Book: “Darkness and Grace” by Kathryn Schleich
Publishing Info: Self-Published, March 2021
Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from Book Publicity Services
Book Description: Even the strongest of families aren’t immune to malice, betrayal, and deceit. Supportive, loving, and affluent, the Pierson family is delighted to celebrate the marriage of sensitive middle son Paul Pierson and his wife, Pamela. Everyone rejoices that Paul has finally recovered from the tragic loss of his beloved first wife and looks forward to Paul and Pamela’s new life together. But just as family members are celebrating his happiness, they start noticing that his beautiful bride may not be what she seems.
As the strain between siblings and spouses worsens, the Piersons discover that neither their money nor their considerable influence can keep the family safe from one woman’s malicious intent. When the true nature of this family member is revealed, each of the Piersons is confronted with the quandary of human conduct and moral responsibility.
Darkness and Grace is a compelling story of the classic struggle between good and evil, as well as the violent undercurrent running beneath the illusory serenity of a close-knit Midwestern family.
Review: Thank you to Book Publicity Services for providing me with an eARC of this novel!
It wasn’t until very recently that I saw the Scorsese film “Casino”, which is admittedly strange as it is my husband’s favorite Scorsese feature. I’m sure that he loves it for the Vegas aspect as well as the interesting mob entanglements, but I think that for me the strongest feature is Sharon Stone, who plays Ginger, the narcissistic and potentially psychopathic wife of Robert DeNiro’s Sam. Stone puts in a powerhouse performance of a charming and vivacious woman who slowly turns into a nightmare as she is overtaken by drugs, alcoholism, and her sociopathic tendencies, which makes DeNiro’s life a bit of a nightmare. But Stone also brings a sad bit of vulnerability to Ginger, and even though you absolutely want her to have to face responsibility for her actions, you do feel a little sorry for her. As I was reading “Darkness and Grace” by Kathryn Schleich, I felt like I was reading about Ginger, only taking place in Minnesota, and without any of the vulnerability and empathy.
Our first person protagonist, Kay Pierson-Scott, is telling the story of how her family got entangled with Pamela, her brother Paul’s wife who turns out to be a psychopathic manipulator who runs an emotional mac truck through their happy family. Pamela is relentless, Paul is beaten down, and Kay and her family are running out of patience and the wherewithal to deal with it. As a family drama with a lot of suds to go around, it is entertaining as hell, making my blood pressure rise as Pamela’s manipulations and machinations run amok and Kay becomes more and more harried and the Pierson clan is targeted more and more. I liked Kay as a protagonist, who is a devoted and somewhat doting oldest sister who wants to protect her brother and the rest of her family as best she can. It’s all from her POV, so there are definitely some blind spots as to the other characters, deliberate or not, but she was enjoyable enough that I was okay with focusing on her. Pamela is the other big character in this book, and she is pretty much a cartoony villain in a lot of ways, though that said I know people who have dealt with people like her in their lives. So I’m not about to say that she’s unrealistic. You definitely spend the entire book waiting for her to get what is coming to her, and holding your breath in suspense as to whether or not she will do something REALLY terrible along the way (oh how I was SCARED for her daughter, Kaitlin!). All of this makes the plot easy to consume, and the side of me that lives for this kind of over the top drama was definitely entertained.
One of the hurdles “Darkness and Grace” faces is that the writing style is very simple, almost conversational, as though Kay is telling this story to a person over cocktails or brunch. I do think that this CAN work if done well, but it felt kind of stunted and a bit informal in this case, and therefore distracting. But it’s important to note that this was the first novel from Schleich, and that this is a re-release. Given that the other book of hers I read “Salvation Station”, didn’t have these issues, it’s really just a sign that this is a debut, or at least very early, work for an author who has time to grow and evolve.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t shout out to the numerous, NUMEROUS Minnesota references peppered throughout this book. I know that Schleich is local, and that aspects of this story are loosely based on something her family had to deal with in the 1990s, so it’s not too surprising to see all the MN moments. For me, a Minnesotan born and raised, it was fun to be like “I know what neighborhood that is!” or “I’ve been to that place!”. It may be laid on pretty thick for other readers, but trust me, us Minnesotans LOVE to have our state acknowledged in media, so this was a-okay by me.
“Darkness and Grace” is an entertaining and soapy thriller that kept me interested. It doesn’t reinvent any wheels, but it gets the job done, and sometimes that just what you want in a suspense novel.
Rating 7: The story is engaging and easy to invest in, even if the writing style felt a little rudimentary to me at times. But the Minnesota references were top notch!
“Darkness and Grace” isn’t on any Goodreads lists as of yet, but I think it would fit in on “Family Drama Books”.