A Fatal Grace, Part 2

Recap (Starting with Chapter 22)

Clues and questions and suspects continue to pile up for Gamache and his team. Having learned that CC de Poitiers, who claimed to be the daughter of Eleanor and Henri de Poitiers, invented both her name and her past (Eleanor de Poitiers, better known as Eleanor of Aquitaine, actually died in 1204), Gamache needs to find out who CC really was. Are there any significant clues to be found in the video cassette of The Lion in Winter that turned up in CC’s garbage after the murder?

Meanwhile, Gamache is astonished when Clara proudly shows him the Li Bien ornament Peter gave her for Christmas, which is exactly like the ball CC supposedly used as the basis for her garbled philosophy. The glass ball is painted with three pine trees, the word Noël, and a single capital letter, L. Was it the picture of the trees that prompted CC to buy the monstrous old Hadley house in Three Pines? Awkwardly, Peter is forced to confess that while he meant to buy Clara something for Christmas this year, he actually found the ball in the Williamsburg dump.

When Gamache meets Émilie Longpré—age 82, captain of the curling team, and one of Clara’s Three Graces—and her dog, Henri, on an early morning walk, she tells him about an encounter with CC at Mother’s meditation center, where CC arrogantly proclaimed that since she was calling her own book and company Be Calm, Mother would have to change the name of her center or perhaps close it altogether. After breakfast, the tiny Émilie gives Gamache & co. a curling lesson that convinces even Beauvoir, who has always scoffed at curling as a sport, that it’s a lot harder than it looks. And Gamache, who finally grasps what it meant when the 78-year-old Mother loudly “cleared the house” at the curling match, suddenly knows how the murderer got away with it.

The questions about CC’s mother keep circling back to the Three Graces. Do they know who the L of the Li Bien ball was, or could it possibly even be one of them? And what might 92-year-old Kaye Thompson, who was sitting next to CC at the match, have seen as she was murdered?

When Saul’s photos are developed, they somehow do not include any shots from the time of the murder. And as eager as Saul seems to be to start a new, better life in Three Pines, he still has one undeveloped roll of film that he hastily throws in the fireplace when Gamache and his team visit him at the chalet he has rented.

With the help of an idea from Clara about the discarded video, the case seems to be coming together, when a raging fire breaks out at Saul’s chalet, and the unlikely trio of Gamache, Beauvoir, and Agent Nichol try to rescue him. Émilie finally tells Gamache the heartbreaking truth about CC’s mother, and the Three Graces prepare to pay the price for what they have done. And then Gamache suddenly realizes there is one last horrible secret in CC’s family.

The book ends at New Year’s, with Reine-Marie’s first visit to Three Pines. Both of them know that the plots against Gamache are growing more sinister, but as they drive home:

In the rearview mirror Armand Gamache could see Three Pines. He got out of the car and stared down at the village, each home glowing with warm and beckoning light, promising protection against a world sometimes too cold. He closed his eyes and felt his racing heart calm.

“Are you all right?” Reine-Marie’s mittened hand slipped into his.

“I’m more than all right.” He smiled. “I have everything.”

Favorite Quote

Gamache: “I knew then I was in the company of people who loved not only books, but words. Spoken, written, the power of words.”

Conclusion

I am not sure how many times I’ve read A Fatal Grace, but I still find it as extraordinary as I did back in 2006. I think it’s magnificent on so many levels: as a complex and masterful detective story, as a glorious character study, and as an exploration of universal hopes and fears. I love that it can be hilarious one minute and heartbreaking the next.

I also love the way Louise focuses on the power of words, from the literal handwriting on more than one wall, to the hidden meanings of names like Mother, Elle, and Crie (what kind of parents would name a child that?), to the ways that words can kill or heal. I also marvel that someone like me, who is at least as much of a skeptic as Jean-Guy Beauvoir, can find myself wondering about such mysteries as lemon meringue pie.

Discussion Questions

1. There are so many clues hidden in plain sight in A Fatal Grace, I lost count at 6 or 7 (all of which I missed the first time through). Did you spot any of them, and did you solve any of the various puzzles before Gamache did?

2. What do you make of Gamache’s relationships with the different members of his team, from Beauvoir to Nichol?

3. How do you feel about The Three Graces?

4. Near the end, Gamache says, “This whole case has been about belief and the power of the word.” I’ll say. What are the ways in which words have power?

