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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
A Deep Place of Grace by Nancy Dort Rossow is a delightful pre-teen/young adult novel that traverses the topics of diversity, bullying, self-confidence, courage, and fear. Neeley Mahoney is a twelve-year-old girl in the deeply conservative city of Lincoln, Nebraska at the end of the 1950s. She just wants what every young teenager desires; to be liked, to fit in, to be normal but Neeley was slightly different from her peers. Already “blessed” with the gift of precognition, a near-death experience at their family’s lakeside cottage changes her life forever. She becomes aware of her guardian angel, Sera, who she is able to call on whenever she needs advice and comfort. When a black family moves into their exclusively white neighborhood in Lincoln, Neeley has to come to terms with the civil rights struggle and the issues of racism and social justice sweeping across America at the start of the 1960s. Neeley is drawn to Charlotte as a friend but realizes that as the only black girl at Neeley’s exclusively white school, Charlotte is going to be in for a rough ride. Can Neeley maintain her friendship with her current tight group of friends whilst still including Charlotte in her inner circle? Will Neeley have the courage to stand up for her friend when others treat her badly just because of the color of her skin? Neeley’s character and the strength of her convictions are going to be put to the test in this taut social drama at a time of immense social change.
A Deep Place of Grace is the perfect read for young people looking back into a tumultuous time in American history. Author Nancy Dort Rossow has created a scenario that even rings true today, as politicians try to scare white voters with stories of their neighborhoods being overrun by hordes of black mobs. She has drawn a lead character in Neeley that is likable, moral, and extremely easy to recognize and empathize with. Yet she is deeply troubled not only by her own gift of precognition but also by her overwhelming fear of what others might think of her and her actions, especially if she is seen to stand up for her black friend or act on the warnings she receives via her visions. I suspect the fact that the author has spent her life in the field of child psychology and counseling has given her such a deft touch in creating these realistic and highly believable characters and story arcs but the tale she has woven is as real and heartwarming as it is simple. The story was too short for my liking but that is simply because I was so invested in it and its participants. I wanted it to go on and find out what happened to these girls as they grew up, went to high school, and beyond. This is a tribute to the skill of the author and I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Young people will love it but even as many years away from young adulthood as I am, I truly loved it and that’s the highest compliment one can pay any author.