Finding Grace by Alyssa Brugman

The novel, Finding Grace, by Alyssa Brugman explores the issue of the treatment of the disabled through the character of Grace. By slowly unveiling her story through the spooky box, the reader appreciates the value of life. The mystery surrounding the spooky box captures the reader’s attention to convey Grace’s values and beliefs. Grace assists Rachel and the reader to realise that the disabled should be treated with dignity and have a worthy life.

Before the accident, Grace was very clear about her personal beliefs and values. She was opinionated and headstrong. She was career-oriented and the only barriers holding her back from success were the sexist mentalities of her colleagues. This caused a constant struggle with bosses such as “…little Hitler” Andre (p.90) and the “cowardly, weak and stupid” Dmitri (p.90). Grace was deprived of jobs she was more than capable of doing because letting women practise law “just wasn’t done” (p.95). This can be seen in her work life where she would not accept sexism merely because “Ambitious and intelligent women can be scary for men.”(p.94)

Grace also possessed the characteristic of honesty, although many of her work colleagues found her to be too outspoken and frank, “a crime punishable by death for a secretary…” (p.93) She used this confidence to insult others. This can be seen in her letter to Mr Preston’s wife where Grace states it is “…flattering that you believe he is unable to resist my alleged temptations…” (p.148)

Grace was also very persistent although others often perceived this as stubbornness. “She was particularly obstinate about not making coffee.” (p.92) Mr Preston believes that Grace still possesses this persistent quality and “If there’s a way out…” of her disabled condition “Grace will find it.” (p.44)

Although Grace appeared, “as tough as old boots”(p.152) she also had a softer side. She was “moved to tears by the most simple thing” (p.152) when she saw cars move to let an ambulance past. She also valued her family and friends. Herb and Bill speak of how, “Her mum and her was real close” (p.145) She appreciated them as friends and “She made a decent pie” (p.144) for them occasionally. Her relationship with her friend Yvonne also demonstrates her humility. Grace was able to forgive her friend even though they had lost contact. Her sisters are another example of this as she put up with them because they are family despite their forceful and selfish traits. Her relationship with Anthony also shows her ability to love.

There are many struggles Grace attempted to overcome. Most of these were based on her work and love life. Her intimate relationship with Anthony, her “delectable love”, caused her many concerns. Grace questioned whether Anthony “was the one” and “if the word ‘marriage’ frightened him.” (p.162) This was worsened by the fact she was pregnant and felt guilty about their affair. Her relationship with Anthony was detrimental to her career as it was “abhorrent to our associates.” (p.162)

She objected to animal cruelty and loved her cat. This can be seen in her letter to ‘Shouter’ and ‘Screamer’ where she objects “…to the way you beat your dog…” (p.77) Also, even after the accident when Prickles has been kicked, Grace responds to her cat’s distress by “Swaying rapidly…and making a short breathy sound.” (p.106)

Grace’s character increases the reader’s awareness of the dignity of others, in particular, the disabled. She has a great impact on helping Rachel mature. In the start of the novel Rachel perceives Grace as a disabled woman, not a human being. This image changes as her previous life is uncovered. As Rachel undergoes these mental changes, so does the reader. “Before the accident. Grace had a life…a lover…plans for the future.” (p.171)In Rachel’s eyes, Grace changes from being labelled “Snow White”, a fictional character, into a real woman; the “Grace woman” to “turtledove”.

Grace was a complex character before her accident with an appreciation for life. Although she appeared as a tough feminist, behind this mask was still a compassionate woman with feelings. By positioning the reader to form an attachment to the young Grace, Brugman accentuates the sadness of Grace’s situation. This allows the reader to empathise with the disabled and be aware that they deserve to be treated with dignity.