Read Grace Online

Authors: Elizabeth Nunez


Praise for

“Extremely deserving of its title, this gorgeous, meditative book is a graceful rendering of one couple’s journeys and explorations toward and away from each other. A moving love story, it shows us how a deferred dream can erode a marriage and how grace can sometimes put us to the test, even as it redeems.”

, author of
Breath, Eyes, Memory

“Nunez’s skill as a writer and storyteller is … evident.
speaks to our propensity for self-delusion that cripples our relationship with ourselves and with those we care deeply about.”

Black Issues Book Review

Praise for

“A complicated story to be relished and enjoyed by complicated people.
is a journey, no, a pilgrimage to the gulf between love and honor.”

, author of
Waiting in Vain, Satisfy My Soul
, and
Passing Through

“Elizabeth Nunez’s writing is lush and dense, like a rain forest letting in light. Her imagery is so rich, and mastery of storytelling so compelling and fluid, it’s hard to believe a woman is actually telling this story from a man’s point of view. Ms. Nunez has managed to capture the complexities of political responsibility and the burdens that come with it which interfere with passion and unfiltered love. I applaud her for helping me appreciate the dichotomy between pride and social obligation. A tough one. But she’s pulled it off. I recommend this novel ten times over. I was due for a smart, well-written novel with depth of breadth and scope, and I got it in

, author of
Waiting to Exhale

“In a writing style similar to the previous book,
Bruised Hibiscus
, which won the American Book Award, Nunez has created a complex story in
that still manages to provoke and entertain the reader from beginning to end.”


“A stunningly poetic novel that weaves together the threads of the African diaspora through the forbidden love of a man of Africa and a Caribbean woman …
reveals the aching loneliness of unfulfilled love, the longing for an ideal mate, and the dream of a perfect union. Nunez writes with the stroke of an artist and her gift for words creates a deep impression that will last long after the reader has reluctantly read her final chapter.”

, author of

“Right from the start of this haunting novel, Nunez adopts the mesmerizing myth-spinning voice of an oral storyteller. … In unaffected prose, Nunez explores self-deception, envy, Christian monogamy vs. African polygamy, and the very real dilemma of loving two people at once. … This rich, multilayered narrative is powerful in its sweep and moving in its insight.”

Publishers Weekly

“A complex portrait of a love triangle by a gifted writer.”


“A captivating tale of Oufoula Sindede, an African diplomat in a passionless marriage who falls madly in love with Marguerite, a New York City artist.”


“[A] provocative new love story … Oufoula’s narrative voice … is spare and supple, continually twisting its way toward unexpected perspectives. …
delivers two memorable characters whose personal cultural clashes, both shared and internalized, are as telling as those of the world they inhabit.”

—The Seattle Times

“Wonderful. A real page-turner … It’s so rare to read anything that deals with the Caribbean, Africa, and the United States in such a seamless way.”

, author of
Crossing the River

“A mystical tale about love, passion, and the choices we make in life … A richly woven multilayered work that is riveting from the opening paragraph.”

Black Issues Book Review

Praise for

Winner of the American Book Award

“An American masterpiece … Elizabeth Nunez, a superbly gifted writer, has delivered a powerful and unsettling novel for all time and all people.”

, author of

“Hypnotic, searing … A story so explosive and disturbing, so brilliantly wrought, its images will haunt us in our dreams.”

, author of
Song of the Exile

“Nunez weaves a complex story of race, class, culture, and gender in a polyglot society rife with rumors and memories, superstitions, old grudges, and simmering tensions. This multilayered, beautifully textured novel pulls you in and holds you from beginning to end.”

Ms. Magazine

“Moving, powerful, and haunting.”

—Black Issues Book Review

Praise for

“This fine coming-of-age novel possesses the clarity—and courage—of an intensely personal narrative of the sixties.”


“[A] haunting story … Bears witness to the struggles of an African Caribbean woman as she seeks to find her place in America without selling her soul.”

