Monday, December 5, 2011

The Mystery of Grace, by Charles de Lint (author), Paul Michael Garcia (reader), Tai Sammons (reader)


Blackstone Audio, ISBN 9781433294679, September 2009

Altagracia Quintero, Grace to her friends, is a lover of classic cars--specifically, classic Ford cars. She works at Sanchez Motors customizing hot rods. She's a fan of rockabilly music, and has enough tattoos to make those unacquainted with her believe at first glance that she's a tough, scary, gang member.

John's an artist, doing commission work for his friends' company while pursuing his serious art independently. He's a melancholy and somewhat solitary young man, still coping with his grief and guilt over the death of his younger brother, when they were still children. When he and Grace meet at the local music hall on Halloween, he's immediately attracted to her, and she to him. Before the night is over, John and Grace are well on the way to being in love.

Unfortunately, Grace has been dead for two weeks.

Grace died when she was shot by a strung-out junkie robbing the local grocery when she stopped in to buy a pack of cigarettes. After death, she woke up in a very odd afterlife, a tiny pocket universe which reproduces her apartment building, the Alverson Arms, and a few blocks around it in each direction. Everyone who dies within those few blocks winds up in this pocket universe when they die. There's no way out, except for two "free trips home" a year, on Halloween and May Eve. On those two nights, they can, if they choose, return to the living world from moonrise to sunrise. The people who knew them before, though, won't recognize them, and at sunrise, they find themselves back in the Alverson Arms world.

In alternating voices, John's and Grace's, we learn the story of their romance, John's struggles with the discovery that he's in love with a ghost, and Grace's discovery of the nature of the Alverson Arms world and her struggle to set things right. This story is truly a stand-alone, unrelated to anything de Lint has written before, but if you've enjoyed his gentle, lyrical telling of tales whose characters have to confront their own character strengths and weaknesses, as well as a world more complex than they were prepared for, you'll enjoy this.

Recommended.

I borrowed this book from a friend.