Cover image for The saving graces : a novel
The saving graces : a novel
Gaffney, Pat.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollinsPublishers, [1999]

Physical Description:
394 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
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Friendship sustains and enriches women's lives in way's no romantic or family relationship ever can. A source of solace, support, and nourishment, it is a tie that powerfully connects woman to woman in unforgettable, joyous, sometimes painful ways. In this wonderfully warm, humorous, and moving novel, Patricia Gaffney paints a rich portrait of this delicate yet resilient bond through the lives of four charming. vividly real women.

For ten years, Emma, Rudy, Lee. and Isabel have shared a deep affection that has helped them deal with husbands, lovers, careers, children -- the ebb and flow of expectations and disappointments common to us all. Calling themselves the Saving Graces, the quartet is united by understanding, honesty, and acceptance--an ephemeral connection that has grown stronger as the years go by...

Emma, a sharp-tongued. soft-hearted skeptic, doesn't believe in love -- until she meets the one man she can't have. For her, the Saving Graces are fall-breakers extraordinaire. She believes that "bad news doesn't hurt as much if you hear it in good company."

A beauty with an extraordinary gift for love and a shaky, dysfunctional past, Rudy is desperately trying to hold on to her deeply troubled marriage. She's not sure where she'd be without the Saving Graces. "I don't know why my friends bother with me, I'm so high-maintenance. I would run if I saw me coming. But they're always so patient and supportive."

Lee, whom they all are sure is "the normal one," longs for a baby. But her overwhelming desire for motherhood threatens to destroy an idyllic marriage. The Saving Graces are the sounding board on which she unburdens her hopes and fears. "I know I'm consumed by our infertility, and that's nor fair to Henry....He says I blame everything that's wrong with my whole life, on the fact that we can't have children. It's true, I know. I'm driving him away."

Isabel, the oldest, is a survivor whose wisdom and strength were forged by the worst trials life can offer. Divorced and free, she's falling for her single, attractive neighbor -- a man she's sure must be gay. Hers is the guiding insight that propels and grounds the Saving Graces. "We're all productive, tolerably sane, functioning adults, we Graces, with no more emotional baggage -- well, except for Rudy -- than you would expect in a random sampling of aging yuppie women. And yet our childhoods were disasters. Occasionally we four play the intriguing `What keeps us together?' game, and the fact that we all survived our childhoods is mentioned early and often."

Though these sisters of the heart and soul have seen it all, talked through it all, Emma, Rudy, Lee, and Isabel will not be prepared for a crisis of astounding proportions that will put their love, loyalty, and courage to the ultimate test. Captivating from first page to last, this mesmerizing story illuminates the emotional links that define and join us as women. While men, jobs, and crises may come and go, nothing lasts like true friendship. Funny, inspirational, joyous, and oh-so-true, The Saving Graces is a novel no reader will forget -- a story to be passed from friend to friend.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

For more than a decade, Emma (struggling novelist in love with a married man), Isabel (divorced and happier than ever before, despite her bout with breast cancer), Lee (happily married and trying to get pregnant), and Rudy (survivor of a bad childhood and afraid to challenge her husband's possessiveness) have supported each other through the good times and the bad. Now each faces a crisis, but none more so than Isabel, whose cancer has metastasized. How each woman comes to terms both with her own life and Isabel's death is the subject of this bighearted, clearly autobiographical first novel. Although the ending is predictable from page one (the man in Emma's life will leave his wife to be with her and she will find a subject for her novel, Isabel will die, Rudy will finally get up the nerve to leave her husband, and Lee will realize that having a baby is not worth destroying her once very happy marriage), the characters are a delight and the story fast-moving. Gaffney's writing style is always more than capable and occasionally achieves distinction, as in the wrenching description of Isabel's experiences after her first chemotherapy session. This ode to the friendships between women could easily become the northern version of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (1996). Buy accordingly. --Nancy Pearl

