the habit of being_saving grace


I received an ARC of Jane Green’s Saving Grace during my baby moon and it was a bit of much needed indulgent reading. This is the story of Grace Chapman, she of the perfect life living comfortably with her husband, bestselling author Ted, in their picture-perfect restored farmhouse on the Hudson River in New York.

Grace has what she believes to be a dark secret in her past and had a volatile childhood. As of late, her marriage to Ted has left her feeling unsettled. In a conversation with Jane Green about Grace and what intrigued her about the character she said:

” … we have a propensity to repeat the patterns of our childhood; we recreate situations that are somehow familiar to us, and I loved the idea of Grace growing up in a difficult, volatile household, and how the would explain why she would remain married to a man like Ted. Many people reading the book would urge her to leave, but when you understand how walking on eggshells is entirely familiar to Grace, I think it helps you understand why she stays.”

As Grace’s life starts to unravel following the arrival of her husband’s new assistant, Grace ignores her uneasiness with the new assistant while everyone else is enchanted by her. Things soon take a sinister turn and Grace finds herself fighting for both her marriage and her sanity.

When asked what she hoped readers would take away from Saving Grace, Green replied:

“Grace’s lessons were ones I had to learn the hard way, primarily that we should always trust our intuition; that when that little voice tells us something is wrong, we must listen to it, and that we have to be our own advocates when it comes to our health…”

And for the aspiring writers out there, Jane Green has written fifteen New York Times bestselling novels. Asked what advice she offer to an aspiring writer:

“That writing is your job, and has to be done every day, whether you feel like it or not. That the most important requirement is discipline; that you will be hit with writer’s block over and over, and the only way to break it is to keep writing anyway. I would also add, write the story you need to tell rather than the one you think will be a bestseller.”

Saving Grace will be released on December 30, 2014, and will be a great reading choice for those last days of winter vacation! I have one copy of to give away. Sorry, US residents only. Leave a comment below, a winner will be selected at random on Wednesday, January 7.

ETA: The winner of the giveaway is Andi — congrats!

  • Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • would love to win this! sounds like a good read and an important message for many!ReplyCancel

  • Manise

    Wow. This book has my name written all over it in so many ways….. kind of frightening actually.ReplyCancel

  • I have been looking for a read like this. Thank you for the lovely giveaway!ReplyCancel

  • This sounds like a wonderful book!!ReplyCancel

  • I would love to have my name entered Amanda, thank you.ReplyCancel

  • I only hesitate, because I am not sure how good the book actually is. You mention indulgent-was it a worthy indulgence?ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Heather, I consider indulgences to be worthwhile ;-)ReplyCancel

      • Indeed. You are quite correct. Too often, I think of the pure act of reading an indulgence. Leftover sentiments from childhood about productivity. I am working on shedding those little by little.ReplyCancel

  • Maybe an indulgent read, is what I need to get out of my reading slump.ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie Bonin

    This spoke to me on so many levels. I will absolutely begin my new year with this read.
    As always, a wonderful post.

  • Pamela

    This looks good! I need a little fiction for my month between semesters.ReplyCancel

  • Have been wanting to give her another try… Sounds like a great January read :)ReplyCancel

  • Sounds like a sinister and fun read!ReplyCancel

  • Thank you for the giveaway!ReplyCancel

  • Debbie Eichel

    I believe I would enjoy this book.

    I appreciatethe opportunity to win it!ReplyCancel

  • Thanks for this opportunity-I am getting my to read list for 2015 settled now and could add this on.ReplyCancel

  • Cheri

    Sounds like a fun read!ReplyCancel

  • thank you for the fun giveaway!ReplyCancel

  • Sounds interesting! Thanks for the giveaway.ReplyCancel

  • Marie

    This sounds like a wonderful read for a cold winter’s night!
    Happy New Year everyone!!ReplyCancel

  • Sounds interesting! Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Nicole

    Man, I’d like to get lost in this novel. —I mean right now!ReplyCancel

  • katy r

    Intriguing. Sounds like a great read. Intuition is key, I learned that by ignoring my own intuition and it cost me emotionally and financially.ReplyCancel

  • MamaSue

    Sounds like an interesting book. Thank you for doing a giveaway! And Happy New Year!ReplyCancel

  • Jenny

    Sounds intriguing for these cold days ahead. Thanks Amanda. Happy new year.ReplyCancel

