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Amazing Grace Adams


Amazing Grace Adams

Fran Littlewood’s debut novel, AMAZING GRACE ADAMS, opens with a scene that readers won’t soon forget.

It’s the hottest day of an already hot London summer. As if that wasn’t bad enough, forty-something Grace Adams is having a hot flash. Perhaps it is exacerbated by unrelenting traffic or anxiety about being late to her daughter Lotte’s 16th birthday party, for which she has ordered an “artisanal” birthday cake featuring a design from “Love Island.” Watching the show together is probably the last time Grace and Lotte really bonded, and Grace is determined to win her daughter back with a cake that evokes those happy memories.

"[J]ust when you think this is a lightweight comic novel, Littlewood lets loose not one but several gut punches that make you view Grace’s situation in a whole new heartbreaking light."

But right now Grace is hot, angry and stuck in traffic…until she makes the first of several questionable decisions, which is to abandon her car in the middle of the road and set off to find the bakery on foot.

The reasons for Grace’s recent estrangement from her daughter, as well as the agonizing reason she’s almost desperate to repair their relationship, are revealed over the chapters that follow. These unfold in three separate timelines. There’s the “Now” of Grace’s increasingly reckless journey to reunite with Lotte. There’s a timeline that begins four months prior, when Grace started to receive worrisome messages from Lotte’s school about her cutting class. And there’s a timeline that started more than 16 years before that, when Grace first met the man who would become Lotte’s dad.

The Grace in that earliest timeline is brilliant, a competitor in the “Polyglot of the Year” competition. Not only does she speak multiple languages, she is also beautiful, vivacious and charming --- not to mention fearless, as she first invites her new acquaintance (and fellow competitor), Ben, to join her for a seaside weekend away. Then, once they’re at the seashore, she dives headlong into the waves to save someone in distress. What happens to transform that irrepressible woman into the sad and lonely (but still, we discover, fearless) one “Now”? And what precipitated the rift with her beloved daughter that she’s so fixated on solving?

AMAZING GRACE ADAMS takes readers on an emotional journey. At times, it’s slapstick-level funny, almost absurd in its portrayal of Grace’s comedy of errors, with that “Love Island” cake in tow. But just when you think this is a lightweight comic novel, Littlewood lets loose not one but several gut punches that make you view Grace’s situation in a whole new heartbreaking light. These twists and turns never feel manipulative --- and they help readers feel like they truly understand this character in a meaningful way.

Given that the “Now” timeline transpires over the course of a single afternoon, Littlewood smartly doesn’t tie up all the loose ends in a happily-ever-after tidy bow. Not all of Grace’s heartbreak will be solved by the end of the book --- some, in fact, is irreparable --- but there’s just enough hope here to allow readers to come away from Grace’s story both moved and, yes, amazed by the resilience of this extraordinary woman.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on September 15, 2023

Amazing Grace Adams
by Fran Littlewood

  • Publication Date: September 5, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
  • ISBN-10: 1250334152
  • ISBN-13: 9781250334152