I recently read the novel About Grace, a beautifully written story about one man's struggle with life, love, and loss. I was drawn to the book because its author, Anthony Doerr, attended Bowdoin College at the same time I did, and his work came recommended by a fellow Bowdoin grad. While I don't know him personally, I did meet Tony in passing during our college years, and was a fan of the column he wrote in our school newspaper, Silverman & Doerr, which he co-authored with Jon Silverman. I remember their writings as bightingly sarcastic, clever and sharp-witted.
But this work is different. Much of it is cold and haunting like the ice crystals about which his hydrologist protagonist so often speaks. It tells the story of Herman Winkler, a man cursed with the ability to see events before they happen, like luggage falling out of an overhead bin, or a pedestrian getting hit by a car. The stress and torment that this "gift" brings wreaks havoc in Winkler's life, ruining his personal and business relationships and almost costing him his own life. He runs away from everything and everyone he loves in an attempt to alter the future as he's seen it.
Like The Shell Collector before it, About Grace delves into all aspects of the human condition, from love, happiness, and success, to fear, sorrow, and loss. The story is an intriguing one, but it's the writing itself that is mesmerizing. Doerr's sentences are brimming with metaphors ("It was the third of September, plenty of broth left in summer's cauldron") that paint a vivid picture for the reader. About two-thirds of the way through it did hit a slow point, but redeemed itself in the end. It's a complex story, but worth the read; I've posted a similar review on Amazon, here.