  • Beth Kopp

    My first time on your website not my last. I would so enjoy that bookReplyCancel

  • Jane Green is new to me, and I would love to read her new book.ReplyCancel

  • Marcia

    I would love to read this book – thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Charlotte

    I have not read any of this author ‘s books. This one sounds like it would be good.ReplyCancel

  • Susannah K

    Yes please :)ReplyCancel

  • Sonya

    I am such a fan of Jane Green and am looking forward to reading this one. Fingers crossed.ReplyCancel

  • Always love visiting your peaceful space here. Looks like a fun read!ReplyCancel

the habit of being 2014 book list

I began 2014 with this list of books I owned and wanted to read. And from there the list of books to-be-read only grew and grew; I reread several books and found them richer with the repeated reading. Some of these I’ve never posted about—especially the ones toward the end of the list—but I’ve posted a few thoughts or a gem of a quote from most of them here on the site. If you are the curious sort, you can find most of my book-related posts by poking through the posts in this category. An * denotes two enthusiastic thumbs up!

:: mystery and manners
:: the luminaries
:: pope awesome and other stories
:: the lowland*
:: The Thin Place*
:: the narrow road to the interior*
:: the art forger
:: Parched
:: Redeemed
:: shirt of flame: a year with st. thérèse of lisieux
:: my sisters the saints
:: orthodoxy
:: quiet
:: Soy Sauce for Beginners
:: My Life in Middlemarch
:: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
:: The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns
:: Nestuary
:: Save the Date
:: Cathedral*
:: A Prayer Journal
:: Wise Blood
:: The Violent Bear It Away
:: Juniper Tree Burning
:: Looking for Mary
:: Benediction
:: Something Other Than God
:: The Little Oratory
:: Runaway
:: Dear Life
:: The Fever
:: Landline
:: We Were Liars
:: After the Sour Lemon Moon*
:: Brideshead Revisited*
:: Divisadero*
:: The Interestings
:: Light Years*
:: Howards End*
:: She Rises
:: The Sea*
:: I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl
:: Crossing to Safety*
:: The Summer Book
:: Sculptor’s Daughter: A Childhood Memoir
:: The Woman Who Borrowed Memories
:: Fair Play
:: A Thomas Jefferson Education
:: The Flying Shoes
:: Belzhar
:: Frances and Bernard
:: The History of Love*
:: All the Light We Cannot See*
:: Saving Grace
:: Stoner*
:: Everything I Never Told You*
:: Daybook*
:: Lila*
:: Nora Webster
:: The Gin Closet
:: The Empathy Exams
:: The Hours*
:: The Ice Chorus

PS: Book giveaway coming Tuesday morning!
PPS: The January prompts are up if you’re so inclined.

  • You all have been shaming me with these long lists of books you have read. Reminds me I need to squeeze in my first love (reading), in the new year. Thank you for the list!ReplyCancel

  • I will refer back to this list often.

  • I am reading Lila right now. So heart-achingly good.ReplyCancel

  • never say no to one more list of books lol, and thanks for pointing out the ones you especially enjoyed. we seem to share some similarities in book choices so will definitely be perusing through these.ReplyCancel

  • oh i just realized that you would probably appreciate my most recent make ;)ReplyCancel

    • admin

      I just clicked over and it looks great Monica! You are so talented ;-)ReplyCancel

  • You’ve inspired me to read more! I’ve only read 21 books instead of the usual 26. However, seven of the 21 were not really good….here’s to 2015 being a good book selection!!ReplyCancel

  • Great list. Crossing to Safety might be my all-time favorite … I loved Lila, All the Light, and the Empathy Exams … so many great books here! xoxReplyCancel

  • Thank you for your lists. Often when I am at a loss of what to read or crave a new recommendation, I look to your reviews and suggestions. Sometimes my pile is daunting and a fresh read is just what I desire.ReplyCancel

  • Debbie

    Thank you for this great list!

    I have only known of two other people who have read Stoner! It is great, isn’t it? I have read many of the books on your list, and since we have similar tastes, I have written down several of your recommendations.

    I will be reading your recommendations more often. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • What a long list, I am sure if I listed all the books I have read this year it would be long too! It is wonderful to make time for in your day, we are lucky to have such a good and varied choice of books to read these days.ReplyCancel

  • This is an AMAZING list.

