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Kirkus Reviews – PRAISE for BETWEEN by D’Angelo, Book 1 of the series Living Between the Cracks.

Kirkus Reviews – PRAISE for BETWEEN by D’Angelo, Book 1 of the series Living Between the Cracks.


In this coming-of-age novel, a young woman grapples with faith and unusual powers.

Bradley’s bildungsroman tells the story of Grace MacGregor. A brief prologue informs readers of Grace’s gifts, which include sensing someone’s past and future and even traveling through time. But the prologue is a bit of misdirection; Grace’s first-person narration is a detailed and largely realistic depiction of growing up after the Depression. In the opening chapters, she fondly recalls her childhood in Northwestern Ontario with her resourceful mother and handy father, an employee of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Grace, eager to attend school, is entranced by her older brother Joey’s books. Even though she can’t read them, she pores over the stories from The Lives of Saints. Her interest spawns an ambition. “When I grew up and was a teenager,” she thinks, “I was going to be a saint.” The gift Grace uses the most is her ability to see light coming off people. For instance, in the presence of pubescent teens, she notices: “They had all these oranges and reds streaming out of their privates and yet they still glowed the baby colours around their hearts.” The first of the novel’s four sections collects such family memories as an exciting summer trip to Biscotasing, her father’s hometown. In the second section, Grace attends school; a serious student, she challenges her teacher, disturbing the nun. In the third section, “Leaving Town,” Grace’s sexual awakening unfortunately coincides with her enrollment in a convent boarding school. The author enumerates the miseries of the school and how most of Grace’s classmates attend against their will, “under duress.” Grace eventually changes schools; at age 16, she becomes a teacher. She experiences her first real romances, including an ill-fated one. Her powers help her see what’s coming: “Somewhere deep inside was a niggling that it wasn’t going to happen for me the way I would like it to.”

This series opener is a treasure trove of details and vivid characters. Grace certainly has intriguing abilities, but her powers don’t make the book more compelling. If anything, they at times distract from the well-wrought and intricate story of a Canadian family getting by. Bradley has a keen eye for detail. Grace describes how her Italian grandfather, her mother’s father, “rolled out the large blob of fresh pasta dough with a clean broom handle, and with a huge butcher knife cut it in fine strips.” While miserably hungry at the convent, Grace lists the food she squirrels away: “An ear of cold raw corn from the pantry, the starch making it barely edible; leftover boiled potatoes already turning greyish-black from having been left exposed on a pantry counter.” The novel’s main achievement is Grace, whose unusual powers mirror her strange temperament. The author skillfully captures the earnestness and innocence of Grace’s divine aspirations. “Please God, I didn’t mean to laugh at them,” she prays, when a pool hall proprietress falls on top of a priest. “Hope this doesn’t ruin things as I study to be a saint?” Moving through the years, Bradley’s chronicle reveals the youthful impatience to mature and be important but pauses here and there to sketch indelible portraits of human triumph and tragedy.A rich, evocative tale of growing up in Canada.

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