Saturday, July 6, 2013

Book Review: Stages of Grace by Carey Heywood

Title: Stages of Grace
Series: N/A
Author: Carey Heywood
Pages: 284
Pub Date: April 21, 2013
Publisher: Self-published
Book Source: From the author for review
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars


Synopsis from Goodreads: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance...

When facing death a mourning period is to be expected. But what if it's not a person but a relationship that dies? Grace and her boyfriend Jon have been together for three years. They live together and have shared many beautiful memories. Those memories are what keep Grace from admitting Jon has changed and is no longer the man she fell in love with.

Afraid of being alone and holding on to something that no longer exists Grace is a shadow of her former self. Her daily objective is to hide her pain from the world. Then, an unexpected letter sets off a whirlwind of potential life changes. In life sometimes the hardest thing to do is let go.

- - -

Stages of Grace caught my attention because it seemed to be about an abusive relationship. As a former victim of domestic abuse, I like to read books featuring this topic because I can relate to them. I like to see how different authors portray the experience and how their characters make their way out of it, if at all. 

This book ended up being a bit different than I expected. Grace's boyfriend, Jon, isn't physically abusive; he's verbally and emotionally abusive. Still abusive, but in a different way. Not only that, but he walks all over Grace. She has to do everything he wants and sit back and watch while he goes out all night without explanation. He runs hot and cold, but mostly cold, distant, and downright mean. Sometimes Grace will see a glimpse of the old Jon, and she clings to it for dear life. 

Just when you think Grace is going to be the doormat of alldoormats, she surprises you. She stands up for herself pretty quickly in the book, and I was impressed with this. Taking into account the fact that we enter the story right when things are at the peak of ugliness, you have to remember Grace has already dealt with these things for months. It was smart of the author not to dilly-dally around with starting from the beginning. It would've made for a drawn-out picture of what was going on.


The letter. The mysterious letter Grace receives in the mail. Turns out it's from her grandmother; a grandmother she's never met. A grandmother she was told died. Turns out, her mother lied about it. Now that her mother is dead, her grandmother has come forward and wants her to come down to Florida to stay with her for a bit, to get to know her a bit.

Surprisingly, Grace doesn't struggle with the decision much at all. The ever-widening chasm between she and Jon is making her feel a sort of numbness, and she needs the change of scenery; needs the time apart.

So off she goes.

This is where yet another surprise came in. A lot of the book was spent completely away from Jon, with him being merely an afterthought most of the time. I like that Carey Heywood did this. I like that she introduced Ryan, a new love interest. Because Grace has already fallen out of love with Jon. Their relationship has long since been over, whether she wanted to admit it to herself or not. It's not like she is using Ryan as a rebound, because there isn't a relationship to rebound from anymore. Jon and Grace merely live together, barely more than roommates.
“Why are you still with him?”

“I forgot how to be without him.”
While falling in love with Ryan—slowly, realistically—and getting to know her grandmother, Grace does a lot of self-reflecting. I felt really close to Grace during this time and I think the author did a really great job of making her seem real. I felt everything she felt like it was me going through it. When Grace finally comes to the realization that she, by holding out hope of Jon changing back to his old self, is fighting a losing battle—that she is working alone to save a relationship that she doesn't evenwant anymore, she acts quickly. I like that. Grace turns out to be quite the woman of action.

Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance

The author uses these as an outline of sorts. We clearly see Grace go through each of these, but in a very smooth, realistic manner. The stages of mourning can indeed apply to a relationship. Heywood wove them into her story quite superbly. I was impressed with her descriptive, emotional writing.

All in all, I very much enjoyed this book. There are no huge plot twists or surprises. It's just a clear-cut portrayal of the grey area in a declining relationship. This is something a person can go through without even realizing it. Maybe someone in Grace's situation will read this and take something important from it. :)

This book is very emotional and moving. The characters are raw and real; extremely relatable. I think Carey Heywood is a fantastic author and I definitely recommend this book to those who enjoy New Adult fiction.