5. Speaking of belief, what do you make of the apparent brushes with God: the beggar who loved Clara’s art (which Em maintains she had never seen); Gamache finding God in a diner eating lemon meringue pie; Em’s road worker with the sign saying “Ice Ahead”; Billy Williams, etc.?

6. Do you agree with Gamache in Chapter 33 that “when you’ve seen the worst you appreciate the best?”

Hope DellonHope Dellon's first job in publishing was as an assistant to Joan Kahn, the legendary mystery editor whose authors included Dorothy L. Sayers, Dick Francis, Patricia Highsmith, and Tony Hillerman. In 1975 Hope joined St. Martin's Press, and is now an executive editor at both St. Martin's and Minotaur Books. She has been editing Louise Penny since 2006. She also tweets about books and authors and anything else that interests her at @hopedellon.

Discussion on “A Fatal Grace, Part 2

  1. Linda Maday says:

    POWER OF THE WORD

    I was struck by the powerful quote that Gamache references from Gandhi,
    ‘Your beliefs become your thoughts
    Your thoughts become your words
    Your words become your actions
    Your actions become your destiny.’

    Words have the ability to:

    Lift Us Up – El to Clara. “I’ve always loved your art, Clara.”

    Cast Us Down – CC to stranger on escalator. “I’m so sorry, Denis, that you think Clara’s art is amateur and banal. So she’s just wasting her time?”

    Wound – CC to Crie, “you’re a stupid, stupid girl,” . . . “Everyone was staring at you. You humiliated me.”

    Heal –
    “Ring the bells that still can
    ring
    Forget your perfect
    offering
    There is a crack in
    everything
    That’s how the light gets
    in.”

    Conceal – “where did you get it?” Gamache asked . . . “I forget,” Peter tried.

    Reveal – “I used to dream I was popular,” said Ruth into the silence, “and pretty.”

    We should not be surprised at the power of words. After all, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.”

    Now be still and know . . .

    • KB says:

      Words have power. Always. Watch a child who is told he is lazy or sloppy or clumsy or bad. Over time, that becomes his belief. Nobody has to say it any more because he says it to himself every day. Even when he becomes an adult, he can’t accept praise if it runs counter to his internal dialogue. And, for those who have not been broken by critical words (well placed), think of the warmth that comes from sincere praise. Think of the comfort that comes from being told you matter because of what you did for someone.

      This series’ power comes from words: the images they evoke, the feelings they impart. The language, imagery and themes have resonated so that re-reading has been a joy.

      • Karen Gast says:

        Yes, yes! Just yesterday I said something to my 4 1/2-year-old granddaughter that I want to take back! While it was said in jest, I don’t think my face told her it was a joke on grandma. Damn!

  2. Ruth says:

    I have listened to all of the books, and am now ‘reading’ them in print for the first time. I had something funny happen this weekend. In the book, the team figures out that CC married Richard Lyon because of his name, and there is a remark that a person’s name can influence you based on your past experience with other person’s with the same name. This weekend I received a marketing letter from a real estate agent named Yolande and my first reaction was recoil! The only Yolande I have known is the fictional character in the first two novels who sells real estate.

    I have always wondered what happened to Jane Neal’s house and her ‘Fair Day’ painting from the first book. They were so important, and there is no mention of what happened to them. We know in this book that Gamache and Beauvoir have emotional reactions when they must go to the Hadley House, and the Hadley House is a major location with changing meanings as the series go on. Jane Neal’s house seems frozen in time and it makes me a bit sad. I don’t think it’s neglected. I imagine that Clara and Gabri keep the garden up, that Myrna picks flowers from it for her extravagant arrangements, and that Ruth occasionally breaks into the house to sit in the kitchen and sit and remember her friend.

    In terms of relationships I think that the talk Gamache has with Yvette about Uncle Saul is something that stays with Yvette and influences her actions in later books. She chooses not to believe it in this book, but I think it is something she turns over in her mind as the years pass.

    In re-reading the books, it is fun to see little notes that become major players in later books. The cheese that comes from the abbey of Gregorian chanting monks. The mention that Peter is a Montreal Morrow. I had forgotten that the Three Graces painting has lyrics from ‘How the Light Gets In’.

