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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Book Reviewed by:
Zoë Fairtlough
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Then Sarah moves quick, takes a fist of the girl's hair to lay bare the porcelain of her throat, brings up the knife.

All the things you can see in a moment. She thinks, there is truth after all to Colly's story. She thinks, the last you will see of Mam is her shadow. She thinks, take with you a memory of all this. A sob loosens from the deepest part and sings itself out.

What she meets is the autumn of her long hair. It falls in swoons, falls a glittering of evening colors, her hair spun with failing sunlight. She sobs at the pain in her scalp as her mother yanks and cuts. Sobs as her hair falls in ribbons. Her eyes closed to their inner stars. When she opens them again her mother has circled her. Colly on his knees holding fistfuls of hair. The wind-cold licking bitter at her bare neck. She raises her hands and puts them dumb to what's left of her head, her mother stepping in front of her, the knife going into the dress. Sarah looks frustrated, breathless, wan and exhausted, the skin on her throat beginning to hang loose as if to wear it well requires effort she has not within her. Her collarbone a brooch of banished beauty. She rests her hands on her seven-month swell, bolds up her voice to her daughter. What she says.

You are the strong one now.

The shard of looking glass holds the world in snatches. She snares the cloud-tangled sun and bends it towards her feet. They are long and narrow feet and though unshod are unmistakably hers — as delicate as any girl's, elegantly formed, she thinks, and if you washed the dirt you would see beneath the nails a perfect rose-pink. She is proud of her slender ankles, not swollen like Mam's. The knobbly jut of knee with its moony scar. She turns and reflects the sun towards the back of Colly's head, the boy in a sulk, snorting fumes from his clay pipe. She hears the padding of speedy feet inside and then a child falling, knows from the cry it is the youngest, Bran. Colly muttering a curse, then getting up in a flop when the crying does not cease. She cannot bear to look at her head. Swings the looking glass to see gossamer strung between two rocks — a cobweb that swings a gentle arc on the breeze and the way it pulses light makes it seem alive with the sun. She reaches her finger and severs it, wipes what sticks off the rags of her skirt. If her finger were a blade it would be as sharp and pointed as her hate. She thinks, the things I would do with it.

Movement by the door. She angles the looking glass so she can see her mother step out of the house with her red shawl, a fisherman catching a shoal of daylight as she swings it over her shoulders. Sarah pulls a chair to the middle of the road, sighs, sits red-faced as if awaiting somebody — awaiting Boggs, Grace thinks — Sarah's hands fumbling on her lap. She sighs again, then stands and steps wordless into the house, emerges with the ash pin and fastens it to her shawl, sits down on the chair. No one dares talk when Sarah is like this, though Colly and Grace keep their eyes fixed on her. She knows that Colly sees the makings of a witch in his mother, wants to lay her cold with his fist. She watches the way her mother sits watching the road on top of the hill, pokes her eyes into the holes of Sarah's dirt-white skirt, each hole as wide as two or three fingers. The way the skirt fans down from the waist like the warped pleat of a melodeon. And then, for a moment, she sees her mother as someone different, thinks that by seeing Sarah in the looking glass she can see her truly as she is — a woman who might once have been young and wears a glimmer of it still. The way this fifth pregnancy is graying her. And then like light the awareness passes and she grabs hold of her hate.

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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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