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This Is Graceanne's Book: A Novel [Hardcover]

P. L. Whitney
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 15 1999
A poignant and even thrilling story of two extraordinary children who are extraordinary human beings, told with great perceptiveness and sensitivity by nine-year-old Charlie Farrand

Charlie's sister Graceanne is only twelve years old in 1960, but she is well known in Cranepool's Landing, Missouri. She has the highest IQ in her school and the most creative misbehavior record. She's the star of the junior girls' softball team and a thorough rebel. Although she and her older sister, Kentucky, tease their younger brother roughly, he admires her enormously--especially after he secretly reads the notebooks he finds hidden in the springs of her bed. They make up "Graceanne's Book"--a marvelous outpouring of overt and disguised emotion in the form of an ongoing tale. From them and from his growing bond with Graceanne herself he learns about a spirit that cannot be broken, a mind that remains independent, and a heart that welcomes genuine connections wherever they are found.

When their father slips out of the picture and their mother, Edie, must move with the three children to a poor and mostly black neighborhood, it is typical of Graceanne that she defies southern prejudice to become best friends with the black girl next door. But Edie, desperately on the edge of poverty and pathetically concerned with how the world sees her, finds this one more frustration to take out by physically abusing her daughter. The author penetrates the world of a small Missouri town forty years ago with the kind of detail that makes a setting come alive, and the Mississippi River holds a genuine place in the cast of characters. This Is Graceanne's Book is an Our Town for the 1960s--a wonderfully human story that will move readers both by the characters' hard lives and the stubbornness with which they weave hope and spirit into those lives.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Small-town life in 1960s Missouri is conveyed with elegiac grace in this poignant coming-of-age tale. Nine-year-old Charlemagne "Charlie" Farrand, who wears corrective shoes and hence is nicknamed "Thumper," narrates the complicated antagonisms and triumphs within his troubled family and within Cranepool's Landing, a town on the banks of the Mississippi. Charlie and his two older sisters, sweet-singing Kentucky ("Tucka"), the oldest, and multi-talented 12-year-old Graceanne, move with their mother, Edie, when she divorces their soldier father and takes them to live in an apartment in a mostly black neighborhood. Disturbed to find herself at the edge of the poverty line, Edie lashes out violently when headstrong Graceanne becomes best friends with an African-American neighbor, the smart and feisty Wanda. Whitney nicely details small-town events (cardboard box races, Christmas services and a scarecrow contest), and offers an appealingly off-beat brilliance in precocious Graceanne. The three siblings alternately protect, terrorize and tease each other in a frank and bittersweet defense against the rage of their desperate mother, who feels as threatened by her children's insouciant intelligence as by their reliance on her. Graceanne is writing a book, a diary/collection of poems and manifestoes, which she shares with her admiring brother, and in which she weaves fantasies of revenge with quirky, hilarious notes to herself that keep her pride and spirit relatively intact. When Edie discovers it, Graceanne would rather destroy her work than turn it over to her increasingly malicious mother. At such moments, Whitney's handling of young Graceanne's fiery rebellion is unpersuasive; the girl's survival strategies are so valiant, and her intellectual and physical gifts so vast, that Edie comes off as a monster whose random beatings will never defeat her magnificent daughter. The major detriment to credibility, however, is Charlie's voice, preternaturally sophisticated and mournful even for an unathletic, bookish boy. Whitney's humor and sympathy carry the tale, however, and the scenes of sibling bonding may raise a tear or two. (May) FYI: Whitney has written mysteries under the names Hialeah Jackson and Polly Jackson.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

