This summer, my daughter read it for the first time and urged me to re-read it. As usual, in Alias Grace, Atwood defies easy categorization. Psychological thriller, historical fiction, gothic mystery, interpersonal drama, character development and study, elements of all those fill the pages of this entertaining read. Just like many of the novel’s characters, I found myself captivated and haunted by the ever elusive Grace. Is she a cold-hearted, calculating murderess or a naïve, innocent rube? Or, as I suspect, like most of us, is she much more complex and nuanced, harboring some qualities of both?
Maybe the not knowing, the uncertainty is the point. Once again, Margaret Atwood proves to be prescient. With all the recent discoveries about the fallibility of memory, with all the current failings of justice in our country and our world, and with some of our deepest spiritual leaders finally beginning to address the darkness as well as the light in all of us, we would all do well to learn to pause and think and reserve judgment more often than passing it. The cautionary tale of Grace Marks teaches us, if nothing else, that the voiceless and the vulnerable are always the easiest to blame. But is that kind of easy injustice what we want to embrace?