, author of
Your Blues Ain't Like Mine

“This powerful illumination of race and culture by the light of dreams, ritual, and Vodoun will remind many of Toni Morrison or Alice Walker.”

(starred review)

“The reader has the pleasure of experiencing Sara’s discovery of American life through Nunez’s wonderful, descriptive voice.”

The Bloomsbury Review


Beyond the Limbo Silence

Bruised Hibiscus


When Rocks Dance

Prospero’s Daughter

For Jordan Sadie Nunez Harrell


I am grateful to the Reed Foundation for a Vera Ruben Residency Fellowship at Yaddo, where much of this novel was written. I am grateful for the critical eye of wonderful friends who read early drafts: Anne-Marie Stewart, Patricia Ramdeen Anderson, Arthur Flowers, Brenda Greene, my cousin Tony Simpson, and Jamal Greene who provided essential information. I am grateful to my agent, Ivy Fischer Stone, who stayed in my corner, Anita Diggs, my first editor, who asked insightful questions, and my final editor, Elisabeth Dyssegaard, whose guidance in the end was crucial. Mostly, I am grateful to my students at Medgar Evers College, the City University of New York, who keep me honest, and to my son, Jason Harrell, whose love bolsters me.

4. a. A disposition to be generous or helpful; goodwill. b. Mercy; clemency. 5. A favor rendered by one who need not do so; indulgence. 6. A temporary immunity or exemption; a reprieve. 8.
a. Divine love and protection bestowed freely on people. b. The state of being protected or sanctified by the favor of God. c. An excellence or a power granted by God.

—The American Heritage College Dictionary


He wakes up one morning tracing letters in his head: the serpentine curl of the
in Sally, the rigid lines of the
in no, shimmering in capital, straight up, straight down, then up again. Capital
, capital
Words appear before him as in a mirage and then become concrete, the letters sharp and defined.
Sally does Not love me.
Sight reaches sound and sound his tongue. He says the words aloud: Sally does Not love me.

It is a posture of indifference he affects. He does not want to lose her. He is afraid, and this fear feeds his delusion that can devalue her, make her unimportant to him.
Sally does not love me
, he repeats in his head, and then he add
s, Justin does not care.

It is a dismal morning in March, the beginning of the month, the beginning of the first year of a new millennium, 2001, and she has come in that proverbial way, like a lion, blowing chilly winds the day before across the city that by night were leaden with snow. In the bleary light of this early dawn, Justin fixes his
eyes on the oak tree outside his window, standing stoic, rigid against the wind that has long stripped it bare of leaves and threatens its branches. In the cups they form with the trunk, the snow is thick. Dense.

This tree is too big for this too-small city garden in Brooklyn
, he thinks, both he and it in the wrong place: it there, he here. In the right climate for an oak tree, but not in this garden. In the right house for him, but not in this marriage.

Outside it is quiet, still like the dead. Inside, the scuttle of feet on the hardwood floor beneath him. She is up. Already in the dining room. Five steps, and in the kitchen. He closes his eyes and makes a bet with himself: He will hear the latch on the canister next, the place where she keeps her teas. Today, perhaps, Celestial Awakenings. He cannot be sure. Bounteous Sunlight, Early Sunrise, Heavenly Mornings: her panacea, her simple-minded answer to life’s disturbing questions.

But the name of the tea is not part of his bet. His bet is that she will open the green canister, take out a bag of herbal tea, reach in the cupboard for a blue mug with little white flowers, fill the red kettle with water, turn on the fire, and sit with her face to the sun, planning her day while the water boils.

Primary colors: the green on the canister, the deep blues and whites on the mug, the red on the kettle, the yellow of her bathrobe. These are the colors that make Sally feel safe. A primary school teacher, she teaches these colors to the children in her class. Perhaps it is the color red she thinks of now, her lesson for the day. Perhaps the red kettle, whistling now, its
shrill call piercing the silence, the signal he has been waiting for. His bet.

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