    My One Word for 2015 is Read. I am gathering bits and notes from everywhere for what to read. Will definitely be revisiting this list for inspiration!ReplyCancel

  • This is great, Amanda. I’m especially intrigued by The Narrow Road to the Interior. Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Denise, if you read it, I’d love to hear what you think of it! The Narrow Road to the Interior was one of my fave books of 2014.ReplyCancel

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it was a long, long weekend
full of days of nothingness and then
days full of activity and friends
the mister and i watched this, two thumbs way up
we had a few days of extra kids at the house which
believe it or not meant a boost in productivity for me
there was an uptake in cookie consumption too but sometimes
we need to give in and indulge our weaknesses (dark chocolate)
speaking of weaknesses, the frog prince read this and inspired, he
promptly launched into reading this and has
raided the library for every book on submarines he could find
the dining room table is covered in books about subs and his sketches of subs
caught up in submarine fever, he and the mister constructed a periscope
and watched this while the
red bean and i watched this
it’s her first time seeing it and she loooooves it
yesterday, on the eve of advent we went to a winter festival at our church
faces were painted, gumbo was eaten, saint nicholas arrived on an antique firetruck,
the trees were lit, and all were merry
today we’re breathing deeply, ready to fill the next few weeks with peace and hope
i’ll be absent from this space for december, popping up on instagram,
reveling in the quiet joy that is this season and
wishing you a peaceful and joyful advent!

  • One of the podcasts I love is “Stuff You Missed in History Class” and they JUST this week had one on a submarine disaster (that ended happily–amazingly) . Your Frog Prince might enjoy a listen:

    • admin

      Thank you, Danielle! Will pass this along to him.ReplyCancel

  • We got the tree up yesterday, I wrapped 30 or so presents and then plotted out a schedule/grid for December so that everyone has transportation to various planned Christmas activities (children’s theater, choir, church, party etc.) and everyone gets fed… December can be chaotic but it’s worth it, right?ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Wow! Presents already wrapped? I haven’t even requested their lists…will try not to hyperventilate now ;-)ReplyCancel

  • Wishing you and your family a peace filled Advent, and a wonderful holiday season. All the best!ReplyCancel

  • happy weekend amanda!! Loved seeing your post and can you believe it’s the beginning of advent already? my weekend was busy and crazy but full of family and fun. I’m looking forward to a do nothing tomorrow :)ReplyCancel

  • Wishing you the very best of holiday wishes!ReplyCancel

  • Oh! Thank you for the suggestion of Lark Rise! I’m always looking for things to watch with Em and forgot about that show. I think she’ll like it.

    Wishing you hope, love, joy, and peace this advent season.ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Erin, the girl has seen both versions of Pride & Prejudice (she read the book first), Little Women (ditto on the book). We’ve dipped our toes into Larkrise and Cranford and she loves them both. Hope this gives you something to watch with E!ReplyCancel

  • Enjoy a beautiful advent season Amanda. I hope this time is everything you want it be and much more.ReplyCancel

  • I would love to follow you on Instagram! What is your name there? Mine is LyssaGirlLovesLife : ) Happy December!ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Lyssa, It’s writealm on Instagram :)ReplyCancel

  • A Blessed Advent to you! Wonderful that you are seeking to focus on this and your family! God bless and keep you! May your Christmas be beautiful and bright!ReplyCancel

  • Jane

    Would love to follow you on Instagram since you won’t be blogging in December. What is your username?ReplyCancel

  • Felicia Jones

    I do love Advent. This weekend was the hanging of the greens in preparation. It felt strange going to cut the tree without my girl (who’s away at school) this year.ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Oh, that would be a big change, Felicia! I know you must be looking forward to having her home soon :)ReplyCancel

  • Mary

    My husband loves “Das Boot.” “Hunt for Red October” is pretty good too. I live in New Orleans, and have followed your blog for some time. I love your reading recommendations and reflections. Enjoy this quiet waiting period. I intend to try for a peace-filled and joyful advent. Thanks.ReplyCancel

  • sounds like a lovely weekend! enjoy the season of advent~ I too shall aim to revel in the quiet joy. xoReplyCancel

  • Sounds like a lovely weekend, balanced with both creativity, fun and rest. I’m looking forward to the peace after the storm of seasonal activities too :)

  • pamela

    We love Lark Rise, too.

