Saturday, September 29, 2012

Thoughts on Sheri Reynold's "A Gracious Plenty"

A Gracious Plenty is about Finch Nobles, a girl who realizes that she can speak to the dead after a horrific accident that left half of her body burned. Working in the cemetery, Finch shuns the society that rejects her. This half burned is the reason she is ignored and disliked, but the underlying truth of her sexuality is prominent in this piece, and is what I think Finch is seeking to discover about herself throughout the novel, and what this book is really about.

William Blott, much like Finch, is ostracized from the town for being gay. “God don’t love no queers,” remarks Leonard, who is a friend to Finch. Leonard here is representative of the entire town, as a policeman and son of the mayor. Society does not accept homosexuality in this small and religious community. One day, William’s grave is defaced by people in the town, and covered in profanities. Finch sees this when she is with Leonard. She becomes very adamant in exerting her stance on the injustice of the situation. William was still a human being at the time the townspeople knew him, no matter his sexuality, she would argue. However, before this, Finch expresses to her best friend Lucy her uncertainty, just like the rest of society, about her feelings towards homosexuals. When Lucy tells Finch that she believes it to be okay, Finch lets down her barriers and from then on embraces her own love for Lucy. She defends William so fiercely because she sees herself in him.  The side of Finch that has been burned is the very same side of Finch that is in love with Lucy, and both are rejected by society. 

Yes. I went there.

But, well, competing with this other half is good old Leonard. Leonard is just as mediocre in the eyes of the town as Finch. He is the son that is forgotten about and has failed in life. He is compared to Marcus, his younger brother who died as an infant, yet still showed infinitely greater promise than he does. The two find solace in each other, recognizing that they are equals. As the novel progresses, the two grow increasingly fond of each other. It is impossible not to question if there is an underlying romantic interest. Finch is seen calling Leonard and hanging up once she hears his voice on the other line. Leonard rushes over to save Finch from a terrible storm, like a knight in shining armor. However, Finch tells Leonard eventually that the cemetery, her family of the dead, and ultimately, Lucy, is where her home truly is. 
So, here it goes a bit less like Cinderella and more like Mulan, if you will.

Finch often wishes that she knew Lucy when she was alive, so that she could “kiss her and wipe her tears dry”. In the final scene, Lucy does kiss Finch, and although it was only a gesture, as only one is alive, Finch “knew what it meant”. However, I suppose readers can understand this kiss in a million different fashions.

I read A Gracious Plenty to be story not only about the desire to be wanted and accepted, but a love story between Finch and Lucy. Finch made this perfectly clear to me, as a reader, when chooses to risk her life in a storm to remain at the cemetery with Lucy, recognizing that her death would only create a lifetime with Lucy, in the mysterious other side of life, death. All Finch needs in the novel is a feeling of being alive, to be cherished and respected, that she only finds in the dead, a sign that Finch will never be happy anywhere else but with Lucy.

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