  3. Diane Grindol says:

    4. What are the ways in which words have power? I think Agent Nichol’s word that she had changed had power. And she came through for Gamaste, who took her at her word. .

  4. Marcy says:

    Off topic, but I’ve always wondered . . . Why is this book called Dead Cold In Canada and the UK, but A Fatal Grace in the US? Would this be the author’s choice, or the publisher’s? Is it due to copyright issues?

    • Hope says:

      Marcy–I should know this, but in this case the U.K. and U.S. titles were set before I started working on Louise’s books.

      I have never known copyright issues to be involved. In general, titles seem to be changed when a publisher, rightly or wrongly, believes that a different title will appeal more strongly to their particular market. In this case, I suspect that Minotaur in the U.S. felt that “Dead Cold,” which is a clever play on words in the U.K., would be lost on American readers because “dead” is rarely used to mean “very” here (except perhaps in the phrase “dead drunk”). There’s an interesting discussion of some of the issues in this blog: http://editorialass.blogspot.com/2009/07/why-do-british-novels-often-have.html.

      Before the internet, different titles in different territories seemed less problematic because readers were less likely to come across the same book in editions published thousands of miles apart. Recognizing the increasing chances for confusion now that Facebook, blogs, etc., are seen all over the world, Louise has worked hard to ensure that all the Gamache books beginning with THE BRUTAL TELLING have the same title in the various English-language editions. (The editions never seem to have the same covers, however, as tastes vary so much in the different markets.)

  5. Dorothy says:

    1. Clues. I haven’t liked Peter from the very beginning of this series. I don’t trust him. I also don’t understand why Clara stays with him or rather puts up with him.
    Louise does a great job of foreshadowing what is to happen further on in the series.
    I love lemon meringue pie but I’ll never look at it the same way again!
    Thank you Louise for being such a great mystery writer!

  6. Diane Cobb says:

    It has been a few years since I first read A Fatal Grace, with many books in-between then and now. It is a tribute to Louise’s ability (or my denseness) but even having read the book before, I still couldn’t figure out who did it! Bits and pieces would come back, but up until the end I still wasn’t sure who who was guilty of the murder.(there was guilt in a few different areas; neglect, infidelity etc.) There is a reason for everything that is said and done in her books, if it’s not clear now it will be eventually. I am enjoying my re-read very much. Many things are making sense to me and it is easier to keep track of all the different characters.

  7. Jane Fricker says:

    . Near the end, Gamache says, “This whole case has been about belief and the power of the word.” I’ll say. What are the ways in which words have power?

    Well, since Nancy H., Donna, and Sharon Norris have been discussing Clara’s encounter with Clara, I guess I will add a bit to that, as part of looking at the power of belief and the power of the word. CC’s words have power, we see that, but sadly, she uses that power to undermine her daughter, her son, the three Graces, Saul, and in this case, Clara. Clara hears the words CC apparently is repeating second- hand from the art critic, Denis Fortin, and they are devastating to her. It’s only when she rouses herself from her “pity party” and goes to help the vagrant woman that she hears those words, ” I have always loved your art, Clara.” Those words have the power to snap Clara back into thinking positively about her art. I don’t know that it’s absolutely necessary for us to know HOW El might have seen Clara’s art. I think that’s one area Penny leaves undeveloped, but just because she doesn’t connect the dots for us doesn’t mean they weren’t there. As a reader, I know from what Penny has written about El is that she’s always had a restless spirit. All we know about her being in the front of the store at Ogilvy’s has been worked out by Gamache and the Graces. Even though they thought they had a pretty good idea of where she was, it’s not inconceivable that El could have traveled to Three Pines at certain times, incognito, before she became the bag lady in extremis. The fact is, she spoke words that were healing to Clara. I think of those cartoon examples of the person with the little devil speaking on one side and the angel on the other.
    We all have choices to make, to go with either a negative or positive side of ourselves, and often those choices are influenced by the words that are uttered by someone around us.
    Unlike Clara, poor Crie never had any balancing words to make her think positively of herself, outside of the fantasy world she built for herself. According to her father’s account, CC had it in for Crie from the time she was born. That means Crie was being spiritually and mentally assaulted from a very early age. Her father could have provided balance by giving her words of comfort, but he didn’t because he didn’t want to cross CC. Thus, words were weapons which CC used to psychically assassinate her own daughter. Crie finally came to the belief that her own survival depended on getting rid of her mother. Whoever made up the saying, ” Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me” had it all wrong. Bones can heal, but words which belittle us stay with us for a lifetime.