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“She wondered if she would ever again be able to have a normal conversation and what topics she might be able to discuss with ease and interest. At the moment the only topic she could discuss was herself. And everyone, she felt, had heard enough about her. They believed it was time that she stop brooding and think of other things. But there were no other things. There was only what had happened. It was as though she lived underwater and had given up on the struggle to swim towards air. It would be too much. Being released into the world of others seemed impossible; it was something she did not even want. How could she explain this to anyone who sought to know how she was or asked if she was getting over what happened?”
— Colm Tóibín, Norma Webster

+ + +

Norma Webster is quite possibly one of the most riveting character studies I have ever read.

Set in a small town in southeast Ireland during the late 1960s/early 1970s, this is a study of Nora, a widow in her forties struggling to come to terms with the loss of her husband while shouldering the upbringing of her four children.

Left without an income, Nora must find employment after years as a homemaker. Nora wants to hide and she needs to mourn but feels she can’t because of the probing eyes of the small village she lives in. The book is a study of a strong and intelligent woman trying to pick up the pieces and rebuild her life on her own terms. Tóibín does an impressive job of portraying Nora as a real flesh and blood person and we, the reader, are privy to her inner thoughts and the inner journey she undertakes toward self-acceptance and healing.

  • Excellent review. I will be adding this to my “to-read” list. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Sounds excellent and just up my street…on my list to purchase! Have a great weekend, Amanda : )ReplyCancel

  • Wow- I am going to hunt this one down…ReplyCancel

  • sound like just my type of book. i really enjoy a good character driven novel.

    and boy, does this resound with me at the moment, “But there were no other things.”ReplyCancel

  • just picked this up at the library!ReplyCancel

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“But thinking of her life was another thing. Lying there in that room in that house in that quiet town she could choose what her life had been. The others were there. The world was there, evening and morning. No matter what anybody thought, no matter if she only tagged after them because they let her. That sweet nowhere. If the world had a soul, that was it. All of them wandering through it, never knowing anything different or wanting anything more.”

—Marilynne Robinson, Lila

+ + +

Set in the same fictionalized town as Home and Gilead and populated by the same characters, Lila tells the story of how the Reverend John Ames came to marry his quiet, uneducated, and hard-edged wife. The novel is epic, not in terms of its plot but in the wide net it casts around biblical characters (Ruth, Job, Hosea) and themes (baptism, creation, doubt, exile, prodigals,  regeneration, sanctification,  wanderings both literal and spiritual).

This is the story of an old man made young by the love of a woman caught off guard by grace, a story that filled me with a mixture of beauty and dread from the first page to the last.

PS: The New York Times had a great interview with Marilynne Robinson which I discuss briefly here. Read the entire NYT interview here.

  • This one is on my list too. I do enjoy her writing.ReplyCancel

  • I reread Gilead and read Home for the first time in preparation for this book. Eagerly awaiting the day I can get my hands on a copy!ReplyCancel

  • Leslie

    London Review of Books just did an amazing review of Lila as well. Worth a look. Can’t wait to read this one.ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Thanks for letting me know, Leslie! I’ll definitely give the review a read :)ReplyCancel

  • I read both of the other novels and can’t wait for this one! THanks for the link to the interview!ReplyCancel

  • Oh, my goodness, I just read _Lila_ this week and was just bowled over. The quiet beauty of it . . . the ache and the beauty and the way they can’t be separated at all, the way the beautiful thing between Lila and Ames could never have existed without everything that preceded . . . it’s a story that sinks into you, isn’t it?ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Cindy, It does sink in and it sticks with you too. I find myself still thinking of it, of her, of him.ReplyCancel

  • I’m desperate to read this – Home and Gilead both took my breath away with the skill of their writing, and their mood has stuck with me. Really I think I need to dig them both out and re-read before I let myself buy Lila, much as I want it now, and then I need to set aside some quiet time so I can read it properly, not just in snatched pages between child-emergencies.ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Helen, I live and read in snippets between child emergencies…I definitely understand your predicament.ReplyCancel

  • I need to put my knitting aside and read more than just before bed, I am getting woefully behind and you just get adding to my stack of books. ;)ReplyCancel

  • I think this is going on my list! Thank you.
    Hope you are doing well after the arrival of your sweet girl – and that your little guy is healing up nicely. You’ve been on my mind. xoReplyCancel

    • admin

      Thank you, Bella! We’re all good over here. Wishing you & yours a happy weekend. xoReplyCancel

  • I spent the last half hour getting caught up on your blogs, requesting 4 or 5 mentioned titles from the library, looking at your beautiful knitting on Ravelry…what a lovely way to wake up this morning! Thank you for sharing…ReplyCancel