Liquid Grace

Lu Clifton

Two Shadows Books

978-0-9985284-8-9    Price: 15.95

Website/Ordering Link: https://www.amazon.com/author/luclifton


Liquid Grace is a historical mystery that opens in 1940s Oklahoma, at the beginning of World War II, and moves to California as a now-older Jane Guthrie recalls events during her thirteenth summer that have haunted her well into adulthood.

   The story employs the use of past tense and first person to provide a sense of immediacy to Jane's experiences and memories as she reviews her life, an endeavor sparked by two letters.

   Lu Clifton employs an evocative, descriptive hand in this story that is compelling in its voice: "Some days are like that, a splinter you poke at with a blackened needle till your nerves can‘t take it no more, and when all‘s said and done, you find you still hadn‘t rid yourself of the fool thing. Those letters kicked off a summer of just such days. Thorny. Days tainted with temptation and transgression, desertion and death. All these years later I remember them all, every last one. I know well enough that sometimes a splinter‘s just got to work itself out, but as the decades are stacking up on me, I feel compelled to hurry it along." 

   Readers are carried into the Oklahoma Dust Bowl experience, a journey to California's very different culture, and Jane's observations of family and roots. Her compelling approach to life drives the human interest in her evolution and coming of age: "Our first day in California was almost gone by the time I got my first look at Sylvie and Louise. Looking back on that day, it plays in my mind like a three-act play. In the first act, we got a good look at Claude‘s hot-blooded disposition. In the second, we got another glimpse of Mama‘s mystifying abilities, for I swear, there was no way a person with normal sight could‘ve told that girl in the gypsy camp was pregnant. And in the third act . . . well, as it turned out, the third act actually started out with a play, one that revealed even more mysteries about that woman I thought I knew so well. Mama."

   As she interacts with Mama, Billy Lee, Sylvie, and others, Jane grows more astute about identifying the underlying forces that govern decisions and relationships in her family's life: "I took the nuts Billy Lee handed me but stuffed them in my pocket, suddenly feeling queasy myself. Louise‘s worries were caused by something happening thousands of miles away at someplace called Midway, while things happening close by caused mine. I really didn‘t care if Shasta Slim was the egg thief, figuring Pig Man had more eggs than he needed, especially if he was feeding them to the wild pig. What worried me was why Mama was being so protective of Slim. It pained me to think of a man other than Daddy in my mother‘s life."

   This quiet observation style drives a powerful story of change, tracing a bygone era in American history and creating a compelling story that slowly reveals mysteries and haunting memories of the past that have reverberated throughout Jane’s life.

   Readers looking for a generational mystery that embraces the 1940s and 50s in America will find Liquid Grace a compelling piece. It embraces a special style of lyrical observation and offers the immediacy of a first-person recollection that identifies the influences that lead people away from their roots and homes and back again.

   Liquid Grace is highly recommended for its unique voice, sense of time and place, and its compellingly realistic survey.


--Diane Donovan
Midwest Book Review/Bookwatch