YA-Graceanne's brother, nine-year-old Charlie, narrates this tale of life in small-town Missouri in the 1960s. Graceanne, 11, is the sole recipient of her mother's brutal beatings, sometimes for offenses committed by her older sister, or by Charlie. Graceanne is admittedly a handful: bright, independent, loud, sometimes foulmouthed, physically agile, and a daredevil. Her "book" is a collection of notebooks of poetry, stories, and observations about life. Charlie naturally finds and reads those notebooks and they help him relate her story. When the children's father, a military man, walks away from his family, they are forced to move to the poor part of town. Edie goes to work, sparing the family her presence much of the time. This is fine with Graceanne who, against her mother's wishes, becomes best friends with the black girl next door. Much of the book describes Graceanne's advents and the brutal punishments her mother metes out. YAs will be intrigued by these timeless, true-to-life characters and their ingenious escapades. Always in the background is the mighty river, thick, brown, and sometimes menacing. The descriptions of small-town life are dead-on, and the descriptions of the perils of growing up with an unpredictable, abusive mother are gripping. Much can be learned about life and growing up from Graceanne's book.
Molly Connally, Kings Park Library, Fairfax County, VA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars You won't be able to put this one down May 17 2002
The minute I finished this book I wanted to talk about it with someone. I wanted to explore the rich Missouri setting, the strong characters that are authentic and interesting, and the issues of racisim and child abuse that rage through this novel like the river that floods Graceanne's home town.
In a nutshell, Graceanne is a spirited highly intelligent child who is the sole recipient of her mother's violent abuse. She remains strong, witty and true to herself throughout the entire novel. I strongly disagree with a fellow reviewer who believes that Graceanne "got what she deserved" because she was such a willful and devilish child. I believe her antics, such as hiding out in the school's flooded basement for two days so that she could be "Champion for Eternity" in a game of hide-and-seek, was her way of not letting the abuse do her in. It was her way of preserving her soul.
At first I was really worried that the child-abuse scenes would be too vivid. I worried that they would be the central imagery of the story. They aren't. Whitney uses them just enough, and is detailed just enough, so that you know how sick the mother really is. The author often makes you laugh and smile at a small town childhood, and small town kids getting into small town mischief.
This is really a story of kids overcoming the hands that life has delt them. Charlie overcoming his club foot, Graceanne her abuse and Wanda the racism that plagued that era of American history. These kids perservere with such charm and such thoughtfulness. In the end you are cheering for them, and praying that happiness will follow them beyond the wire hanger beatings of their childhood.
This is a book that sticks with you. Read it.
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What an amazing book! The soul-touching story, combined with some of the most incredibly natural, infectious humor since Mark Twain, makes this one of the most uplifting books I've read in recent years.
The main characters -- 9 year-old Charlie, the narrator, and 12 year-old Graceanne, his sister -- are immensely endearing and admirable. They are growing up -- along with their older sister, 16 year-old Kentucky -- living with their recently-divorced mother on the 'wrong side of the tracks' in a small town in northern Missouri in the early 1960s. Their dad isn't in the picture much -- an alcoholic soldier who beats their mother, he's sent packing early on in the story, and makes himself scarce after his exit.
The mother, Edie, would probably be diagnosed today as being neurotic or psychotic. In her never-ending struggle to 'keep up appearances', she constantly nags her kids about their manners, the company they keep, &c. On several occasions, she asks out loud 'What have I ever done to deserve such demon children?' She takes most of her frustrations with her life, along with her complete misunderstanding of her children, on the intelligent, precocious Graceanne. On several occasions, she beats her until she's bloody. It's easy to understand how the kids would come to see themselves as a burden to her -- if it weren't for their seemingly indestructable spirits.
Graceanne is a tough child with a reputation to match. Near the beginning of the book, Charlie (actually short for Charlemange, which should tell you MORE about their mother), who has a correctable club foot, is musing about being bullied by the other children in town. He dismisses worrying about the other kids with these thoughts about his sisters (from p.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An American Classic Dec 8 2001
The first time I read "This is Graceanne's Book,"
I did so without pausing. When I closed the
book's cover at four in the morning, I knew that
I had just been privileged to experience a tale
of American literature that will remain in my
heart and my mind's eye forever.
The second time I read the novel, I found myself
poring over the chapters -- absorbing the beauty
of Whitney's vivid settings and inventive dialogue.
I treated myself to a few chapters each day, wanting
to prolong my reunion with the lovable and precocious
Charlie (the boy narrator) and his irrepressible yet
noble sister Graceanne.
Whitney archived a time in American history when
women struggled for financial independence; society
struggled with racial issues; and children struggled
to remain out of crossfire of their elders.
The kids of Cranepool's Landing didn't have television,
they had something far greater: imagination, and a gritty
determination to puzzle through life's mysteries on their
own terms, using their own self-taught codes of honor.
Charlie, Graceanne, Wanda, Kentucky, and Collier
will win your heart as Jem, Dil and Scout did in
"To Kill a Mockingbird."
Reading "This is Graceanne's Book" gives you an insight
into the American experience that should not be overlooked.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Book Jan. 9 2001
By Aerie
Sometimes the most profound things are very complex and sometimes they are very simple. This is a simple story about complex human beings who appear simple. Confusing? Not very. I urge you to read this story about a mid-western family hurting in every place imaginable but which still manages to move into parts of the human heart where few of us have the nerve to go. There are scenes of such poignance that you will put the book down and reflect with your eyes closed as you feel what the characters are feeling. I finished the book about a week ago, and I find myself thinking about what Graceanne did on the other side of the bridge and wondering why Charlie never saw his sister Kentucky again. Did Edie ever get herself straightened out? The story stays with you and I will be thinking about it for a long time. It will be on my bookshelf in the section reserved for the very special. It is very simply, a wonderful book and although the story has ended, I wish the Farrand family the very best.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended reading.
Wonderfully written. The characters are very well drawn out, especially Graceanne and her mother. The story is told from Graceanne's brother's perspective. Read more
Published on Jan. 19 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars A Page Turner
Very true to life story of a fractured family. You will have a hard time putting it down.
Published on Dec 9 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting
Once I began reading this book, I couldn't stop thinking about it. I was anxious to get back to the story to find out what happened to these children, always hoping that some... Read more
Published on July 30 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Touching Story
I devoured this book!! Maybe after the last one it was just too exciting to have a book with a plot... Read more
Published on Feb. 28 2002 by Abby
3.0 out of 5 stars This Is Graceanne's Book
This is a novel written as a memoir, but without the structure of a novel. The narrative covers a period of time, but merely recites, sometimes in agonizing and seemingly... Read more
Published on Jan. 31 2002 by Ernest J. Myers
5.0 out of 5 stars Touching story of courage and humour
This book drew me in. I literally couldn't stop reading it and was finished in 2 days. The characters are great, I rooted for them throughout the book as they faced abuse at the... Read more
Published on Nov. 5 2001 by Abby
3.0 out of 5 stars A Confusing Issue to me.....
Edie divorces her husband because of the abuse, and yet Edie is an abuser herself. I suspect that Edie truly tried to shine and be a good mother, but once the abuse got going she... Read more
Published on Sept. 11 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Old Fashioned Story of Childhood Innocence & Spirit
Told from the vantage point of young Charlie Farrand, you'll find yourself in love with him & his older sister Graceanne in no time. Read more
Published on Aug. 20 2001 by Sandra Mitchell
5.0 out of 5 stars P.L. Whitney depicts small-town life with wit and poignancy.
In small-town Missouri during the '60s,Graceanne survives disasters such as floods and physical abuse through her keen intelligence and wit. Read more
Published on Aug. 12 1999
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