    • Jane Fricker says:

      Must apologize to my fellow posters for a few glaring grammatical errors I caught in my last entry. That SHOULD have been “El’s encounter with Clara,” (it really wouldn’t have made sense for Clara to have an encournter with herself!) and , in reference to CC, her daughter and her husband, NOT “her son,”. All I can say is apparently my mind is not completely functional in the early AM, as I THOUGHT I was putting in the right words, but typing in something else. :-(

      • Meg R says:

        Laughing! Didn’t have that second cup of coffee did you! :~}

        • Jane Fricker says:

          Ha ha, Meg R., I didn’t even have ONE cup of coffee! Are you trying to tell me something??? :-)

          • Meg R says:

            Nah, Jane. Just teasing. I’m one of those absolute dullards in the morning with a brain that doesn’t function for at least an hour or so after getting out of bed & having a cup of coffee. Occasionally a two cup day occurs! Been like this since my 20’s! – But am usually good to go until 1 or 2 am! :~D

  8. Anne Hunt says:

    Love the subtle, and not so subtle humor that so often appears. Thinking of one particularly funny scene at the end of chapter 24 with veggie bubble bath!

    • Jane Fricker says:

      Anne, I love that too! Clara’s been enjoying what she thinks is a (for once) decent Christmas present from her mother-in-law, only to discover later that they were really dried soup-balls! (And thus, another “put-down” kind of present)

      • Barbara H. Johnson says:

        I was envying Clara enjoying an exotic sounding bath only to discover it was soup mix! Sounds like Clara was as much a favorite of her MIL as I was. Bet it came from the Dollar store too. I love Louise’s wit.

  9. Jane Fricker says:

    I hope I am not beating a dead horse, but I’ve had a few more ideas about the “Three Graces, ” so wanted to tackle that question now:

    3. How do you feel about The Three Graces?

    Several of you have written very insightful posts about the Three Graces, so I will try not to replicate what you wrote earlier. I looked up some references to Greek Mythology, and found that Thalia is described as the “goddess of festivity and rich, luxurious banquets.” Well, in my view, that description fits Emilie to a T. I thought immediately of the Christmas Eve party she threw as I was reading that description. All the tables loaded with food, and the excited children wondering which present was theirs–that sure sounds like the product of a person connected to “festivity and rich, luxurious banquets.”
    I am not so sure about the other two, and they have both been described in previous posts, so that’s it for me as far as trying to connect each one to an individual goddess.

    The other thing I did want to discuss a bit more is that Penny not only shows us women who can be metaphorically linked to goddesses, who the Greek poet Pindar explained, “were created to fill the world with pleasant moments and good will,” but their shadows as well. I believe that El, CC, and Crie are an unholy trio that are more akin to the Gorgons.

    We aren’t told much about El’s family background, but it sounds as though she had a rather promising future, and was friends with Em, Kaye, and Bea when they were all younger. Somehow, perhaps because of mental illness or instability, or perhaps simply making bad choices over and over, she became a darker and darker figure. She certainly was not an ideal mother to CC, who in turn became, one might say, literally, “the mother from hell.” Each one of those females, especially CC and Crie, are hiding a monster inside. We don’t know at the end of the book whether Crie, with some psychiatric help in a mental ward, will eventually be able to have a breakthrough or not. Her grandmother and mother both came to horrible ends. Some would say that it’s an ironic turn that both El and CC, who failed to properly nurture their daughters, were killed by them. The appearance of both women after their deaths seems to reflect their dark, monstrous sides so that in death, their bodies reveal the inner self.
    Finally, I’ve had some thoughts about why the book(at least the US version) is titled, A Fatal Grace. I think it could refer to El, who really in the beginning, did belong with the other three, a fact that, as I’ve mentioned before, Clara rather instinctively recognized, as she left room in her portrait of the three older women for another person. The fourth grace in effect, she went down a different path, that for her was fatal.

    On the other hand, the title could be referring to the three women’s trip to the frozen lake in order to convince Gamache that they were the ones to murder CC, thus keeping Crie safe. Gamache manages to come to their rescue, but it is too late for Emilie. In this sense, she is a “Fatal Grace.”

