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Tending to Grace by Kimberly Newton Fusco

Tending to Grace

by Kimberly Newton Fusco

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14110133,715 (3.89)2
When Cornelia's mother runs off with a boyfriend, leaving her with an eccentric aunt, Cornelia must finally confront the truth about herself and her mother.



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Lovely, spare story -- the short chapters make it relatively unintimidating. A good story about a stutterer finding her voice; the rural New England setting is somewhat unusual, as is the solitary survivalist aunt character. But honestly, in most ways it isn't especially distinct from other "flaky mom abandons kid(s)" stories, and I haven't found that it stuck with me. ( )
  SamMusher | Mar 30, 2013 |
admit it. I have a thing for scratchy old farm women who are hard on the outside, soft on the inside and full of solutions to life's problems. That's why I like Richard Peck's A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way to Chicago. And that's also why I like Tending to Grace by Kimberly Newton Fusco. Grandma Dowdel and Agatha Thornhill are birds of a feather, scruffy old hags with hearts of gold.

When city-bred fifteen year old Cornelia is thrust upon her country Aunt Agatha because her mother is running off to Las Vegas with her boyfriend, C-c-c-cornelia's world is torn apart. She is sure her mother will be coming back soon, even though the signs point elsewhere. Because of her stutter, Cornelia tries to be invisible. Agatha won't hear of it. She's a 'stand up for yourself' type of person.

Fusco's writing is so expressive, from the beginning, comparing Cornelia's life to a clothesline, through to the end, as both Cornelia and Agatha learn things about the other. Tending to Grace has mountains and frog races and fiddleheads and fun. It's a feel good book, so feel good and read it. ( )
  EdGoldberg | Dec 4, 2012 |
Cornelia’s mother runs off to Vegas, leaving her with her aunt, who will force Cornelia to stand up for herself while providing a love and life unfamiliar to the girl. Readers will love Cornelia, who is stronger than she thinks. They will empathize with her as she tries to adjust to a life she’s not used to, sometimes succeeding and sometimes not. They will love the way the author blends themes—Cornelia’s struggle with her stutter, missing her mother, teaching her friends to read. So many issues are addressed it would be easy to glaze over one or more, but Fusco manages to give all the attention they deserve. The metaphors of the postcards and Cornelia’s aunt’s words of wisdom add an extra layer of depth that will appeal to thoughtful teens while not stranding the less contemplative. Cornelia herself is immensely loveable and relatable. Teens who struggle will identify with her, and when she discovers her own strength of reading rather than speaking, they will see their own strengths. She is not a cliché—though she has to take care of her mother, she is still very much a teen, as her resistance upon living with her aunt shows. The ending is subtle, finishing with a quiet continuation of life rather than a sudden climax and resolution, and yet it is so appropriate it still leaves the reader satisfied. ( )
  MartyAllen | Nov 26, 2011 |
I read a book this morning; a wonderful, short, evocative, uplifting book called Tending to Grace. It’s a young adult novel, and I have to admit, I love the way so many young adult books are so lyrically written, tightly edited and refreshingly focused. It made a lovely way to center my thoughts at the beginning of the day.

Tending to Grace is written from the point of view of a high school sophomore whose mother leaves for Vegas with the boyfriend, dropping daughter off with an elderly eccentric aunt in the countryside. The short scenes never revel in the young girl’s thoughts, simply placing them there to be read on the page. Take it or leave it. This is who she is. But slowly the hard shell round Cornelia begins to crack. And the wounded space at the center of Aunt Agatha’s heart breaks open. Lives and futures are changed, while a wooden outhouse surprisingly fails to tip open and the spiders’ webs get cleaned.

I love the way Cornelia’s story expands to encompass her aunt’s, her mother’s, the little girl’s whose father is out of work, the librarian’s, and even the teachers’. I love the way Cornelia’s entry into other people’s lives through books becomes a door opening to her own. And I love the feel of different worlds colliding when city girl meets country home, when silent rebel begins to confess the delight of reveling in words.

Most of all, I love the way the author pulled me into a young girl’s pain, through her shell, into her heart, and showed the space that each of us can make if we open our minds. ( )
  SheilaDeeth | Sep 20, 2010 |
Book talk:
'My teacher is a look-away.
'I am a bookworm, a bibliophile, a passionate lover of books. I know metaphor and active voice and poetic meter, and I understand that the difference between the right word and the almost right word, as Samuel Clemens said, is the difference between lightening and lightening bug.
'But I don't talk, so no one knows. All they see are the days I miss school, thirty-five one year, twenty-seven the next, forty-two the year after that. I am a silent red flag, waving to them, and they send me to their counselors and they ask me, 'When are you going to talk about it, Cornelia?' I curl myself into a ball and squish the feelings down to my toes and they don't know what to make of me so they send me back to this class where we get the watered-down Tom Sawyer with pages stripped of soul and sentences as straight and flat as a train track.
'I am a shadow. I burrow deeper within myself and pray that if the other kids don't see me, they won't talk to me. I pretend I am the desk, the book, the floor, and we all expect less of me each day. I try not to lose myself, but the shame of always looking at my feet beats me deeper and deeper into the earth, planting me as surely as my mother planted tulip bulbs one summer, facedown.'

My mother has always needed me to take care of her. I'm the one who knows how to get her out of bed. Why is she leaving me here with a great aunt that I don't even know just to run off with her boyfriend?

My name is Cornelia, and I am a stone. Turning to stone is hard work. But if you get it right, you're not so afraid. ( )
1 vote lnommay | Sep 16, 2009 |
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