An Unexpected Grace by Kristin von Kreisler
Cons: Not well thought out, primary character unlikable, large dog lovers will cringe at some situations
Spoiler Alert: This review has spoilers but I’m not recommending it as something to be read.
Kristin von Kreisler’s An Unexpected Grace comes with a fully predictable ending wrapped up in a frustrating storyline that had this dog lover agonizing over the continued stupidity. I’ll quickly say that the dog deserved better, that the primary character Lila was completely unlikeable and those around her were unbelievably insensitive when thinking she would be good for the dog. Lila is clearly a head case.
Being a head case is understandable. She was shot at work.
The book is about Lila Elliot, a “starving artist” who works an ordinary office job, who is living in a run-down apartment and licking her heartbreak wounds after a breakup with her long-term boyfriend. The story opens at work when a recently fired janitor enters and shoots and kills several colleagues and injures others including Lila. Following her surgery Lila’s best friend Cristina cares for her at her home and offers refuge for recuperation. Coincidentally Cristina is also fostering a severely abused Golden Retriever named Grace.
Grace was stolen by a hunky, well-intended young man who had observed the dog’s abuse. Grace had been tied up out in the neighbor’s backyard, during all types of weather, with very little food. Her collar had not been changed over the years and had cut deeply into the dog’s neck. Adam rescued the dog by taking her and hiding her at Cristrina’s house.
Soon after Lila started living at her friend’s house Cristina leaves with her husband and children for a six-month long business trip. Naturally she asks Lila to remain, rent free, and oh, by-the-way, take care of Grace. Lila is terrified of dogs because of a dog bite as a child; there is no way she will ever even touch a dog let alone like one yet it seems that Lila and Adam have been scheming to get Lila to adopt the dog so that they would be each other’s therapist. This, in my opinion, seems insensitive and foolish and I wondered why they didn’t consider an official rescue group who would try hard to locate a suitable foster home. (That however wouldn’t have worked in this story.)
Lila is emotionally disturbed. She hears internal voices from different personalities. Her Crazy Aunt voice seems to be manipulating her thoughts most days although it might have been her Pleaser voice that got her into so much trouble. She’s obsessed with finding out more about the man who shot her. He, as so often happens, died during the shooting so there won’t be any closure in court. She suffers from undiagnosed PTSD. I can understand her trauma and her unrealistic thoughts and her need for time to recover. I can understand her having a therapy dog. Being shot while in the safety of your workplace has to be horribly unsettling. Yet, I never enjoyed this character.
An Unexpected Grace is about the recovery of both Grace and Lila. Both were emotionally and physically damaged and both needed help. Unfortunately much of this storyline simply doesn’t make sense.
- Why place a sweet but desperately lonely Golden Retriever under the care of a woman who not only makes it completely clear she doesn’t like dogs but also has physical and emotional trauma that makes it nearly impossible for her to care for the dog?
- Cristina and Adam both professed to be caring dog people, but why expose this needy dog solely to Lila?
- Adam essentially disappeared for a long period of time after placing Grace under Lila’s care. Yet, he becomes angry with her when she attempts to leave Grace at an animal shelter. But wait, he doesn’t take Grace from Lila at that time. What?
- Lila had been “caring” for Grace for several weeks when she took her to the animal shelter. Staff there removed Grace’s bandana. Lila was extremely shocked to see the scars and exposed raw skin under the bandana and said she had never removed the bandana and had no idea. Isn’t one of the first rules of writing to write about what you know? My dogs both wear bandanas and I need to re-tie them at least twice a day.
- Lila was completely unaware of how to take care of or groom a dog and had not brushed or bathed this golden until after the animal shelter trip. There’s more.
Perhaps I’m crazy but none of this makes sense. Between irresponsible dog lovers and friends, unrealistic events and unpredictable 180 degree personality changes, as well as an unlikeable main character this book left me cold and occasionally angry. Ms. von Kreisler has dogs, helps with rescuing, yet I wonder if she would ever leave a dog like Grace with someone like Lila? When I explained all of my concerns to my blond lab she just stared and said stupid happens and thanks for not being one of those people.
The best authors make it nearly impossible to predict the ending. Often I can guess the conclusion several chapters out from the end. That’s fine. I had the conclusion for An Unexpected Grace within the first couple chapters once meeting Adam. Several times I almost walked away but kept reading on the basis of several reviews. One, who claimed that this was an OK story, but assumed that a dog lover would probably enjoy more — that was an incorrect assumption. Anyone who knows me or follows my reviews quickly realizes that dogs are important family members. There is a “crazy dog lady” bumper sticker on my car. I finished this simply to see how the author wrapped up the story. Lila remained creepy, even after she has her epiphany. Her Crazy Aunt trait disappears and her Horny Guttersnipe personality takes over toward the end.
How does this end? Predictably. The 180-degree turns don’t make sense. I rolled my eyes a lot when she suddenly becomes the person she hasn’t been. I’m left wondering how stable she’ll be in the future but that’s fortunately not my problem. This book was read in its entirety but does not earn any recommendations from this dog and book lover.
Golden Retriever Rescue groups exist and most would bend over backwards to find a suitable foster home for this dog or any other dog in this situation. A national site, , can help point people to local sites.