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"A Peculiar Grace" by Jeffrey Lent

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Jeffrey Lent’s heroes face challenges out of the run of the mill. Some of these, as in In the Fall and Lost Nation, face an onslaught of outside forces strong enough to bow or break even the strongest protagonist. In A Peculiar Grace, hero Hewitt Pearce’s toughest tests result instead from his own past and his not-always-healthy ways of coping with it. In this book, Mr. Lent has shrunk his canvas down from the sweeping, heroic backdrops he used in Fall and Nation, to the emotional life of one stubborn yet searching man, who trusts his emotions and views of life maybe a little too much. And he succeeds beautifully again, the author does.  This book makes me feel many things; however, surprise at the author’s skill is not one of them.

Vermont blacksmith Hewitt Pearce was lucky enough as a teenager to feel the desperation and euphoria of deep love. When this affair ends unhappily for him, he lets it sink him into an alcohol-soaked despair which he survives only through the last-ditch efforts of his friend Walter. Twenty years later, he’s essentially a hermit with a good blacksmith’s practice, and a tractor for getting to the store. Suddenly twenty-something Jessica crashes onto his property and into his life.  She’s a fugitive from life’s vagaries, somewhat in the mold of Hewitt himself. Their quirky exploration of each other’s boundaries, beliefs, and personality form - and charm - the bulk of the book. This is the “peculiar grace” of the title. Although Hewitt’s life and heart become torqued up again when his onetime great love is widowed, he cannot revert to form - to chase her and/or pine after her - because of the new presence in his life.

I did what I very seldom do after finishing a book. I went back to re-read scenes of especially well-done dialogue, because they are some of the great charms of this charming book. We sink neck-deep into Hewitt’s psyche, and watch him

take his painful steps toward a more balanced emotional outlook. Mr. Lent grants his hero the capacity to give and also gives him the knack of communicating, through a forthright and laconic way - almost a shorthand - that captivates. His writing captures this perfectly. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect from A Peculiar Grace, after the previous heroic entries I mentioned. What I got demonstrates Mr. Lent’s mastery. He remains one of the very best practicing the craft today, as his every book amply proves. Take this up. It’s also one of the few that I definitely plan on rereading, even with my reading time at such a premium. 
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