    • Barbara H. Johnson says:

      Loved your pick-up on the Gorgons. Clever.

    • Linda Maday says:

      The three graces in mythology were usually in attendance to the goddess Of beauty, Athena. In her youth El was described as beautiful and charismatic. I also believe she was quite unstable. Almost like a star that burned too hot to last long.

  10. Peter is becoming more and more unable to break out of his problems with the world. He is stuck back as a child and can not move forward. Clara, is devastated by those around her, the one who loves her and the woman who hates her. I just wish Clara had really gotten mad at Peter and Yolande. I was waiting for her to scream, perhaps I wanted to scream for her. I found that the lack of social services helping Crie was amazing. She really was invisible, except to Gamache. The guilt of abandonment was such a crucial theme in so many ways. Clara is being abandoned by Peter. Really, unable to order or go buy a gift? How lethargic to dumpster dive for Christmas gifts when it was so unnecessary . I love how carefully this theme is developed.
    On another thought, what happened to the art on Jane Neal’s walls? Obviously the house was sold, but what happened to it?

    • Julie says:

      I like to think that the village turned Jane’s house into a public space… a museum/gallery/party venue. I think that Clara inherited the house, but I believe that she and Peter continued to live in their original house…

  11. Anna says:

    I have been following the book club with delight. I wish we could all meet at the Bistro and continue over cafe au lait. I have read the books many times but after following the discussion I read this one again today (took me a minute to find it as it has a different title here!). I have never liked Peter or Yvette either so this time I read the book looking at the world from their point of view.
    It struck me that maybe we are unfair with Peter and his gift to Clara. No matter where it came from Clara liked the ball and others commented on how beautiful it was. It had been discarded but Peter had retrieved it and saved its beauty. Is that really a bad thing? Surprising too how the ornament was a reflection of Elle…..beautiful, fragile and discarded. At least the ball was saved.
    Yvette……..she has been hurt by the world and seen it through her father’s warped vision. Sometimes when you are raw and hurting even kindness can sting. And fancy hearing those words “She’s not worth it”. That made me cry.

    • Julie says:

      Anna, I agree about having heard Beauvoir say “She’s not worth it.” And her anguished cry when she’s found – “I AM worth it!” I know she’s hard to like or trust, but I have always felt sorry for her, and am sometimes disappointed when she’s not in a book!

    • Hope says:

      I’m fascinated by the different perspectives on Nichol and, to some extent, Peter I’m finding here. I love the complexity of her characters: Rarely do they seem all good–or all bad–to me, though CC probably comes the closest to a flat-out villain.

      • KB says:

        I have found it strange that so many seem to love Jean-Guy and so many detest Yvette when, to me, they are almost the same person on the inside. He just has a better exterior and is smoother with it.

        • Hope says:

          Really interesting observation, KB. Jean-Guy certainly does share some of Nichol’s cynicism, and he may very well have resembled her when Gamache first gave him a chance. He has–or has gained–a confidence she lacks, however, so that he doesn’t seem to need to be so pushy or defensive. I wonder if it’s Nichol’s insecurity that makes her so deeply unattractive?

        • Karen Gast says:

          KB, hadn’t thought of the interior similarity of Jean-Guy and Yvette. Great insight, especially in light of later stories. I have on occasion wondered about two people who seem so unlike, but are truly more alike than either would or could acknowledge. More food for thought …

  12. Anna says:

    I think you are right Julie, Yvette is an interesting counterpoint to the characters who are easy to like. She provides a depth to the story and challenges us. I think I remember someone else saying something about seeing themselves in Yvette. I don’t want to think I am like her but I understand feeling like an outsider, not being one of the popular crowd, and the dissonance that can produce. I don’t want to be “popular” but I do like to feel liked.
    I think one of the things that makes Louise Penny such an amazing author is she generates deep feelings in her readers towards all of the characters. They are all flawed and they all struggle just like us. They draw you in because you want to understand why they are what they are.
    Mind you, I find it very difficult to find a redeeming feature in CC…..perhaps because we only had the barest glimpse of what suffering drove her to be so cruel.

