David Winkler, an unassuming, snow-loving hydrologist in Alaska, can see into the future. When he’s 32, he envisions his wife. They meet as predicted, fall in love, and have a daughter named Grace. But a dream in which he fails to save his baby daughter from a flash flood spurs David to abandon his life when the rains finally come. He flees to a Caribbean island to escape a painful future he’s sure will happen. Many years later, a young woman pulls David back into his former world. As he leaves his self-imposed exile, he embarks on a quest to find out if Grace is still alive and reunite with the people he left behind.
Scribner. 402 pages. $25. ISBN: 0743261828
"The attention to scientific detail that Doerr provides is half the enjoyment of the novel. These scientific musings bring the story and main character to life." Renee Warner
"… a beautiful and expansive novel. … A quest novel is, by its nature, about delayed gratification; still, even by Odyssean standards, Winkler can be an exasperating hero." Margot Livesey
"Doerr’s tender, elegiac novel is entirely out of step with our times, and that’s its strength and its weakness. … But by the end we care about [the characters] so deeply that we forgive them everything and realize that, like us, they are stumbling toward grace." Nancy Connors
"Winkler is a maddening protagonist. … But Doerr’s characters pale in comparison with the natural world he so powerfully portrays around them."
NY Times Book Review
"Doerr’s interest in nature is so obsessive that the whole equation of man in nature becomes heavily skewed in favor of the latter, producing fiction of rapturous beauty but of an oddly cold, uninvolving nature, as if it were embalmed in its own lustrous style."
San Francisco Chronicle
"A novel of this length requires more than an intriguing conceit and vivid setting; we want the characters to change, to grow, yet David himself remains virtually static, and infuriatingly passive throughout." Dan Zigmond
In his award-winning short story collection The Shell Collector (2002), Doerr drew a vast, gorgeous portrait of the natural world’s effects on the human condition. Here, he pays the same painstaking attention to detail, from descriptions of snowflakes to "tiny particles of dust drifting in the air between her ankles." Yet, the intricate, nature-driven plots that captivated readers in The Shell Collector fall short here. Critics agree that Doerr sacrifices a plausible storyline, which takes place over two decades, for setting. The characters seem authentic, but Winkler’s lack of self-forgiveness and ill-conceived search for Grace frustrated most critics. Yet, if About Grace seems short on plot, it’s worth reading for its lyrical descriptions of nature.