that remains independent, and a heart that welcomes genuine connection wherever it may be found.

Set right along the banks of the Mississippi during a time of great social, cultural, and political change in America, This Is Graceanne's Book is a tale of hard lives, deep faith, everyday beauty, and eternal wisdom.

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Praise for This Is Graceanne's Book

"Much can be learned about life and growing up from Graceanne's book."—Library Journal

"Graceanne's passage down the river into awareness is lyrical, painful, and ultimately uplifting. This is a beautiful book."—Bob Simon, award-winning correspondent for 60 Minutes and CBS News

"Growing up is always hard, but even more so for Whitney's young protagonists who live in the tumultuous 1960s, on the wrong side of the tracks, with an abusive mother. Charlie, a quiet, club-footed, nine-year-old boy, narrates this story of his creative, smart, and wild older sister, Graceanne. He watches her become a teenager through beatings and other punishment and shares her inner-most ideas and pain by reading her diary. After their mother confiscates the diary, he continues to keep her stories in his head. Graceanne incurs their mother's wrath for a number of reasons—the friendship of their next door neighbor (a black girl named Wanda), ice sculptures of a mixed-race baby Jesus, baseball games, and a college boyfriend named Collier—and yet, grows up a survivor. It is the unbreakable spirit of both Charlie and Graceanne that keeps this story afloat. While hurting along with them through the abuse, readers will cheer for them as they struggle to grow up."—Ellie Barta-Moran, Booklist

"[A] wonderful novel . . . Between one Independence Day and the next, as in a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, on Huck Finn's Mississippi, in John Kennedy's Camelot, looked down upon by heavenly astronomers, two children must save each other from an alcoholic father (the Combat Soldier), an abusive mother (the Queen of Egypt), the Ugly Blue Man, the Black Santa, degrading poverty, and violent shame. Although just thirteen herself, Graceanne will protect her younger brother, Charlemagne, from the terrifying and arbitrary power of adults—with poetry and magic, kingfisher stories and Elvis records, ice babies and cornstalk silk, scarecrows and arrowheads, Catechism of the Mackerel and the Miracle of Our Lady of Fort McBain. In the book of wonders Graceanne braids out of their childhood games, Charlie learns to swim, not only in the swollen river, but all the way to Mars. This wonderful novel belongs on the shelf and in the heart next to Toni Morrison's Sula, Dorothy Allison's Bastard Out of Carolina, and David Grossman's The Book of Intimate Grammar."—John Leonard, critic for New York Magazine and CBS Sunday Morning

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P.L. Whitney lives in New Jersey.
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