Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell *****

This book was the first in the Chewing the Fat book discussion group. I'm not sure if I have a link to it on this page, but Chewing the Fat is a blog that deals with disabilities of all kinds, & it's written by a wonderful man named Dave Hingsburger. He's worked all his adult life with people with developmental disabilities, & has now recently become disabled himself due to illness & mobility issues. I went to see a conference of his in April of 2007 & I have to say, it changed my life. That's saying a lot, I know, but when I look back I can say with certainty now that it did. My awareness of the issues faced by people with disabilities & my feeling that I have to join their fight for equality & respect is all a direct result of those 2 days in April, hearing him speak with humor & force.

The books discussed on Chewing the Fat will always have characters with disabilities in them, but it's truly amazing to me how many many books that encompasses. A Thread of Grace is one of those books that you don't ever realize has any disabled characters in it at all until you're done & you get to take a breath & reflect on it. There is one pivotal scene that deals with it head on, but for the rest of the novel it is there, yet hidden. And you realize that it's because we're all disabled. You see that clearly, & you understand that just because no one can see your weaknesses & challenges, you still have them. And just because you can see others' obvious ones, it doesn't mean that behind that they are perhaps stronger in areas that you have a deficit in .

The book takes place in Italy near the end of WWII, when Jewish refugees crawled over the mountains to get to what they hoped would be the safe haven of Italy only to find that the German army had come in right behind them & taken over. I honestly can't recommend this book enough--it's going to be one of those ones that I will reference in my mind for a long time, & the characters will be there too with a smirk, making me think WWRD? (What Would Renzo Do?)

Give it a read--you won't regret it.

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