The Gracekeepers – As a Gracekeeper, Callanish administers shoreside burials, laying the dead to their final resting place deep in the depths of the ocean. Alone on her island, she has exiled herself to a life of tending watery graves as penance for a long-ago mistake that still haunts her. Meanwhile, North works as a circus performer with the Excalibur, a floating troupe of acrobats, clowns, dancers, and trainers who sail from one archipelago to the next, entertaining in exchange for sustenance.
In a world divided between those inhabiting the mainland (“landlockers”) and those who float on the sea (“damplings”), loneliness has become a way of life for North and Callanish, until a sudden storm offshore brings change to both their lives–offering them a new understanding of the world they live in and the consequences of the past, while restoring hope in an unexpected future.
Inspired in part by Scottish myths and fairytales, The Gracekeepers tells a modern story of an irreparably changed world: one that harbors the same isolation and sadness, but also joys and marvels of our own age.
This book snuck up on me. All of a sudden, I just didn’t want to put it down. It wasn’t that it was full of action. Nor was it a big mystery that I just had to figure out. The story just reached out and grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.
The Gracekeepers follows two young women – Callanish; a landlocker who acts as a graveyard guardian and North; a dampling who is part of a circus. Their world is split between people who live on land and those who live on the water in boats. The world has very little land, so owning land is a big deal. Landlockers and dumplings dislike each other; but they still need each other – landlockers provide food (even though damplings often live off the sea) and damplings provide entertainment in the form of circuses or religion. Damplings are considered second-class citizens when they are on land – having to wear a bell to designate them as damplings.
Both women are inexplicably tied to one another – Callanish, while a landlocker, is actually the child of some sea creature. Her mother teaches her how to hide her webbed feet and toes with slippers and gloves. North is actually pregnant with a child like Callanish. When North’s circus comes to Callanish’s graceyard to lay to rest a person from the crew, the two are drawn to one another. After North and the circus leaves, both women continue to think of one another. North tries to keep her pregnancy a secret while trying to get out of a marriage between her and the ringmaster’s son, whom bought them a house on land. All the while, the ringmaster’s wife tries to get her husband to give her the house for their “new” family rather than the circus one. And lets just say she is not nice. Calladish continues to do restings, but finally decides she must atone for a mistake years ago and talks a messenger into helping her get back to her mother. Along the way, she realizes that North and the circus are going the same way and vows to find North again. They are reunited again when disaster strikes the circus again.
The Gracekeepers is a story about life, loss, growth, and how decisions made can ripple across time and many people. While there is certainly a fantastical element to the story, it doesn’t dominate it. The writing also doesn’t lay everything out for you, a little imagination is needed. I honestly enjoy that style of writing, that is part of what I love about reading. Read this book if you enjoy quality writing, a story that drives the book rather than action, and using your imagination.
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.