"At a peace rally, Bridie and Stella rescue a cute Christian boy. He introduces Bridie to a whole world she never knew existed. The girls' friendship has survived Stella changing schools, both girls being interested in the same boy, and so much more. But what will happen when Bridie's new interests and ideas collide with Stella's?"
Winter of Grace is the opposite of your typical post-Enlightenment story where someone brainwashed by religion comes to understand that the materiel world is the only reality, and is set free from superstition to live a "real" life. Bridie has grown up without spirituality, so when she encounters people for whom it is real, and discovers that there might be more to her world than she knew, it changes her entire life.
And yet...this isn't a trite conversion story, either.
There are many types of spirituality on display in Bridie's world: Stella's easy-going New Age mother, her humorous and devoutly Catholic grandmother; Stella's own teenage-staunch atheism, Bridie's mother's faith in science, and Jay and Elliot, whose faith in seems real and joyful, and through whom Bridie discovers that God is near to her.
The most striking thing, for me, is Bridie's experience of spirituality. It's the closest to my own that I've ever seen described. Once she's entered a church, once she makes the attempt to pray, she finds something new in her life: a presence, a sense of someone near her even when she is alone. And she wants to talk about that, to experience it with other people. The rowdy, friendly praise service at Jay's church offers this, and she leaps right in.
But nothing is simple. And if that experience of God rings true to me, so does Bridie's experience of finding herself told what she ought to think and believe: by church authority on one hand, and by her mother's scientific colleagues on the other. And what Bridie discovers is that she must make her own choice, rather than bow down to anyone else's.
Winter of Grace is something that I've searched for a long while: a realistic novel with a sense of the divine, of a layer deeper than this materiel world. That was something I'd expected to find only in either mediocre realistic fiction (from "Christian" publishers), or in genre fiction.
Bridie's story feels true to my own life, as it acknowledges a desire for God and a search for belief without chaining it down to the censored words and content of so-called "Christian" publishing. It's real, but not the sort of reality that the mainstream problem novels show me: the bleak landscape of modern life, a world gone wrong with little to restore it.
Winter of Grace is presented as a friendship story, as the tale of two girls whose friendship begins to fracture under adolescent searches for love and belief and values. And it is that, but it's also much more. This is a simple book that is not simple at all; that is honest about good and bad alike; that talks about searching but gives no easy answers.
lizbee, thank you for recommending this. I don't believe it's available outside of Australia (I ordered it directly), but it was worth the trouble to get.