Sunday, October 12, 2008

Full of Grace by Dorothea Benton Frank

Full of Grace by Dorothea Benton Frank The most recent book I have read is Full of Grace by Dorothea Benton Frank. Having read several other books by Frank, I felt sure that it would feature the low country of South Carolina as did Isle of Palms and Pawley's Island, which I read in 2004 and 2006, respectively. It did ... and it didn't.

Yes, the setting is Hilton Head and Charleston, but the characters are immigrants from New Jersey—and Italian Catholics at that. They aren't low country people at all.

Grace of the title is Maria Graziana Russo, only daughter of Big Al and Connie, granddaughter of Nonna. She's living with her boyfriend Michael, who is a lapsed Irish Catholic and a doctor doing stem cell research. And, in their eyes, being Irish is as much a reason to dislike him as the abomination of working with stem cells and sex outside of marriage.

I was lulled along, getting to know the Russos through Grace's visits with them—the conflicts being played out over a dinner table loaded with holiday goodies. Then, the family has to face two crises. First, Nonna falls and breaks her hip. In considerable pain, she refuses to cooperate with her therapists and demands to go home, expecting Connie to care for her around the clock. Then, Michael is diagnosed with a virulent form of cancer and Grace needs her family's support as never before

My favorite character in this book is Father John. I'd like to meet him in real life. In one scene, discussing en vitro fertilization, he says, "I think that the Church's major area of concern has always been that children are begotten not made. Is it right to make children in a laboratory setting just because we can?" And also, "The trick is not to rationalize your decisions knowing that they displease God."

I was only looking for a good story, but along with that, I got some wise spiritual guidance. A good deal in my book.

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