Scorched Grace is the debut novel by author Margot Douaihy and the first publication from Gillian Flynn (author of “Gone Girl”). A powerful story about religion and sin, family, and secrets so powerful they are literally buried in the ashes.
Sister Holiday is a novitiate at the Sisters of Sublime Blood convent, trying to instill in her students her love of music and the healing power of prayer. She is also a chain smoking, heavily tattooed member of the LGBTQ community, information she tries to keep a secret from her students, as she looks for a place to belong. Somewhere in their midst, however, an arsonist blooms, as one by one, school buildings are set on fire. After the loss of two of her close friends in these devastating fires, Holiday decides to rely on her previous skills and help the police find out who’s behind these devious acts. Hoping for redemption of her own, Sister Holiday must make amends with her own past before laying blame.
Scorched Grace is a unique and emotional novel, set against the backdrop of New Orleans in all of its sticky, sweaty heat and unrelenting beauty and charm. Douaihy reveals Holiday’s past slowly and teasingly, through snippets told in Holiday’s own words, as she helps the police investigate the crimes taking place at her home. Holiday blows all stereotypes out of the water, as she is the last person anyone would expect to see as a nun and the sisters of the convent are constantly fighting against the male-dominated Diocese to keep its community afloat, confronting major issues like religion and sexism head on.
Holiday is relatable in every way. Torn apart by a past of dysfunction and chaos, Holiday is smart, modern, and acerbic in all the best ways. Bitter yet desperate to see the world in a positive light, Holiday brings hope to a dark and grieving world. Her colleagues, both of the religious order and not, are devastatingly human and their vices and grievances only made them more likable.
As the quest for the arsonist continues, Douaihy makes every character suspect. Each police officer, teacher and even the nuns themselves have secrets they are desperate to keep, and “Grace” is a constant guessing game from the first page. When the ending hits, it is delightfully unexpected, bringing all of the plots twists and turns to one satisfying finale.
Scorched Grace has all of the makings of an award winning novel, and I see Douaihy skyrocketing to fame. Her novel is similar to creative, renowned works by authors like Douglas Stuart, and Douaihy’s unique and modern writing should receive similar accolades. “Grace” has the potential to take the novel into a sequel, and possibly a series, and I really hope Douaihy brings more Sister Holiday to the world soon!