Twenty years of Dr. Garland Roper’s experience as a psychotherapist have consummated in the from of a deeply disturbing, insightful, and healing book Hidden Grace (Cliffside Press at OMNI, Maine, 2005). A literary novel, a psychological study of psycho-sexual torture and depression, a case against inhuman foster neglect, and a life-giving look at one woman’s courage in the face of brutal abuse, the merit of Hidden Grace is hard to encapsulate in a single frame.
We meet old Grace Albright who revisits her middle-aged therapist Dr. Carl Wilder, a struggling modern-day Sisyphus wrestling with his ‘rock’ of confidence as a therapist, to help her write a book about their therapy. Dr. Wilder narrates memories of Grace’s writings telling, in her words, the story of her early life in foster houses. As Grace opens the chapters of extreme sadistic torture at the hands of her foster families, Dr. Wilder’s depressive view of his own life transforms positively. Together the therapist and the patient rise from their tombs and become living persons in their own flesh, no more given into the torture of slavery.
Hidden Grace may well be seen as a detective story in literary style. Grace’s unwillingness to speak of her torture kindles the curiosity from the prologue and keeps the flame aglow till the very end of the book. The development of her character, her self-concept as a sinner against herself, challenges notions of established moral concepts. The distinction between sinner and victim of sin is diffused until Grace makes Dr. Wilder (and the reader) see the light.
The language of Gar Roper’s narrative is anything but professional. More important is the narrative device, a combination of first person in Grace and Dr. Wilder’s voices, and Grace’s writings. Events are seen at once through the eyes of both the doctor and her patient. This chimes in with the theme of the novel, a story of participant roles integral to the therapy in question. The discovery and revival of the innocent and loving Grace is accomplished through the written word. That of Dr. Wilder follows and, who knows, of how many eyes and minds.
The impact of Grace’s indelible character is reinforced by the title page. The young girl on the left has face and eyes looking through you. Her beauty is indescribable and her terrors poignant, her sufferings violent enough to tear one apart. And yet Dr. Roper makes such a loving picture of her ripe age that Grace Albright becomes a symbol of convalescence.
The epilogue and author’s note reveal a few facts about the book, concluding with some inspiring words, which might sound rather tame in the face of the novel’s powerful hang over.
Hidden Grace is for us, lovers of beauty, courage, and truth.