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Wild Awake
Hilary T. Smith
Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
Bryan Peterson
Finding Grace - Alyssa Brugman 2001 called, it wants it's Melanie C reference back! No, seriously - this was lovely. As the title implies, Finding Grace is a story about discovery. It’s a touching and funny glimpse into one young woman’s realisation that perhaps she doesn’t know as much about life as she thought she did. Eighteen-year-old, slightly socially awkward Rachel has just finished high school when she accepts a job offer to become a live-in carer for Grace, a woman with a severe brain injury. Gradually, as Rachel begins to piece together Grace’s past, she comes to understand not only who Grace really is, but also herself. I will be honest here – as a narrator, I found Rachel an acquired taste. Yes, she is funny. Yes, some of her insecurities were very relatable. However, her particular brand of eccentricity took me a little to warm up to. While I enjoyed her humorous asides, I didn’t initially like her all that much.Add to this the fact that Rachel’s narrative is rather in the style of a stream of consciousness, and seemingly driven by a lot of nervous energy, the story can feel a little all over the place in times, leaping from topic to topic and past to present in a slightly jerky fashion. It feels very much in character, but it’s not the smoothest story to follow. As mentioned above, though, she did make me laugh. Rachel’s internal monologue is self-deprecating, with a slight edge of snark and a very quirky brand of humour. Her observations about Grace’s feral neighbours and her invasive sisters are hilarious at times. Here’s a taste of the writing:”I have never been a big fan of the nightie. The main issue that I have yet to resolve is this: how do you get into bed without the nightie sliding up and bunching around the waist? I have tried countless methods, including pulling the bedclothes to one side and rolling onto the bed sideways, but the rolling action has a sort of wringing effect, so you end up uncomfortable longways instead of sideways. It is not possible, in my experience, to get into bed with the full-length nightie on without such strenuous exercise that it will leave you puffed and wide awake.”While Grace’s story itself is not difficult to figure out early in the piece if you’re paying attention, the highlight of this book is watching Rachel uncover the truth about Grace and begin to change. She retains her unique personality, yet she matures and grows, and it’s heart warming to watch her begin to carve out the life she wants. Rachel’s development of empathy and understanding is truly touching and beautifully handled. While the early scenes of Rachel’s interactions with Grace are somewhat uncomfortable to read (I was cringing on her behalf), as she comes to understand Grace and embrace her role as a carer, Rachel becomes a deeper character and her story is all the more affecting. There are so many quiet little moments that make this a very moving story. Prickles, the cat. Mr Preston’s dedication to his friend. The snorkel. Bill and Herb. The glimpses of Grace in her writing. Rachel’s awkwardness and her slowly developing friendships. The witty, back and forth exchanges. Rachel’s mum rushing to be with her (I cried!). I ended up rather loving this book. It’s a quiet, undemonstrative story that manages to be funny, warm and poignant. And Rachel totally won me over. Bonus! A lesson in ‘Australian’ courtesy of Grace’s neighbour:“…ya gotcherands full, mate”“Eyemeaner.”“She givingyardtimeyet?”“… I don’t reckon yoolafta wait long, yoonowdameen?”