Guest host for Friday, March 29, 2013: Jordan E. Rosenfeld, author of Forged in Grace.
Most people walk around with scars on the inside. Grace Jensen wears them like a permanent Halloween mask on the outside, while smoldering from their pain on the inside. In Forged in Grace, Jordan E. Rosenfeld animates a woman grotesquely scarred by fire and emotionally stunted by the betrayal that made her so.
Grace and Marly were BFFs growing up in the small community of Drake’s Bay in Northern California. Marly, the beautiful one, is forced to embrace the power of her sexuality far too early. Grace, the insecure follower, idolizes Marly and plays into her recklessness. When Grace’s parents block their friendship after a late-night pick-up from an out-of-town police station, a dangerous game of adolescent angst and envy embroil the girls. Grace is severely burned, while Marly escapes with a tiny burn on her arm.
Adolescent relationships are volatile. As young people sort through who they are, the expectations of and pressures from the adults in their world—especially the trusted caretakers—can twist their psyche in harmful ways. Rosenfeld explores this concept through the eyes of the adult Grace with such insight, you don’t realize she’s also revealing the scarred heart of her best friend Marly.
After years of silence between the two women, Marly’s return to Drake’s Bay for the funeral of her grandmother kindles a reconciliation. A pariah in her small-town community, Grace accepts Marly’s invitation to Las Vegas where she can blend in with the hoards of other misfits who call the glittering desert oasis a home. This is when Rosenfeld’s insights into psyche and character ignite. With prose so raw it bleeds, Rosenfeld reveals a connection between Grace and Marly that singes the words on the page.
Ever since the fire that nearly took her life, Grace has been unable to tolerate human touch. Her doctors can’t find a physical reason why she burns with pain when people touch her. Psychologists say it’s psychosomatic. One night after Marly is beat-up by an angry lover, Grace reaches through her own pain to soothe Marly’s injuries. The next morning Marly has no swelling, bruising, or abrasions. The pain Grace felt all those years when touching people was their pain, not hers. And now she has a way of reaching into them to heal the sickness and injury. Marly-the-manipulator immediately pushes Grace into a type of sideshow act to heal the sick and wounded, which leads to more conflict between the two. The story flares up here for genuine tearful conclusions that answer the questions Rosenfeld so deftly scatters throughout the novel.
Jordan E. Rosenfeld learned early on that people prefer a storyteller to a know-it-all. She channeled any Hermione-esque tendencies into a career as a writing coach, editor and freelance journalist and saves the Tall Tales for her novels. She earned her MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and is the author of the books, Make A Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time (Writer’s Digest Books) and Write Free! Attracting the Creative Life with Rebecca Lawton (BeijaFlor Books). Jordan’s essays and articles have appeared in such publications as AlterNet.org, Publisher’s Weekly, The San Francisco Chronicle, The St. Petersburg Times, The Writer and Writer’s Digest magazine. Her book commentaries have appeared on The California Report, a news-magazine produced by NPR-affiliate KQED radio. She lives in Northern California with her Batman-obsessed son and Psychologist husband.
Watch the Forged In Grace book trailer.
Follow Jordan E. Rosenfeld on Twitter: @JordanRosenfeld.