Throughout her life Grace had always behaved in a proper manner --- proper for someone raised in a well-connected, upper class New England family. Grace went to the best schools, wore the nicest clothes, and enjoyed a life of leisure and luxury, never earning a single paycheck. As she was growing up, Grace's parents made all the decisions for her. Her mother even orchestrated the perfect wedding without considering Grace's wishes.
When she married Bain Alcott, an ambitious young man from her own socioeconomic class, Grace's life did not change so very drastically because someone else still earned all the money and made all the decisions. Bain provided them with a very comfortable lifestyle that included a lovely beachfront home on Cape Cod. Grace followed whatever decisions her sometimes-overbearing husband made, even though she did have some ideas of her own. When she disagreed with Bain she confided only in Prissy, her rather unconventional friend of whom Bain did not approve.
The Alcotts suffered a devastating loss during the early years of their marriage when the elderly babysitter left their baby daughter alone in the tub to answer the phone. In an instant Sarah drowned. Grace suffered the loss in her characteristic proper manner, gracefully and silently. She later had two sons. Bain spent most of his time and energy earning a living, and Grace practically raised their sons alone. The family's social life consisted of tennis, the country club, and other similar activities. The boys were denied nothing.
Though Grace attempted to instill the values with which she had been raised, her sons often did not behave in what she considered the proper manner. As the boys grew up they became strangers to Grace. They did not respect their mother and had no appreciation of all that she had done for them. They assumed that the comfortable lifestyle their workaholic father provided was their birthright and were ill-prepared for their adult lives, which involved jobs and marriage.
From outward appearances Grace and Bain had a nearly picture-perfect life; Bain believed in keeping up appearances. Behind the scenes, however, the picture was much less appealing. Bain's investments suffered a huge loss. Even with all his business acumen, he could not reverse it, so he decided to sell their Cape Cod home. He made this decision without even asking for Grace's opinion. Grace loved the house and was deeply pained at the thought of having to give it up.
Grace received some upsetting news from her doctor that she chose, rather uncharacteristically, not to share with Bain even though the doctor urged her to do so. The doctor wanted to run a series of tests to confirm his suspicion that Grace had breast cancer, the same disease that took Grace's mother's life at age 45. Grace decided that her possible diagnosis, which she believed was a definite diagnosis, would remain her guarded secret. She decided to live out whatever remaining time she had in her own way. She did not want to be pitied and fussed over, and be in the process of dying. She wanted to carry on as always, being Mrs. Alcott, and just fade away when the time came.
Grace's fantasy of just fading away was just that --- a fantasy. The reader realizes that real life doesn't work that way. Author Nancy Geary keeps the reader keenly interested as the novel reaches its unpredictable conclusion.
Reviewed by Carole Turner on January 7, 2011
Being Mrs. Alcott