The final book in Kathryn Magendie’s Graces trilogy begins with a quote from Shakespeare: “The wheel comes full circle, I am here.” Family Graces spins forward on the strength of the main character, Virginia Kate Carey. She brings the story full circle by demonstrating through her actions and her choices that love can overcome the hurts inflicted by dysfunctional families.
At the outset the ghost of her grandmother, Grandma Faith, asks Virginia Kate to tell the family’s stories. These stories, though heartbreaking, must be told to set free Grandma Faith and Katie Ivene, Virginia Kate’s troubled mother.
Family Graces delves into the unsettling stories of three characters featured in Tender Graces and Secret Graces. The reader learns the ugly details about Grandma Faith’s nightmarish life with her husband, Luke, an abusive drink who beats her. Her daughter, Katie Ivene, dreams of becoming famous in Hollywood, a form of escape from her bleak family life. She marries Frederick Carey and she eventually realizes she will never escape her home in the West Virginia mountains. She finds escape by turning to alcohol.
In sharp contrast to Katie Ivene is Rebekha, the woman who raises Virginia Kate. Though Katie Ivene will not allow her to adopt Virginia Kate and her brothers, Micah and Andy, Rebekha provides the one thing their biological mother cannot: unconditional love. We learn about Rebekha’s childhood in a wealthy household and about her distant and emotionally detached parents. Rebekha finds escape through her love of science, the microscope being her lens of choice. Her first love ends in tragedy and she is working in Texas when she meets Frederick Carey.
We also learn the story of Adin, Virginia Kate’s adopted daughter, who is left at her doorstep because her mother believes Virginia Kate’s ex-husband Dylan is the girl’s father. Virginia Kate finds a kindred spirit in Adin, who is visited by Grandma Faith. Like her adoptive mother, Adin overcomes a childhood of neglect to become a well-balanced adult.
Virginia Kate’s healthy relationships with Rebekha and Adin illustrate the redemptive power of love to break the cycle of abuse. The bond formed in those relationships is stronger than that found in some nuclear families.
Magendie elegantly weaves these dark stories, with breaks of levity, into a beautiful quilt, held together by the unique voice of Virginia Kate. I was sad to see this series end, but satisfied with the way the story came full circle.