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TENDING TO GRACE by Kimberly Newton Fusco

TENDING TO GRACE

By Kimberly Newton Fusco

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: May 11th, 2004
ISBN: 0-375-82862-1
Publisher: Knopf

Narrator Cornelia, 14, makes a new life with her great-aunt when her mother heads for Las Vegas with “the boyfriend.” Other neglected teenagers would be lucky to end up with such a stalwart, refreshing relative in their hour of need. Aunt Agatha lives on very little, outside of a small New England town, but works hard to grow produce and harvest wild food, introducing a reluctant city-bred Cornelia to the natural world. Meanwhile, Cornelia searches for a voice in writing and speaking, hindered by her stuttering and a history of ignoring herself in order to take care of her mother. Brief chapters, from one paragraph to three pages, effectively chronicle her growth, including an unaccustomed freedom to argue with a reliable adult instead of catering to an unreliable one. Well-chosen imagery about plants and even about clotheslines, and the recurring challenge of saying her own name despite stuttering, reflect the changes in Cornelia’s sense of self. Her struggles and emotions draw the reader into this quiet story that reaches a sad but hopeful conclusion. (Fiction. 12+)