Women hear voices. Some are the voices of those that they love and care for, some are voices that come from the mouths of men they’ve met only once in their lives and some are voices that can only be described as divine. Reading Darnell Arnoult’s “Sufficient Grace” reminded me that most of the women in my life are taking care to listen to the world around them in tandem with the world inside of themselves. In the space that exists between listening and reacting, these women find their inspiration.
Gracie Hollaman is a woman who begins paying more attention to her own voices at the opening of the book, when the messages and omens in her life are only just beginning to make sense to her. When her husband, Ed, comes home to a well-cooked meal with Gracie’s shredded credit cards in the center of his dining room table and a missing Buick, he only begins to understand that the woman he has been married to for thirty years has been “called” away. Arnoult takes us from the story of Gracie and Ed, to the story of Mamma Toots, Mattie and Tyrone, and then to the story of Sister Reba, the traveling preacher with a family left behind by choice. Arnoult’s writing is filled with little pieces of wisdom that her characters preach to one another and to themselves; “Life doesn’t always go the way you think it will. You have to change course sometimes, recalculate your direction and pray for the best. Pray that in the end, when the dust settles, despite your sins, you are blessed.”
Each of Arnoult’s chapters are shaped by religious terms “offering”, “benediction” and “sufficient grace,” they lead her small world of characters through transitions and turning points. In the voice of sister Reba, a woman who knows “the sacred to be as daily as a loaf of bread and iceberg lettuce,” Arnoult gives us a taste of what her voices and hard listening as writer have inspired: “The little things accumulate in such familiar and sometimes troubling ways…that we only see those small pieces and can’t see the miracle that is there. Like the blind man feeling parts of the elephant, we humans separate ourselves from the full picture of our own divinity.”
Due out this month, “Sufficient Grace” will remind readers that we are part of a much bigger story — that our lives connect in the most mysterious of ways.