Grace in Thine Eyes
Glen of Loch Trool. Spring 1808. Davina McKie is a bonny lass of seventeen, as clever as they come and a gifted musician. Unable to speak since childhood, she is doted on by her belligerent younger brothers, Will and Sandy,...
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Glen of Loch Trool. Spring 1808. Davina McKie is a bonny lass of seventeen, as clever as they come and a gifted musician. Unable to speak since childhood, she is doted on by her belligerent younger brothers, Will and Sandy, who vow to protect their silent sister.
When the lads are forced to depart the glen, Jamie McKie intends to brighten his daughter's summer by escorting Davina to the Isle of Arran. Her cousins make her welcome at the manse, and the parish delights in hearing their talented fiddler.
But when she catches the eye of a handsome young Highlander on Midsummer Eve, sheltered Davina is unprepared for the shocking events that follow.
A timeless story of passion and revenge, of lost innocence and shattered dreams, GRACE IN THINE EYES explores the sorrow of unspeakable shame and the gift of immeasurable grace.
1. Davina's inability to speak does not hinder her ability to communicate. How would you describe her "voice," her personality? In what ways does her muteness shape the story? Consider the crucial events in Grace in Thine Eyes: If Davina had been able to speak, how might that have changed things? What is your response to the explanation in the author notes for Davina's silence? 2. Are Will and Sandy justified in their overprotective attitude toward Davina? Are they to blame for what happened a decade earlier, or was it simply an accident? In the early chapters did you see the twins as misguided but well meaning, or did they appear cruel? As the novel unfolded, how did your opinion of the twins and their motives change? 3. Jamie McKie has a hard time forgiving his sons. Is his reasoning valid? If you've faced a similar situationbeing asked to forgive a person who deeply wronged someone you lovehow did you handle it? Were there moments in the story when Jamie's behavior angered you? Others when he earned your sympathy? How would you characterize Jamie as a husband? as a father? 4. Unlike her spouse, Leana is patient and grace-giving. In what ways do you admire Leana as a wife? as a mother? How might you identify with her struggles in letting go of her grown children? When does Leana demonstrate her greatest weakness in Grace in Thine Eyes? And when is her greatest strength evident? 5. Leana tells her daughter, "Have I ever seen a fairy? Only when I look at you, lass." According to Eve Blantyre Simpson in Folk Lore in Lowland Scotland (1908), a learned Scotsman was asked if he believed in fairies. "The Highlander replied as gravely as if his confession of faith had been challenged, 'Of course I do.'" How do you reconcile people with strong religious beliefs also embracing fairies, kelpies, brownies, and the like? Did you find the fairy lore in this novel fascinating or unsettling? How might such references to the wee folk serve the story and the characterization of Davina in particular? 6. The epigraphs that open each chapter are meant to prepare the reader for what's to come. How might the words of Samuel Coleridge at the start of chapter 22 describe what follows with the twins? Select an epigraph that you particularly like. Why did it capture your fancy, and how does the quote suit the chapter it introduces? 7. Somerled MacDonald shows his rakish side from the moment we meet him in chapter 28. Describe your initial impression of Somerled. In what ways did your assessment of his character change as the story progressed? Did he ever win your heart, as he does Davina's? Why or why not? 8. Is the tragedy on Midsummer Eve inevitable? Davina blames herself as well as Somerled. Is she right in doing so? Do you see her as naive, flirtatious, foolish, or the sad victim of a crime? Sir Harry claims, "In a plight such as this, society punishes the woman far more than the man." That was so in 1808. Is it still true today? What emotions did those harrowing scenes evoke for you? 9. The aftermath is painful to witness. What circumstances make those first hours especially difficult for our dear Davina? If you'd been there as her mother or her friend, how might you have counseled or consoled her? If you'd been Davina, given all the limitations of her situation, what might you have done the next morning? 10. Graceoften defined as "unmerited favor"is not only part of the title but also the theme of Grace in Thine Eyes. What do you make of Davina's eventual willingness to extend grace to Somerled? Is her mercy commendable or appalling? Contrast Jamie's stubborn attitude toward forgiveness with Davina's generous one. Must a person be worthy of forgiveness before receiving it? How does accepting the gift of undeserved mercy change people? 11. Chapter 65 shows us Will's nature at its basest. Do his efforts at the last redeem him in your sight? Why or why not? What do you make of Sandy's actions in the final, harrowing moments? Despite the clear foreshadowing, were you hoping for a better outcome on Goatfell? How did you feel when Somerled slipped from Will's grasp? 12. Jamie is furious with himself and with his sons, clenching his fists and shouting, "What am I to do with you?" Who is truly at fault for the Goatfell incident? When the family meets with Mr. Hunter, Jamie lies to protect them. As a parent, would you do the same in such a situation? When Will and Sandy return to Glentrool at Yuletide, what do you think should happen to them? 13. Though Davina leaves Arran behind, she cannot escape the judgment of others. If you've ever been wrongly accused, as she was, how did you feel? What did you do? In what ways does gossip still have the power to wound and isolate us? Other than seeking the support of friends, how might one rise above such false accusations 14. Graham Webster has many heroic attributes, yet Davina is not initially attracted to him. Why might that be so? How does his personality compare to Somerled's? What qualities does Graham have to recommend him? Can you imagine his making Davina happy? How long might it take for her heart to be truly whole? 15. This reader's guide begins with a quote from Amos Bronson Alcott, a nineteenth-century American teacher and philosopher. Only readers can determine if a book is good or not. What expectation did you have when you began reading Grace in Thine Eyes? What surprised you? dismayed you? pleased you? What were your hopes for Davina at story's end? Finally, how did you profit from reading this novel?
