What I read: Amazing Grace Adams by Fran Littlewood

About the book

(blurb from Penguin Random House SA)

One hot summer day, stuck in traffic on her way to pick up the cake for her daughter’s sixteenth birthday party, Grace Adams snaps.

She doesn’t scream or break something or cry or curl into a ball. She simply abandons her car in traffic and walks away. But not from her life – towards it. Towards the daughter who has banned her from the party. Towards the husband divorcing her. Towards the terrible thing that has blown their family apart . . .

She’ll show her daughter that no matter how far we fall, we can always get back up. Because Grace Adams was amazing. The world and her family might have forgotten. But Grace is about to remind them …

My Thoughts

This novel starts off with a dramatic bang and had me hooked from the first chapter.  It had the feel of Michael Douglas in “Falling Down” – maybe not as brutal and violent, but also the “mad as hell” exasperation of a person at breaking point.

Who is this “mad as hell” person?  Meet Grace Adams, 45-year-old, and she is furious. Her mission?  It is her estranged daughter’s 16th birthday, and she needs to get to the other side of town, without a car and she still needs to collect the birthday cake.  (Side note – please can we get a photo of that cake – I nearly died!)  The author herself referred to this as a kind of “quest”, which I absolutely adore.  (Refer to: Confessions of a Debut Author Podcast).

The entire book spans over the period of one day, but with flashbacks to the past to flesh out the main protagonists and their motivation.  The story is told, making the use of three different timelines.  I’m not usually a fan of this type of storytelling, but in this case, it makes sense to do it this way.

The timelines are “today”, “four months ago” and all the way back to the early 2000s.  Grace meets her husband-to-be, Ben, at the 2002 Polyglot of the Year contest.  (I loved the geekiness and the intellect of this).  She is proficient in five languages and has got a life full of potential ahead of her.  There is an immediate attraction, and this is where Grace’s backstory takes off.

So how did she end up in her mid-forties, with a teenage daughter that refuses to see her, with divorce papers served by her husband and being unemployed?  As the plot unfolds, the essence of Grace starts to unfold.

This reminded me quite a bit of “Queen Bee” by Ciara Geraghty that I finished reading recently.  It is about the cultural and societal perception that women over 40 (being perimenopausal and menopausal) basically becomes invisible.  They are often seen as tedious, uninteresting and without any drive or desire.  This is what triggered both authors to write their various novels.

It is about identity, and the rage and anger women experience daily.  At the centre is Grace’s relationship with her daughter as well.  Fran Littlewood, the author, is the mother of teenage daughters, so I’m sure that her insights and experiences are very real.  The toxicity of social media also plays an interesting part in how it impacts their relationship.

This novel isn’t all about anger and exasperation though.  On Grace’s “quest” she does meet some compassionate outsiders along the way, that kind of calms the waters for her at times.  The kindness of strangers.

“Amazing Grace Adams” is honest and heart-breaking, while being witty and poignant at the same time.  It is about love, loss, female rage, family dysfunction, motherhood, grief.  A multi-layered plot, that is emotional, powerful, and touching.

It is also written with complexity, dark humour and understanding.  I adored Grace Adams, she is fierce, resilient, and witty, and an unforgettable character.

A wonderful debut!

With thanks to Penguin Random House SA for the opportunity to read this book.

Read an extract:  https://www.penguinrandomhouse.co.za/penguinbooksblog/extract-amazing-grace-adams-fran-littlewood

The details

ISBN 9780241548523

Format Trade Paperback

Recommended Price R299.00

Published March 2023


About the author

Q&A with Fran Littlewood https://www.penguinrandomhouse.co.za/penguinbooksblog/qa-amazing-grace-adams-author-fran-littlewood