Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Innocent Murderess

How many times have I aimlessly wandered the aisles of a bookstore picking up and putting down books whose covers catch my eye? How many of those times have the books I've bought either collected the dust of years on shelves unread or been read and completely forgotten?  One mislaid day in 2002, the book goddess smiled on me, and I happened upon my first Margaret Atwood. I had no idea who she was at the time and have no idea to this day why, on one of my rambles through a bookstore, I picked up a copy of Alias Grace. What I do know is that for the next 15 years, if pressed to choose a favorite book, this random treasure was it. All my life, I've read so much that I struggle to choose a favorite book, but somehow and for reasons I still don't fully understand, this one caught me.  After all the intervening years and so many more books, including new Atwoods, I will have to revise my assessment to say Alias Grace is now one of my favorite books.

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?

1 comment:

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

What a thoughtful review! And you took away all of this wisdom from one read. Excellent.

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