Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
A Casualty of Grace is an historical fiction novel written by Lisa Brown. It was 1895, and Oliver and Simon were on an ocean voyage to a strange land and an even stranger future. Everything in their lives had changed when first their father died and then their mother followed in 1893. Oliver was 10 years old then, and felt a keen sense of responsibility for his younger brother. He had spirited both of them out of the house before anyone knew of his mother’s passing, and the two boys started walking to the farm where their aunt worked. When they got there, they found that the farmhouse had burned down, and their aunt was nowhere to be found. A kindly family took them in for a few days, but it was a temporary reprieve, and the workhouse, something Oliver had dreaded, became their home until they were made part of the British Home Children program and sent off to Canada. Despite the promises made to Oliver that the two would not be separated, Simon was placed in a wealthy home to be the lone son in a family with four daughters. It was a great opportunity for his little brother, but Oliver couldn’t help feeling that he had failed Simon. Oliver was sent to live with the Pritchards, who lived on Mrs. Pritchard’s family’s farm. While she was a warm and compassionate woman who was caring and considerate of their young charge, Mr. Pritchard was a harsh man who quickly took a dislike to Oliver and seemed determined to make his life hell.
Lisa Brown’s historical fiction novel, A Casualty of Grace, is an outstanding and beautifully written novel about two British brothers who were sent to Canada in a migration experiment that exposed many of the young participants to suffering and hardship. It’s also Oliver’s coming of age story, as the twelve-year-old navigates his way through the dysfunctional family he’s become an unwilling part of. Watching Oliver and Mrs. Pritchard bridge the divide of fear and hostility engendered by her alcoholic and abusive husband is inspiring and makes what might have been simply too grim a story work marvelously. Liza Pritchard is as unforgettable a character as Oliver is, and their interactions are poignant and moving. Brown also brings to life the stark majesty of the Canadian seasons, especially winter, in her novel, and many of the nature descriptions and passages are lyrical and unforgettable. A Casualty of Grace is most highly recommended.