The musical Hadestown first came on my radar early in 2019, a few months into my middle schooler’s Hamilton obsession. I was duly impressed with the latter’s theatrical and historical merits. But after a steady diet of the Schuyler Sisters, I was ready to see what else was on the contemporary Broadway scene.
But it wasn’t until about six months ago that I actually cued up a Hadestown playlist on YouTube. I was immediately swept away by the haunting melodies and intricate harmonies, but most of all, by the sense of yearning. I told my daughter, “You’ve got to listen to this.”
It seems natural to follow the foregoing review of Grace, by Natashia Deon, with a review of Some Form of Grace, by Dee Dee Chumley. The settings and stories differ widely, but, as the titles indicate, similar themes run through both books.
At the outset of Some Form of Grace, Gracene is about to be released from a minimum security prison in Oklahoma City. Her mother, she tells us, used to say that upon first laying eyes on her baby she knew the child’s name must be “some form of grace.”
“[The name] ‘suited’ me like a tutu suits a giraffe or like ballet slippers suit size ten clodhoppers,” Gracene contends.
In part I of this review, I offered my caveats and disclaimers about Grace, by Natashia Deón. If, like me, you find the triumvirate of sex, swearing, and violence unsettling, you might think twice before picking up this realistic novel set in the Civil War-era South.
But Japanese filmmaker Akiro Kurasawa said, “To be an artist means never to avert one’s eyes.” Deón’s resolute realism is a brutal kind of artistry. It requires us to face the moral and physical carnage committed in the name of slavery. But the persistent presence of the titular quality–grace–even in seemingly irredeemable circumstances underscores its invincibility.
I met Natashia Deón at the 2018 Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She spoke to a standing-room-only conference room on how to deal authentically with faith issues in a post-modern, pluralistic society.
Deón said much that was both practical and inspiring. But the overwhelming impression left by her presentation and my brief personal interaction with her is respect. It was the value with which Deón, a devout Christian, advised writers to handle all faiths. It was the ethic with which she invariably treated her listeners and fellow speakers. And it was the sentiment inspired by her humility, integrity, and clear thinking.