    • Hope says:

      Anna and Julie–I was floored to find out that Louise herself identifies with Nichol in some ways: “Penny confided that she gave the name of Nichol to Gamache’s awkward, brash, irritating, foot-in-mouth young assistant–a very real character, whom she clearly understood from the heart–as a play on her own name” (http://boom-books.com/left-coast-crime-conference-pt-i-the-amazing-louise-penny/).

    • Linda Maday says:

      I thought of Yvette when Ruth said, “I used to dream I was popular . . . and pretty.”

    • Julie says:

      I think that’s right, Anna – if we had been able to see more of CC’s childhood, we would be able to sympathize more with her plight. I think Louise understands very well that we see people and judge them on what we see, rather than the great depths we cannot see. It’s hard to remember that nobody springs full panoplied like Minerva from the head of Jove.

  13. Jane Fricker says:

    Anna, Julie, and Hope, you have made me think a bit more about Yvette Nichol. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but this book is the first one I read in the series, so I disliked her from the start. When I went back to read Still Life, though, I found that I really wanted her to succeed, especially as when she first met Gamache, she showed herself capable of being thoughtful and socially adept. Apparently, though, as others have noted, she’s more maladroit in social setting involving a team or set of people. Much more malleable if she’s working one-on-one or by herself. Hope, I also was shocked to find that Louise Penny has written that she gave the name of Nichol(Nickel) as a play on her own name. I guess when you have a last name that is connected to money, although in very low value, it would tend to make you think about your own worth. Thus we have Yvette’s heart-felt cry, “I’m worth it,” when she’s in the burning house. In many ways, I think Yvette is still in her adolescent phase of life. If we look at her like that, it’s easier to feel compassion for her. Think about a teenager who is in the rebellious stage of life, wanting to break away from parental control/belief system, but still very much in need of approval and love. I don’t know about Canada so much, but in the United States, we have extended the adolescent stage far beyond the usual ages of 13-19. When most teens go off to college, they are thinking of themselves as adults, but they are still, for the most part, dependent on Mom and Dad for financial and emotional support. Some of our so-called ” adults” are still acting like they are still in their teens when they are well into their 30’s and 40’s! I was just reading a newspaper column that explained that for young black men, they are much more likely to finish high school and college successfully if they have AN ENGAGED FATHER. Yvette doesn’t have a mother to nurture her, and missed out on those crucial early years when that would have helped her develop social skills. Her father is doting, but he’s pretty simple, and is hiding an embarrassing, possibly deadly secret from her. He can’t even bring himself to tell her the truth, even when he hears about how she ran into a house that was on fire, simply because she heard that the man inside was named Saul and she, thinking of her Uncle Saul, ran in to save him. I’m not sure how actually engaged he is in her life. But as for her running into the burning house, I think that action alone tells us a lot about her character. She may, in fact, be a type of junior Ruth– crusty and yes, appearing to be unlikeable and rude on the outside, but when the chips are down, she’s the one who ran into the home to save a man she didn’t even know. I have hope for Yvette. I hope she will grow into her first name more. (I always think of the actress Yvette Mimieux when I see that first name, and THAT Yvette was quite a beauty). I hope that being around Armand Gamache will help her to work to see the good in others around her, and to be able to trust. I hope she will grow into the kind of woman that other women look up to.

    • Julie says:

      Jane, I think one of the most telling things about Yvette Nichol is the way she dresses/displays herself. Her clothes are not only unfashionable, but ill-kempt (grease spots on the lapels, etc.) – she has a bad haircut obvious to anyone – it shows that even though she called out to Gamache “I’m worth it”, she’s not so sure herself. She doesn’t value herself because nobody else ever has – there is no warmth, no love coming from her family – only a lie that her father told, seemingly to shame her into doing well… If only I’d had this much insight when I was 10 years old, I’d have turned out much more confident, hahahahaha.

      • Linda Maday says:

        . . . And yet, in there are those scenes where her father helps her pick out what she is wearing to work or to stay (while working) when she stays at Three Pines. I always presume, based on other clues about her father, that Nichol may have better taste and much better clothing hanging in her closet.

      • Nancy Miller says:

        Did anyone notice that it was her father who told Nichol to take her worst looking clothes? I just noticed that on this re-read. And thanks to the one who pointed out that she did try to save Saul…I just thought she was foolish but perhaps she was actually brave.

