Some Form of Grace, by Dee Dee Chumley

It seems natural to follow the foregoing review of Grace, by Natashia Deon, with a review of Some Form of Grace, by Dee Dee Chumley. The settings and stories differ widely, but, as the titles indicate, similar themes run through both books.

At the outset of Some Form of Grace, Gracene is about to be released from a minimum security prison in Oklahoma City. Her mother, she tells us, used to say that upon first laying eyes on her baby she knew the child’s name must be “some form of grace.”

“[The name] ‘suited’ me like a tutu suits a giraffe or like ballet slippers suit size ten clodhoppers,” Gracene contends.

To prove her point, Gracene intersperses in the first-person narrative forms and definitions of grace like “charm,” “beauty,” and “elegance.” Or prevenient grace–the fact that God reaches out to us before we recognize or acknowledge our need for him.

What she really needed, Gracene says, was the mother who disappeared when she was six. And she cherishes the resentment engendered by that desertion.

Gracene has the opportunity to take up residence at Transformation Place upon her release. The catch is that admission to the transitional housing facility for ex-offenders is limited to those professing Christian faith. With few options available to her, Gracene reluctantly forges a convincing conversion story. But she sees her choice as taking her “from one prison to another.”

The bulk of the book recounts Gracene’s journey from brokenness to healing. Along the way she revisits childhood scars, faces her personal losses, and contends with the reappearance of an abusive relative. For better or worse, Gracene has in her corner the head of Transformation Place, an employer, a handsome ex-offender, and a roommate who exudes irritating cheer, chatter, and song. At all hours.

Chumley provides a convincing (though possibly cleaned up) portrayal of the voice and challenges of a woman transitioning from prison back into society. She also offers an inspiring example of churches collaborating to help people scarred by life experience and personal choices.

Transformation Place is modeled after the real-life Exodus House in Oklahoma City. Click here to learn more about Criminal Justice and Mercy Ministries, the organization behind Exodus House, and here to learn more about Dee Dee Chumley and her writing.

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