4 out of 4 stars
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It’s not unusual these days for an author to tell the stories of several characters who are not friends or relatives, and who apparently have different experiences and social backgrounds. As a reader, I enjoy this. I expect the author will bring the characters together by the end of the book, and I’ll try to figure out how their relationships will connect before the author lets me know.
Grind by Edward Vukovic is this kind of story, and is terrific in many ways. It’s told in first person by several realistic main characters who live in Australia. Ziva, a young immigrant woman from what she calls “the old Yugoslavia”, lives with her sister and brother-in-law, and works in a sewing factory. She loves coffee and has learned to “read” it, in order to help people—and herself--understand what their future will be. Simon is a young man who works at a real estate company and is struggling to be successful. Isaac, who owns a dog named Dante, runs a bar that has coffee as well as beer. Michel, an immigrant from Belgium, seems to be one of the homeless people seen regularly on the streets. Danielle is a young student who cares for her father after a family tragedy. She studies and thinks about how her life might evolve. We get to know these people as they share their life experiences, their current situations, and their hopes. As Ziva reads the coffee, and dreams occur for her and others, we also get to see hints about what is actually going to happen.
The characters take us through the plot, so that we can find out what happens and why. That being said, I almost hesitate to use the term “plot”, because the characters and situations seem very real rather than imagined. Edward Vucovic has done a very good job organizing, describing, and resolving what happens. As the story progresses, more is learned about the background of the characters, whether they meet each other (and how that happens), and what the results will be. I hesitate to give too much detail about this, because that would certainly include spoilers; but I did feel that the results were very satisfying and realistic.
Of course, it can also be important to mention that some things could have been done a little differently. For example, all the characters who tell in first person seem to use a very similar style. Chapters are noted by the character who is in charge, and what happens and how it happens gives us information as well, but having some style differences might make each character a bit more recognizable and unique.
I also saw a few issues that might be resolved by some editing. There were a few typos. For example, “the pest apple pie” probably should have been “the best apple pie”. Some sentences used a lot of commas, and could have been a couple of complete sentences instead. In addition, normal paragraph indentations were used in narrative sections, but there were no paragraph indentations in dialogue. Granted, these were not things that made the book too difficult to read, but given how well the plot and characterization were done, I think fixing these issues would make the book even better.
I suspect it will be no surprise that I am rating Grind with 4 out of 4 stars in spite of the possible editing issues mentioned previously. While I was reading this book, I was far more involved with wondering how the story would end than with noting errors. I have already said more than once that the characters and plot were well done, but there are other things I found impressive as well. There is some good poetry that one of the characters wrote, for example. It was a book I wished I could have just continued reading, without stopping for work or sleep; and I’m already thinking about reading it again.
I would categorize this book as “Other Fiction”, since it includes romance, mystery, and some psychic elements as well. If you like great characters, a satisfying plot, and really good coffee, Grind is a book for you!
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