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A Peculiar Grace: A Novel by Jeffrey Lent

A Peculiar Grace: A Novel

by Jeffrey Lent

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Jeffrey Lent’s heroes face challenges out of the run of the mill. Some of these, as in In the Fall and Lost Nation, face an onslaught of outside forces strong enough to bow or break even the strongest protagonist. In A Peculiar Grace, hero Hewitt Pearce’s toughest tests result instead from his own past and his not-always-healthy ways of coping with it. In this book, Mr. Lent has shrunk his canvas down from the sweeping, heroic backdrops he used in Fall and Nation, to the emotional life of one stubborn yet searching man, who trusts his emotions and views of life maybe a little too much. And he succeeds beautifully again, the author does. This book makes me feel many things; however, surprise at the author’s skill is not one of them.

Vermont blacksmith Hewitt Pearce was lucky enough as a teenager to feel the desperation and euphoria of deep love. When this affair ends unhappily for him, he lets it sink him into an alcohol-soaked despair which he survives only through the last-ditch efforts of his friend Walter. Twenty years later, he’s essentially a hermit with a good blacksmith’s practice, and a tractor for getting to the store. Suddenly twenty-something Jessica crashes onto his property and into his life. She’s a fugitive from life’s vagaries, somewhat in the mold of Hewitt himself. Their quirky exploration of each other’s boundaries, beliefs, and personality form - and charm - the bulk of the book. This is the “peculiar grace” of the title. Although Hewitt’s life and heart become torqued up again when his onetime great love is widowed, he cannot revert to form - to chase her and/or pine after her - because of the new presence in his life.

I did what I very seldom do after finishing a book. I went back to re-read scenes of especially well-done dialogue, because they are some of the great charms of this charming book. We sink neck-deep into Hewitt’s psyche, and watch him take his painful steps toward a more balanced emotional outlook. Mr. Lent grants his hero the capacity to give and also gives him the knack of communicating, through a forthright and laconic way - almost a shorthand - that captivates. His writing captures this perfectly.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from A Peculiar Grace, after the previous heroic entries I mentioned. What I got demonstrates Mr. Lent’s mastery. He remains one of the very best practicing the craft today, as his every book amply proves. Take this up. It’s also one of the few that I definitely plan on rereading, even with my reading time at such a premium.

http://bassoprofundo1.blogspot.com/2015/04/a-peculiar-grace-by-jeffrey-lent.html ( )
  LukeS | Apr 26, 2015 |
Beautifully written, dense and layered. I was particularly intrigued by the descriptions of iron smithy and the artistry it can hold. ( )
  Lcwilson45 | Dec 16, 2012 |
Compelling supporting cast: I found the minor characters more interesting than the main protagonists. After a couple hundred pages of his self-indulgence and moping around, I wanted to smack Hewitt and tell him to snap out of it. I was grateful to best-friend Walter when he did just that. And, it seemed to help clear Hewitt's head a little!

By contrast with Hewitt and his equally irritating star-cossed love, Emily, I thought Jessica and Walter rocked! Now, they would have made a great couple!

Let's cast the movie:

Hewitt...Kevin Costner
Emily....Who cares?
Walter...John Goodman (circa "The Big Lewbowski"- doesn't even have to change his name!)
Jessica...Lindsay, soon as she's up for it.

Oh yeah, the location was pretty well evoked, I thought.

Overall, an enjoyable novel.
  lonepalm | Dec 8, 2011 |
I have been a fan of Jeffrey Lent and was so pleased to see he had written another book. The previous two books he authored were Civil War era Vermont tales. This book is very different. It almost didn't pass my "50 page test", but I'm really glad I hung on. His character development is incredible. This is not a book you can whip through in a day or two. At times the writing is somewhat distracting (run-on sentences, no punctuation - not the whole book, but a few parts) as well as a time or two where an obscure reference was made and you don't get the gist of it until a chapter or two later, but a story worth investing the time in. Give it a try : ) ( )
  kelawrence | Dec 6, 2010 |
I read Lent's earlier two superb historical fictions, but hadn't moved forward with his newer books which are contemporary stories — until the other day.

The premise of the novel is laid out practically on the first page - damaged, immature and solitary middle-aged man meets screwed-up, possibly crazy young woman and both their lives are changed because of it. It seemed a bit of a cliched theme. Well, I thought, there's nothing more to say about it, is there? I was wrong.

Hewitt Pearce lives the quiet life in rural Vermont. He's an artist of sorts, a blacksmith, pounding out iron on the old family homestead while he still lingers over thoughts of the girl he loved at 17 (the one who dumped him). His father was a painter, his mother an Irish immigrant. If Howard needs something in town, he takes the tractor, as he doesn't drive a car. Into his life one day comes Jessica Kearns, a twenty-something vagabond who hasn't had a bath in quite awhile, and who just might be a bit nuts. But that's just the first layer of a surprisingly multi-layered, beautifully written story about one middle-aged man's inner life (my husband assures me that this is a fantasy:-). The book is about processing, letting go, and growing up; about fathers & sons, inheritance, about rootedness and freedom, and about the healing powers of art and, yes, love. About the time you think you've seen everything in these people's lives, Lent peels off another layer, unveils another secret. There is a lot stuffed in this one book.

The book is beautifully written. Lent has a remarkable ability to describe things - it's genuinely arresting at times. Although I wouldn't call his prose lyrical, it is poetic. It has certain organic rhythms and dispenses a kind of compelling, simple wisdom that comes from insightful observation. ( )
2 vote avaland | Sep 7, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0871139650, Hardcover)

An unforgettable tale of love, family secrets, and the hold of the past in a family of New England artists, A Peculiar Grace is the latest triumph from the author of In the Fall , hailed by The Christian Science Monitor and The New York Times as one of the best books of the year. Hewitt Pearce lives alone in his family home, producing custom ironwork and safeguarding a small collection of art his late father left behind. When Jessica, a troubled young vagabond, washes up in his backwoods one morning, Hewitt’s hermetic existence is challenged. As he gradually uncovers Jessica’s secrets and reestablishes contact with a woman he thought he had lost twenty years before, Hewitt must confront his own dark history and rediscover how much he craves human connection. A Peculiar Grace is a remarkable achievement by one of our finest authors, an insightful portrait of family secrets, and a rich tapestry filled with characters who have learned to survive by giving shape to their losses.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:11 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The reclusive world of Hewitt Pearce, a forty-three-year-old blacksmith who produces custom ironwork, is thrown into turmoil by an encounter with Jessica, a troubled young vagabond he encounters in the woods near his home.

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