Excerpt from Grace by Paul Lynch, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Grace

by Paul Lynch

Grace by Paul Lynch X
Grace by Paul Lynch
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2017, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2018, 368 pages

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Zoƫ Fairtlough

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Excerpt
Grace

This flood October. And in the early light her mother goes for her, rips her from sleep, takes her from a dream of the world. She finds herself arm-hauled across the room, panic shot loose to the blood. She thinks, do not shout and stir the others, do not let them see Mam like this. She cannot sound-out anyhow, her mouth is thick and tonguing shock, so it is her shoulder that speaks. It cracks aloud in protest, sounds as if her arm were rotten, a branch from a tree snapped clean. From a place that is speechless comes the recognition that something in the making up of her world has been unfixed.

She is drawn to the exit as if harnessed to her mother, her body bent like a buckling field implement, her feet blunt blades. A knife-cut of light by the door. Her eyes fight the gloom to get a fasten on her mother, see just a hand pale as bone vised upon her wrist. She swings her free fist, misses, swings at the dark, at the air complicit, digs her heels into the floor. Will against will she pits, though Sarah's will now has become more like animal power, a secret strength, she thinks, like Nealy Ford's ox before he killed it and left, and now her wrist burns in her mother's grip. She rolls from her heels to her toes as she is dragged out the door.

What comes to meet them is a smacking cold as if it has lurked there just for them, an animal thing eager in the dawn, a morning that sits low and crude and gray. Not yet the true cold of winter though the trees huddle like old men stripped for punishment and the land is haggard just waiting. The trees here are mountain ash but bear not the limbs of grace. They stand foreshortened and twisted as if they could find no succor in the shallow earth, were stunted by the sky's ever-low. Beneath them pass Sarah and her daughter, this girl pale-skinned, fourteen, still boy-chested, her long hair set loose in her face so that all her mother can see of her are the girl's teeth set to grimace.

Her mother force-sits her on the killing stump. Sit you down on it, she says.

It seems for a moment that a vast silence has opened, the wind a restless wanderer all times at this height is still. The rocks set into the mountain are great teeth clamped shut to listen. In the mud puddles the girl is witness to herself, sees the woman's warp standing over her gray and grotesque. The spell of silence breaks, wing-flap and whoosh of a dark bird that shoots overhead for the hill. She thinks, what has become of Mam while I slept? Who has taken her place? Of a sudden she sees what the heart fears most — pulled from out of her mother's skirt, the dulled knife. And then out of her own dark comes her brother Colly's story, his huge eyes all earnest, the story of a family so hard up they put the knife to the youngest. Or was it the eldest? she thinks. Colly, always with the stories, always yammering on, swearing on his life it was true. Quit your fooling, she said then. But now she knows that one thing leads to another and something has led to this.

She hears Sarah wheezing behind her. Hears the youngers creep open the door to peep. She thinks of the last living thing they saw put to blood, the unfurling of the goose into arching white as it was chased, rupturing the air with shrill. The eerie calm of that bird with its long neck to the stump and their sister quiet now just like it, the same blunt knife that made such long work. And Boggs that time waiting. The way he picked them clean. She sees the blade come up, becomes an animal that bucks and braces against her mother.

The rush of Colly then, this small bull of a boy twelve years old, his cap falling off, yelling out his sister's name. Grace! She hears in his voice some awful desperation, as if to speak her name is to save it from the closure of meaning, that as long as he is sounding it no harm can be done. She feels the swerve towards an oncoming dark, Colly tugging at his mother, the way he gets an arm around Sarah's waist until she makes light work of him, puts him to the ground. Then she speaks and her voice is shaking. Colly, get you back into the house. Grace turns and sees her brother red-cheeked upon his sit-bones, sees the knife in her mother's hand as if she were embarrassed of it. Eye to eye they meet and she is surprised by what she does not see in her mother — any sign of madness or evil. Hears when the woman speaks a knot twisting in the cords of her throat. Enough, please, would ye.

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Excerpted from Grace Copyright © 2017 by Paul Lynch Used with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York. All rights reserved.

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