        • Julie says:

          Yes, but again, I see this add a way her father makes sure she isn’t valued. He may genuinely feel that wearing her “good” clothes will look like she’s “putting on airs”, or that they make her look pathetic and therefore ready to ignore to let her work in the background. But I still hear him saying to her “don’t screw up”… a self-fulfilling prophecy. I don’t think her father’s influence is supportive, even if he thinks it is. Of course, we’d have to be able to see what he’s has to deal with. At some point, even though we’re all products of our pasts, we have to work with what and who is right here, right now.

          Poor Nichol is her own worst enemy. Whatever progress is made by Gamache’s kindness is undone when she has time to think, and her mind keeps coming up with reasons why everyone is out to get her…

          • Julie says:

            Oh,I wish we could edit our comments to correct mistakes. My apologies, I am answering on a Swype keyboard on my Kindle and auto-correct is intrusive sometimes. I meant to say “I see this as a way…” and, “easy”, not ready.

  14. Marie G. says:

    I found Book 2 simply amazing – the amount of information we learned to better know the people of Three Pines, as well as the hints that could be revealed in future books. This depth is something I find amazing for a series, not expecting an author to reveal so much until later and/or in little dribs-and-drabs. Kudos to Louise!

    There are many quotes in this book that struck me; thus, I’ll only give two. The first, found on several pages, deals with Ruth: “‘There’s a great deal to Ruth we don’t see,’ [said Peter]…Clara wasn’t sure she agreed with peter about Ruth. Ruth got all her bitterness out in her poetry. She held nothing in, and Clara knew the kind of anger that led to murder needed to ferment for a long time, often sealed beneath a layer of smiles and sweet reason…It was a tribute to this quiet, calm place that its people found space in their hearts for someone as wounded as Ruth.”
    These lines struck because they show the power and capacity of people to accept others, despite our warts and faults. WOW – to be so accepted is quite powerful.
    The second is spoken by Gamache, in reply to Nichol who claims she’s changed. Gamache knows he’s been wrong about her. Thus he says this: “‘I’m sorry,’ he said.”
    I’ve worked for many bosses. Sadly, I cannot think of any who ever said “I’m sorry.” These words, as we know, as mighty powerful. For someone in Gamache’s position to say them, I am once again reminded of someone who is comfortable in his skin, with himself…despite what all is going on around him and that has affected (wounded?) him greatly at work. All that said…

    Words are extremely powerful. They can bolster someone; but just as easily, they can “mortally” wound someone. That was a powerful lesson I learned early on as a teacher, how even one word can have a lasting effect on a child. For many, it can be a lifetime effect, an emotional effect that can be far worse and long-reaching that physical abuse. To me, Crie is a perfect example of this.

    • Linda Maday says:

      Remember, “I’m sorry,” is one of those things Gamache has told Nichol she should remember.

      • Marie G says:

        Thanks for the reminder, Linda. I can’t help but wonder, however, if this “I’m sorry” lesson from Gamache will be remembered, much less ever used, by Nichol. Just thinking aloud…

  15. Penny Schmitt says:

    I think that the mystical encounters with ‘God’ are brilliantly described. . . seems like all the people who ‘meet God’ have an openness about them that not everyone shares. Sometimes another human being just seems to be the ‘light carrier’ we need at exactly that moment. It’s an odd combination of who we are and where we are in our own spiritual journey, and something unusually special about that ‘stranger’ who speaks our truth to us. I’ve had that experience myself. I found that I could not ‘keep’ or know that person better, yet the messages that came from that source were my OWN voice coming to me from someone I could trust and believe far better than myself or any known authority. Other people ARE God with skin on. Really. So we should pay attention.

    • Linda Maday says:

      Amen. :-)

    • Jane Fricker says:

      Exactly, Penny. The thing is, it isn’t so important as to whether we as the reader “get it” as to whether the bag lady or the guy in the cafe was God–for Clara and Gamache, those encounters are recognized as having a spiritual context. There’s certainly a good number of examples in both the Old and New Testaments about angelic visitors, or someone being visited by a stranger who just turns out to be the newly resurrected Lord, that for someone in that faith, like Clara and Gamache are, for them to have a recognition that this person, for them, could be “an angel unaware”. Those encounters just happen to happen at moments when they are assailed by self-doubt, and serve to let them know they are on the right path, and need to persevere.

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