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Unmaking Grace, by Barbara Boswell. 

June 11, 2019

Unmaking Grace
Unmaking Grace, by Barbara Boswell.   Catalyst,  December 2019.  (First published 2017 as Grace.) FORTHCOMING

4 stars

A novel about a South African girl, growing up amidst domestic violence and the public violence of the fight against apartheid and afterward facing the scars that continued to disrepute her life.

Barbara Boswell is a feminist literary scholar, born in Pennsylvania in 1946.  She earned her Ph.D. in Women and Gender Studies at the University of Maryland and has taught at various universities in the United States and South Africa.  She is particularly interested in feminist, queer, and post-colonial theory and women writers of the black diaspora, and she has researched how South African women have dealt with apartheid in their writings.  Her academic writing is full of fascinating titles.  In addition to her scholarly work, Boswell has written over fifty romance novels set in Africa.  Although her fiction is informed by her knowledge and conceptual understanding of race and gender, she seems to have kept the two strands of writing separate.

Remaking Grace centers on romantic love and how it can go right or wrong. An action-filled and enjoyable book to read, it is written in a straight forward style that masks Boswell’s deep knowledge. Yet it is not a stereotypical romance novel.  In it Boswell explores class and gender issues and divisions within the South African community.  She traces how and why women get caught in circles of violence and how such violence gets passed along to the next generation.  Yet the book is never grim and depressive. While the ending is positive, Grace is not saved by a lover.

I strongly recommend Remaking Grace for many readers.  Although Boswell is not originally from Africa, she provides us with a profound taste of women’s lives there and in abusive situations around the globe.

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