“A compelling work of historical fiction (and) a poignant family drama.”
Atlantic Books Today
Reviewed by Lisa Doucet, co manager of Woozles Children’s Book Store.
For as long as she can remember, Grace’s life has revolved around Dotty, her older sister. Living with the nuns in a convent in Belgium, she has always helped look after Dotty. Until Now. Dotty is dead and Grace is being moved to the dormitory to be with the other girls her age, the same girls who used to call her and Dotty “sister retards.”
To make matters worse, cruel Sister Francis is in charge of the dormitory. As Grace tries to fit in with the other girls and make new friends, she also tries desperately to steer clear of Sister Francis, who always seems filled with anger and hate. Grace continues to hope and pray that one day the mother who left her and Dotty at the convent will come back for her.
When Grace finds an old diary hidden in the library, she becomes caught up in the sad story of the young woman who wrote it. As she learns about the terrifying events that transpired when the Nazis invaded Belgium, her heart goes out to the girl who witnessed and lived through such unspeakable horrors. She never images that this diary will lead her to the truth about her own family history.
Recalling her own experiences at a Belgian boarding school, Nova Scotian author Daphne Greer has crafted a compelling work of historical fiction that is a poignant family drama. Although readers are only briefly introduced to Dotty, she is nonetheless a beautifully realized character. The relationship between her and Grace is vividly rendered and realistically depicted.
Grace’s experiences, insecurities and fears as she begins her new life with the other girls will elicit empathy from modern readers who will relate to her feelings if not the setting. Through the diary entries that Grace reads, the author is able to give readers a glimpse of what life was like in Belgium during the dark days of Nazi occupation. The multi – layered plot is intricately woven and well paced. The resolution is emotionally satisfying, making this a story that will appeal to a wide range of readers.
CM : Canadian Materials Review:
Recommended by: Teresa Iaizzo, a librarian with the Toronto Public Library.
I stare at the piece of paper. It has a section for your mother’s side of the family and a section for your father’s. A lump lodges in my throat. I was left on the steps of the convent in a basket with a cloth diaper tucked in my blanket – just Dotty and me. I guess our parents couldn’t handle both Dotty and a new baby. Maybe they’d had enough of taking care of people after fifteen years of Dotty. I can’t stand up in front of the class with a blank page.
Grace, 13, is an orphan living in a Belgian convent in the 1970s with her sister Dotty. After years of Grace’s being her sister’s sole caregiver, Dotty unexpectedly dies, leaving Grace all alone for the second time in her life and sparking events which will have repercussions for years to come.
While conducting research for a school project, Grace discovers a hidden diary from the 1940s. The diary tells the story of a young girl turned nun who was tormented by her family, other nuns, and Nazis during World war II. Unbeknownst to Grace, this diary is actually the key to unraveling her own past.
Without giving too much away, Finding Grace is a brilliant coming of age story that focuses on the inner turmoil of a young girl who is grappling with who she is as a person. Without knowing any family outside her sister, Grace is desperate to discover where she comes from and, ultimately, to find out who she is. By the author’s interweaving Grace’s coming-of-age story with that of the mysterious author of the diary, readers come to understand how history sometimes has a funny way of repeating itself.