On the long flight from Australia to Montréal I read Amy Espeseth’s debut novel Sufficient Grace.
And I loved it. Reading it was a beautiful experience: from the contained poetry of the title and the delicately brutal cover art, the sweet and shocking opening scene, all the way to the horrifying final realisation of the young protagonist.
Her name is Ruth and her world is made of blood and ice, tradition and secrets, love and jealousy. The beat of the natural world throbs beneath her experiences like water under ice:
In my mind’s eye, I can see shaggy wolves—grey, silver and some near to black—pawing the ice for that meat froze deep in the water. Hunters crouching in the scrub, sitting in a hide on the lakeshore, can fire on them without slipping on the ice or even being close enough to smell the damp fur. I don’t so much like the idea of all that dark blood spread out on the ice and snow. But I do know I don’t ever want to meet those yellow eyes out on the woods alone.
And for her, the natural world includes humans, and God:
Folks stay busy talking about flesh falling into sin, who and what’s under the blood, and their prayer life and spiritual walk. All that is more about women and men, than God. But women and men is where God is.
Thick with Biblical allusions and hymnal rhythms, the story has a satisfying complexity, with ever more layers of meaning to be discovered hidden within the understated prose. Plus, I was brought up in a religious family, so I recognised most of the references which made me feel pretty clever.
Anyway. Go read it!