Gifts from God; we think of them as rare and exceptional yet everyone has them. “Your gift or talent is there from the start and either lived up to or lost” so says the late, great author David Foster Wallace.
The trick is to know your gift and treat it as rare and exceptional by nourishing it with everything you possess until it positively glows. Then it becomes exceptional.
Many individuals who show early promise are endowed with gifts that are not nourished, and then the talent just fades away.
Rayettea Stocks, a Harford County resident, has a storytelling gift. She is able to create a story line, weaving in characters endowed with enough dimension to be believable and uses her characters to spark the momentum that carries the reader to the end of the tale. This storytelling talent is a gift freely given to Ms. Stocks but requires patience, practice and skill to hone it to excellence.
The Grim is Ms. Stokes first attempt at a published novel. The setting is a psychiatric hospital called Grover Ridge Inpatient Medical Center, a.k.a “the Grim”.
The protagonist is Jaycee Bates, who believes the Grim is “a prison shrouded in magnificent glory.” Jaycee is a patient at this facility because she murdered her young husband, the father of her son. It is clear that the murder was self defense, but Jaycee has no memory of the events leading to her violence.
She is suffering from complex post traumatic stress syndrome. Until the therapist helping her can jump start her memory, she is mired in days of professional and paraprofessional staff, labyrinth hallways, tiny beds and friends and acquaintances with major psychological baggage.
It doesn’t appear to Jaycee that anyone could get well there, including herself, so she is combative to all authority and staff. She is young, unwell, and ruled by emotion but surprisingly confident for someone suffering as much as we are led to believe.
Jaycee does have a decent support system in her life, her father, her boyfriend and her son. She is loved and adored by two friends in the facility and her therapist is earnest in trying to get Jaycee well.
Jaycees’ redeeming qualities were not defined clearly enough for me, she came across as someone ruled by emotion, not intelligence. I imagine if I was younger, I would find her to be a more compelling person. As it is, she bored me.
The age thing, I think, is tantamount to liking this novel. This is clearly a young adult or teenage novel. Spunky, outspoken, strong-willed young women who take on authority figures because they believe their own hearts are huge and therefore better hold no attraction for me, but probably do for young girls.
I was interested to see how the plot would unfold, and Ms. Stocks was skillful in illuminating events to propel the story, but I had zero interest in the happiness of Jaycee because she did not pass the “like” test for me. But if I am not the targeted audience, who cares what I think; I imagine that young girls would find Jaycee “amazing”.
My issue with this novel is that it could have been a better book, with attention given to the proper usage of language. Language sets the tone for a story; it is the paintbrush the writer uses to create her picture.
If the writer is unclear on the exact meaning of a word, then it should not be used. “Nemesis” was a term used and even defined in this story, by Jaycee , but it was defined incorrectly. The word “masochistic” was used during a pivotal moment in the story when clearly “sadistic” would have been the proper term. Again, the improper word usage came from Jaycee, the supposedly well-read character. That mistake was so glaring that I was tempted to stop reading immediately.
And composition, anyone? Decent composition requires one to never repeat a word in a compound sentence because it never turns out well and never makes it a good sentence. See what I mean?
Also, it takes a skilled professional to describe the emotional state of a character, and the descriptive terms need to be precise. Anne Tyler, a gifted local writer has stated that it can take her days to get the perfect word on a page, but it is important enough to take that time. An artist needs his colors, a writer needs his words.
Holding back tears, shedding tears, brimming with tears, “fluid building up” – all this “tears” business is cheap and easy emotion and does not need to be repeated ad nauseam. I think Ms. Stokes is better than that, and good writing requires that she be better than that.
The GRIM is a good first novel because of the story, but could have been better by a long shot. Even if the book is targeted for young adults or teenagers, the sentence structure and language usage still needs to be sound. I can forgive punctuation mishaps, being prone to that myself, but a writer must have the language so we can hear her voice. And where was the editor or proofreader Dogear Publishing? Little help for Ms. Stocks, please?
My hope is that Ms. Stocks takes her gift for storytelling and fine tunes the language, precisely edits and makes her second novel better. I hope she does not give up but moves upward in her writing style.
Her gift requires and deserves attention to detail so one day her storytelling will positively glow, not fade away.