A Gracious Plenty by Sheri Reynolds. Finished 10-12-13, rating 5/5, fiction, 205 pages, pub. 1997
I chose to read this one for the 24 hour read-a-thon because I had it on my shelf, it was short and the cover has always intrigued me. Since it takes place at a cemetery that was an added facination since I love to visit old graveyards (well, I did when I had time for such things).
Finch Nobles (how’s that for a name?) takes care of the local graveyard in her small southern town. Her face, burned when she was a child, looks like a tree so she was ostracized for that. And then as she got older she realized that she could speak to the dead that ‘lived’ in the cemetery causing some very odd behavior, so she was ostracized for that. Not that she minded much since she had the vegetable man, the only one who would buy her home-grown varieties and Leonard, a police officer who found himself giving Finch more chances that she earned.
So, what’s with this talking to the dead business?
“I works like this,” the Mediator explained. “The Dead coax the natural world along. We’re responsible for weather and tides and seasons. For rebirth and retribution. You’re going to enjoy it, I’m sure. But if you want to know real enlightenment, you’ve got to lose the weight. All of it. And we’re not just talking about blubber here, either. We’re talking about burdens and secrets, buster. This is critical information, so listen up.
“In this place you’ve moved beyond experience. Now it’s your stories that keep you down. You can’t leave until you’ve told them”
That’s the outline, but in reality you don’t need to buy into this afterlife theory to enjoy the story. The well-worn, adamant, gritty character of Finch will keep you reading. This is her story, but with that comes the stories of those that live in her graveyard, and that includes her parents. It’s an odd story and I loved every page of it. (okay, there was a kitten story that troubled me, but other than that…) The dead in the graveyard were no sniveling spirits either, they wielded some major power over the living in the form of the weather, seen in all its glory for the book’s finale.
I loved the grumpy Finch and the loving way she tended to the cemetery, Reynolds painted a clear and beautiful picture of both. Highly recommended for those of you who aren’t afraid to try something a little different.