Publisher's Weekly Review

Formulaic but sprightly, Gaffney's debut is a variation on the theme of women's solidarity and bravery. Four friends in Washington, D.C., have been meeting once a week for 10 years, relying on each other for laughter, advice and encouragement. There's Emma, approaching 40 and in love with a married man named Mick; Rudy, the unstable depressive whose marriage is on the rocks; happily married Lee, who desperately wishes to have a child with her husband, Henry; and Isabel, the divorced cancer survivor who is in love with her neighbor, Kirby. They call themselves "The Saving Graces," after a dog they once hit with a car, rescued and nursed to recovery: now "she's old and grizzled like us... but she is the sweetest dog." Each chapter is told from the perspective of one of the Graces, and though Gaffney provides each character with a distinctive voice, the stories are overly emotional and predictable. Together the women help each other with their various love troubles until Isabel's cancer returns, a blow that brings them even closer, "putting things in perspective" and setting the scene for the inevitable weepy ending. The Graces eventually get what they long for; each finds her own brand of bittersweet satisfaction, with hard-won lessons learned. "We don't go around calling ourselves [the Saving Graces] in public," says Emma. "It's corny; it sounds like a TV sitcom... starring Valerie Bertinelli, Susan Dey and Cybill Shepherd. Notice these are all attractive, smart, funny women who happen to be a little long in the tooth." While Graces reads much like daytime drama, it lacks the suspense of that medium; we know how things will work out right from the beginning. But since TV doesn't travel to the beach, this novel may provide a soap opera fix under a sun umbrella. 100,000 first printing; $200,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club selections; author tour; rights sold in Germany, Sweden, Finland, England and Norway. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Emma's heartsick over a married man, Rudy is trying to save her marriage, Lee wants to be a mommy, and Isabel is cheerfully divorced. Together, they are the "saving graces," and they have already enjoyed major book club and foreign sales. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The Saving Graces Chapter One Emma If half of all marriages end in divorce, how long does the average marriage last? This isn't a math problem; I'd really like to know. I bet it's less than nine and a half years. That's how long the Saving Graces have been going strong, and we're not even getting restless. We still talk, still notice things about each other, weight loss, haircuts, new boots. As far as I know, nobody's looking around for a younger, firmer member. Truthfully, I never thought we'd last this long. I only joined because Rudy made me. The other three, Lee, Isabel, and--Joan? Joanne? She didn't last; moved to Detroit with her urologist boyfriend, and we didn't keep up--the other three didn't strike me at that first meeting as bosom buddy material, frankly. I thought Lee was bossy and Isabel was old--thirty-nine. Well, I'll be forty next year, enough said there, and Lee is bossy, but she can't help it because she's always right. She really is, and it's a tribute to her exceptional nature that we don't all loathe her for it. The first meeting went badly. We had it at Isabel's house--this was back when she was still married to Gary. God, these people are straight, I remember thinking. Straight and rich, that's what really got me--but I'd just moved into a dank little basement apartment in Georgetown for eleven hundred a month because of the address, so I was a little touchy about money. Lee looked as if she'd just come from spa day at Neiman's. Plus she was single, still in graduate school, and teaching special ed. part-time--you know how much money there is in that--and yet she lived around the block from Isabel in snooty Chevy Chase, in a house she wasn't renting but owned. Naturally I had it in for these people. All the way home I explained to Rudy, with much wit and sarcasm and disdain, what was wrong with everybody, and why I couldn't possibly join a women's group whose members owned electric hedge trimmers, wore Ellen Tracy, remembered Eisenhower, dated urologists. "But they're nice," Rudy insisted. Which, of course, missed the point. Lots of people are nice, but you don't want to have dinner with them every other Thursday and exchange secrets. The other thing was jealousy. I was small enough to mind that Rudy had a good friend other than me. One night a week she and Lee volunteered to teach reading to inner-city illiterates, and had gotten to know each other during the training. I never worried, then or now, that they would become best friends; I mean, if ever there were two people with nothing in common, it's Lee and Rudy. But I was my old insecure self (then and now), and too neurotic to recognize the potential beauty of the Saving Graces even when it was staring me in the face. We weren't the Saving Graces yet, of course. Even now, we don't go around calling ourselves that in public. It's corny; it sounds like a TV sitcom. Doesn't it? "The Saving Graces," starring Valerie Bertinelli, Susan Dey, and Cybill Shepherd. Notice these are all attractive, smart, funny women who happen to be a little long in the tooth. Anyway, the genesis of our name is a private matter. Not for any particular reason--it's kind of funny, and it reflects well on us all. But we just don't talk about it. It's personal. We were driving back from dinner at a restaurant in Great Falls (we eat out when the person whose turn it is doesn't feel like cooking), taking the long way because Rudy missed the Beltway turnoff. We'd been a group for about a year by then; we'd just lost Joan/Joanne but hadn't yet acquired Marsha, transient member number two, so it was just the four of us. I was sitting in the back seat. Rudy turned around to catch my impersonation of the waitress, who we all thought looked and sounded just like Emma Thompson. Isabel yelled, "Look out!" and a split second later we hit the dog. I can still see the expression on that yellow mutt face in the instant before the fender caught her on the shoulder and flipped her over the hood of Rudy's Saab--quizzical, curious, just mildly concerned. As if she were thinking, "Well, hm, isn't this interesting." Everybody screamed. I kept saying, "It's dead, it's dead, it's got to be dead," while Rudy jerked the car off the pavement. To tell the truth, if I'd been driving by myself, I might've kept going: I was sure it was dead, and I didn't want to see. When I was twelve I ran over a frog with my bike, and I'm still not over it. But Rudy killed the engine and everybody piled out, so I had to get out with them. It wasn't dead. But we didn't know that until Lee suddenly metamorphosed, right there on MacArthur Boulevard, into Cherry Ames, Highway Nurse. Have you ever seen a human being give CPR to a dog? It's funny, but only in retrospect. While it's happening it's sort of thrilling and revolting, like something that's still illegal in most of New England. Rudy whipped off her black cashmere cloak, which I have always coveted, and wrapped it around the dog because Lee said it was going into shock. "A vet, we need a vet," Isabel fretted, but there wasn't a house in sight, no store, no nothing except a darkened church on the other side of the road. Isabel jumped up and waved her arms at a car coming on our side. When it pulled over, she ran up and had a conversation with the driver. I stood there and wrung my hands. The Saving Graces . Copyright © by Patricia Gaffney. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from The Saving Graces by Patricia Gaffney All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.