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About Grace

About Grace

A Novel

  • reading group guide
The first novel by the author of the acclaimed and instant New York Times bestseller All the Light We Cannot See, one of the most beautiful, wise, and compelling debuts of recent times.

When Anthony Doerr's The Shell Collector was published in 2002, the Los Angeles Times called his stories "as close to faultless as any writer -- young or vastly experienced -- could wish for." He won the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Discover Prize, Princeton's Hodder Fellowship, and two O. Henrys, and shared the Young Lions Award. Now he has written one of the most beautiful, wise, and compelling first novels of recent times.

David Winkler begins life in Anchorage, Alaska, a quiet boy drawn to the volatility of weather and obsessed with snow. Sometimes he sees things before they happen -- a man carrying a hatbox will be hit by a bus; Winkler will fall in love with a woman in a supermarket. When David dreams that his infant daughter will drown in a flood as he tries to save her, he comes undone. He travels thousands of miles, fleeing family, home, and the future itself, to deny the dream.

On a Caribbean island, destitute, alone, and unsure if his child has survived or his wife can forgive him, David is sheltered by a couple with a daughter of their own. Ultimately it is she who will pull him back into the world, to search for the people he left behind.

Doerr's characters are full of grief and longing, but also replete with grace. His compassion for human frailty is extraordinarily moving. In luminous prose, he writes about the power and beauty of nature and about the tiny miracles that transform our lives. About Grace is heartbreaking, radiant, and astonishingly accomplished.
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  • Scribner | 
  • 416 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439103784 | 
  • May 2010
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Reading Group Guide

Reader's Group Guide for About Grace
1) The novel is rich with description and symbolism. The symbolism of water is present throughout the story ranging from floods, snowflakes, lakes and oceans to the nature of Winkler's profession. Discuss this symbol in the novel as a whole.
2) Discuss the nature of Sandy and Winkler's relationship. Sandy's point of view is not known to the reader. What do you think motivates her? Why do you think she avoids discussing Winkler's premonitions and sleepwalking?
3) Discuss Winkler's character. What do you think of the choices he made? What were the most important events of his childhood? How did the relationship with his parents along with his earliest premonition shape his character? What is your overall opinion of Winkler?
4) How do the lives of Felix and Soma compare to Winkler's? Why do you think Winkler becomes so attached to the family and, in particular, Naaliyah? What do you think prompts Winkler to return to Ohio after almost two decades on St. Vincent's? Why do you think he stayed so long?
5) While Winkler visits the first Grace Winkler, her son Jed "predicts" certain things about Winkler's journey. Where does Winkler's journey lead him? Was Jed's prediction accurate?
6) Winkler describes his journey at one point as "Another kind of purgatory: a waiting to wake up." What does this mean? How is the notion of purgatory explored throughout Winkler's story?
7) Discuss Naaliyah's character see more

More Books from this Author

About the Author

Anthony Doerr
Photo Credit: Shauna Doerr

Anthony Doerr

Anthony Doerr is the author of the story collections Memory Wall and The Shell Collector, the novels All the Light We Cannot See and About Grace, and the memoir Four Seasons in Rome. He has won numerous prizes, including four O. Henry Prizes, three Pushcart Prizes, the Rome Prize, the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award, the National Magazine Award for fiction, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Story Prize. Doerr lives in Boise, Idaho, with his wife and two sons.

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