A group of women living in violent relationships meets each week in a community house. Their advocates, feisty, radical feminists, Leah Gunn and her partner Kelly, have developed a liberating practice, from their own lived experience, which helps women to evaluate their lives and make decisions.
However, the Department of Social Welfare in the nineties is reluctant to fund workers without academic qualifications. Kelly’s reaction to this new perspective is to hightail it to university to study social work but Leah is staunch, she knows that what she does for women works. Can they overcome the tensions this brings to their relationship?
Anna Connaught, DSW Community Social Worker, has been instructed to find a way to audit Leah’s practice and by chance meets Dr Mandy Brook with whom she went to university, who is writing a book on Best Practice for Working with Battered Women. Journal entries tell the life stories of the women in the group and reveal the complexity of their lives. A chance meeting with Chris, the coordinator of Men’s’ Groups, complicates Mandy’s life when she mistakes him for someone from her past.
A story told in a group session acts as a catalyst for transformation and tragedy. Thus unfolds tales of abuse, betrayals, violence and compassion that make compelling reading. This story is as relevant today as it is was in the 1990’s when the book is set.
But for the Grace is that unfashionable thing, a novel with something to say. This highly readable work of fiction is, at the same time, an exploration of our society’s response to battered women.
It’s a complex, compassionate political and personal story that, in some way, affects us all. It deserves to be widely read and deeply pondered.