“Grace” is Greenwood’s latest release and a classic example of how two arts – photography and literature – can come together to create a poignant and creatively detailed journey inside a contemporary family on the brink of self-destruction. Within this dramatic novel, Greenwood infuses what on the surface may seem to be a cacophony of issues; such as hoarding, bullying, shoplifting, parental bias, and loss of control. Yet, Greenwood masterfully intertwines the individuality of the characters, their personal crises, and the mental life preserver each finds to stay afloat as their world plunges into murky depths.
“Grace” is at times a dark tale of a family on the abyss of desperation. But this is where Greenwood’s artistic eye captures the light and manipulates her prose to unveil that even in the shadows live beauty, hope, understanding, and triumphantly…love.
On a personal note, I think “Grace” is an amazingly written tale.
A) This novel, like all of my novels, arises from an inherent curiosity about the world rather than a need to articulate my own personal experience. The spark of a novel for me is always some sort of question, and I write the novel to find the answer to this question. In the case of “Grace,” the question was, What would bring a man to the point where he would be aiming a gun at the back of his own child’s head? Obviously, the opening scene of “Grace” is not one that I have ever experienced firsthand. However, my own life does inform everything I write. I am a parent, and so much of this story is about motherhood (and fatherhood). The empathy I feel for each of my characters comes as a direct result of my ability to relate (in even the smallest ways) to each and every one of them. Lastly, the setting (while fictional) is based on the area in Vermont where I grew up. I have returned to this setting again and again in my novels.
Q) Hoarding, bullying, shoplifting for attention or to counter insurmountable anguish, and the character Trevor’s use of photography as a cry for help are a myriad of issues. Why did you incorporate so many topical problems into “Grace”?
A) This was not a conscious decision. These issues grew from the characters all having a shared need to possess something. Elsbeth shoplifts because she feels deprived of things; stealing trinkets relieves her (if only momentarily) of this sense. Pop hoards things because he is really trying to hold on to his past. Kurt too is trying desperately to hold onto his life (his house, his wife, etc…). Crystal has lost something she can never, ever get back. And for Trevor, photography allows him to capture the fleeting beauty he is able to find in his dark world.
Q) While I see “Grace” as a watershed for your passions, how do you view your melding of these two arts into your story?
A) I have always wanted to incorporate photography into a novel. And I truly believe that art has the power to save people. Art, for Trevor, validates his perception of the world. It gives him a lens through which to understand it as well. I care deeply about my own photography, and I wanted to be able to give this gift to one of my characters. Trevor was the perfect (and most deserving) recipient.
Q) You once referred to “Grace” as an “ensemble novel.” What did you mean by that?
A) “Grace” does not belong to one character. It is really the story of four people: Kurt, Elsbeth, Trevor, and Crystal. But it is also the story of a family.
A) I grew up in a very small town in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. I find small towns to be fertile ground for fiction. There’s a sense of connectedness in a small town that doesn’t seem to exist in larger cities. There is also less transience. People stay in small towns. This has allowed me to create a credible fictional world for my characters. I have now set five of my novels in Vermont. And many characters make repeated appearances in these books.
A) I think that my novels offer a glimpse into a place that not many people know well. And the characters who live there are as real to me sometimes as my own family and friends. I am eager to share their stories with anyone willing to listen to them. And that is why I continue to write.
DA Kentner is an author and journalist. http://www.kevad.net/