When Ann Eriksson conjured up Dr. Faye Pearson, a three-foot-tall entomologist, the idea must have seemed too good to pass up. Just think of all the ways that, both literally and metaphorically, the combination of the woman’s diminutive stature and her occupation could explicate her character. Sure enough, Eriksson plays out almost every conceivable variation on this theme.
Falling from Grace involves a thin storyline, told in two acts, concerning logging in the B.C. interior. The first act finds Faye making a fateful trip into the woods to collect hemlock samples near a contested clear cut. The second half downshifts rapidly and finds Faye learning love, acceptance, and empathy after a horrible, destabilizing crime. Her teachers include family, friends, and potential lovers. Everyone learns. Everyone grows. And the tone is profoundly different from that of the first half.
Many of the book’s supporting characters are given only a first name and a single detail to identify them. Jen is the one with the ponytail, for example, and Esther is the one with the harmonica. The loggers are, for the most part, nameless and faceless baddies (save for Roger the logging boss, whose disturbingly cordial relationship with Faye is unexplained and unexplored).
Complicating matters is a narrative perspective that shifts awkwardly from the first person to the omniscient voice; Eriksson’s irritating habit of using sentence fragments to force a more “lyrical” tone (on the first page, she writes: “What I seek most is solitude in the company of trees. Connection with another being”); and the fact that the crime story is resolved in an offhand conversation with a peripheral character. This book isn’t about a fall from grace – it’s more like a stumble through a half-realized creative writing exercise.