The title character in Vanessa Smith’s first novella, Grace, has plenty of problems, but excessive drinking isn’t one of them. “Something is wanting. Something I can’t find within myself,” laments Grace, a restless art history graduate. The novella follows Grace in the few weeks that succeed her convocation and surround a life-altering experience. Written in the first person, Grace reads like a long diary entry. This gives the book an authentic feel, and provides the reader with the inside scoop (on insecurities, on sex – the usual topics that make a diary a juicy read).
In part, the novella is compelling because of the point in Grace’s life at which Smith chooses to portray her. On paper, Grace doesn’t have much: no career, few friends, no lover, and no plan. What she does have is more elusive: potential, youth, and her character. Smith portrays Grace as a complex person, at times utterly bratty, at other times sympathetic, dealing not only with the harsh transition period from student existence to adulthood, but also with an additional life-altering encounter. And as Grace’s mother tells her, “ … you can get through it … that’s what makes it so frightening – so painful.” mRb