Saving Grace by Michael Graeme
The narrator of this novel, Mike Garrat, is a 60ish year old bachelor, a salesman who was laid off in his late 50’s. Too old to start over, and with enough of a pension and savings to see him through to the age of 75, if he lives frugally, he spends his time volunteering at a charity bookshop, seeking comfort in old books while he muses on his life, his loves, and the dystopian nature of modern life in Britain. That is, until one day, as it says on the tin, when a beautiful woman walks in and ruins his life. He is then forced to rebuild a new life from the ruins, which he does, with the help of Lesley, a homeless young woman, and his boss at the bookshop, Maggs, a woman trapped in an abusive marriage.
This is literary mystery of sorts novel with a slow burn romance, a leisurely mystery, that is liberally peppered with observations about contemporary society and British life – as viewed by a man alienated from it. You know the tune – everything is going to hell in a handcart, as it has been since we left the trees, though in this story those observations are leavened with wit and humor. In addition the story is graced with richly drawn, likable characters that you come to care about.
I usually enjoy light fiction, this story takes a dark turn early on, but you have to hit bottom before you can start back up. As the story progresses, and Mike slowly finds a new life for himself and his friends, it grows more hopeful. In addition to his struggles, he slowly unravels the mystery surround the of the beautiful young lady who initiates both the destruction of his old and lonesome life and sparks a new and more hopeful one.
Michael Graeme is a very good, thoughtful writer. And while this is not my usual fare in reading – I honestly enjoyed this book.
(review of free book)