When Grace learns that her mother has stage IV ovarian cancer and that it's likely terminal, she's shocked. Frankly, though, it's not so much the cancer that sets her reeling as the way she finds out about it - an innocuous notation, number eight in fact, on one of her mother's to do lists:
8. Tell G have ov cancer. Prob term.
Eileen's cancer should bring the two together, unite them against a fate that is almost inevitable. Instead the note, the illness, the whole situation stresses the relationship between mother and daughter. But as time progresses and Grace's life spirals even further out of control, she comes to realize that her mother is the one who has always been there. In time, she also comes to learn that there's much about her mother she's taken for granted and stories she's never been told...
Oh, Eileen is wonderful! Her story, her journey from a bright-eyed, devout child enamored with a pair of red slacks to the mother she becomes was my absolute favorite part of this book. It's likely in part due to the fact that she reminded me just a bit of another character I'd recently become attached to whose relationship with her husband was similar to how Eileen's turned out. Just a smidge of reminiscence but enough to make her that much more of a favorite of mine in the reading.
Grace on the other hand took much longer to become attached to. It was her stubbornness and anger over the note that I just couldn't reconcile! It's hard to imagine (though I know it happens) turning anger and hurt over such a revelation onto the person who's suffering rather than the situation itself.
Don't worry, that's part of Grace's story.
The dual narrative gives readers a chance to really get to know both Grace and Eileen AND illustrate the true differences between their generations. This was another aspect I really, really loved about The Miracle of Grace. Eileen is somewhat trapped by her situation thanks to the time and place she's grown up in. Grace's own coming of age, however, is much different - again thanks to the era in question. There was so much social change, some of which Grace acknowledges in her own chapters, between when the two woman lived that it's quite easy to see how there would be such a disconnect between them.
Where Recipes for a Perfect Marriage also explored those generational differences, The Miracle of Grace is focused on the mother/daughter relationship rather than a spousal one. The style and elegance of Kerrigan's writing is always present but I do appreciate how different the two stories are from one another and even from the Ellis Island trilogy as well. Kerrigan has a great range and is a wonderful storyteller!