BOOK: A Gracious Plenty by Sheri Reynolds (1997)

Finch Noble is an older woman who, as this novel opens, recently lost both her parents and now spends her free time tending the graveyard in which they’re buried.  Badly burned and disfigured as a child, she’s grown up the butt of whispers and jokes, which long ago led her to isolate herself from others.  As Finch grew up, she eventually become more or less accustomed to her misshapen face, the stares, and the loneliness, but it’s merely gotten easier, never easy.  Then one day, while tending her father’s grave, Finch Nobel’s comfortable, rote existence gets all shook up anew — when her long-dead dad suddenly starts talking to her.

Soon Finch discovers she can hear and speak to a  dozen or more ghosts in the graveyard. And the more she does, the more each of their unique stories are revealed to both her and us — the baby boy who never stops crying, the gentleman revealed after death to be a transvestite, the young daughter who tries to get Finch to make her mother accept her suicide, etc.

As Finch gets to know each ghost over time, listening to each of their individual and poignant stories of courage and suffering gradually begins to make her see her OWN story (also one of courage and suffering) in a new light.  Cutting herself off from the world may have helped to protect her heart from pain and rejection, but it also protected it from love and friendship, a trade-off Finch finally decides just ain’t worth it.

This isn’t brilliant novel — it’s fairly simply written and doesn’t really delve too deeply into any majorly-emotional or “thoughty” kinds of themes.  However, despite what may sound here like fairly dark content, this is actually a very  light, feel-good kinda book.  Finch is sharp-minded and sharp-tongued, making her exactly the kind of lady I like to hang out with, and the story itself moves quickly and is presented engagingly.  If you’re looking for an even-keeled, no stress, easy-readin’ sort of novel to dive into between hectic holiday moments this month, you might give this one a shot.  See what you think.  Recommended!

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