"That is a good book which is opened with expectation and closed with profit." - Amos Bronson Alcott
Liz Curtis Higgs has been telling tales since she wrote her first novel at the tender age of ten. Careers in broadcasting, public speaking, nonfiction writing, and children s books brought her back to her first love – fiction – at the turn of the 21st century.
No doubt they rose up early to observe
The rite of May.
Glen of Loch Trool
Davina McKie dropped to her knees on the grassy hillock, letting her shawl slip past her shoulders despite the sharp chill in the air. The silent glen stood draped in a pearl gray mist, the rugged peaks of Mulldonach mere shadows edged in copper, hinting at dawn.A smile stole across her face. Her brothers were nowhere to be seen.
Davina swept her fingers over the cool, wet grass, then lightly patted her cheeks and brow, touching her nose for good measure. If the May dew banished her freckles, as the auld wives promised, she would gladly wash her face out of doors every morning of the year. Never mind that the ruddy spots matched her bright mane of hair; ferntickles were better suited to a child’s complexion. After seventeen years, Davina was quite ready to be done with them. She sat up and rearranged her drooping crown of daisies, meant to safeguard her from brownies, bogles, and other uncanny creatures that roamed the land on Beltane, then started to her feet when a familiar voice rose from the fog.
“On May Day, in a fairy ring!” Her brother William. There was no mistaking his baritone. His twin, Sandy–only their mother called him Alexander–would not be far behind.
Ah, well. Davina spun round to greet them.
Two shaggy heads, black as midnight, emerged from the mist. A year younger than she, the twins were in every way identical, from their dark brown eyes to their broad chests and muscular backs. “Like stags,” their mother had once said, gently teasing them not to be seen on the moors during hunting season. As the lads drew near, they finished the May Day rhyme. “We’ve seen them round Saint Anthon’s spring.”
Davina recognized the poet. “Robert Ferguson,” Will answered for her as if he’d read the name in her eyes. He tugged at her unbound hair, which spilled down her back, the scarlet ends brushing her waist. “Sandy, I told you we’d spot a fairy on the braes this morning. See how her ears come to a point?”
The McKie brothers never tired of comparing her to the wee folk since the crown of her head did not reach their shoulders, and her hands and feet were no bigger than a young girl’s. She snatched her hair from Will’s grasp, only to find his twin plucking at her skirts. Sandy’s eyes gleamed with mischief as he appraised her. “A light green gown, fair skin, and a wreath of flowers. She only lacks wings.” Will winked at her. “You’ve not looked hard enough, Brother.”
She fluttered her eyelet shawl behind her, making them both laugh. “I see by her wet cheek our fairy has been bathing in the dew.”
Sandy gently tweaked her nose. “Perhaps she thinks she’s not bonny enough.”
Davina knew he was teasing but turned on her heel nonetheless and flounced down the hill toward home, taking care not to lose her footing on the slippery grass and ruin her stageworthy exit. When her brothers called after her, she pretended not to hear them.
“Och!” Will shouted her name, the sharpness of his voice muted by the moist air. “Sandy meant no offense. You know how daft he is when it comes to the lasses.”
She heard a soft groan as fist connected with flesh, then Sandy’s voice, slightly winded. “He speaks the truth, Davina. You’ve no need of the May dew when you’re already the fairest maid in Galloway.”
An exaggerated claim. South West Scotland boasted dozens of young women far prettier than she. Still, she’d made her brothers grovel long enough. Davina slowed her steps, letting the lads catch up.
“There, now.” Will wrapped her right hand round the crook of his elbow, and Sandy the same on her left. “Let us cease any talk of your beauty. As it is, no gentleman in Monnigaff parish is worthy of you.”
She could not clap her hands–her usual means of expressing amusement–so Davina simply shook her head at Will’s foolishness as they continued downhill together. Perhaps that night when she took to the heath by the light of a gibbous moon, she’d evade her brothers altogether. The ritual required absolute silence–something she managed easily and the twins did not manage at all.
“We’ve a secret,” Will confessed as the threesome reached level ground. “That’s why we came looking for you.” He led them away from the rushing waters of Buchan Burn and headed west toward the McKie mansion. “Father intends to make an announcement after breakfast. As usual, he’s told us nothing.”
“Aye.” Sandy grimaced. “’Twill be a revelation to us all.”
Davina searched their faces in turn. Was it glad tidings or ill? She touched her lips, then her heart, knowing they would grasp her meaning: Can you not tell me more? I will keep your secret. Will shook his head, stamping the grass a bit harder. “That’s all we know, lass. Father demanded we arrive promptly at table. He wasn’t smiling when he said it.”
Bad news, then.
Her earlier joy began to dissipate, like the morning mist giving way to the sun. The trio walked on in silence broken only by the throaty cry of a raven gliding above the surface of Loch Trool. When the thick stand of pines along the loch made continuing arm in arm impossible, Davina followed behind Will, with Sandy close on her heels, her mind turning over the possibilities.
Was a wedding in the offing? The twins were only sixteen, far too young for marriage. Davina’s steps slowed. Surely her father did not have a suitor in mind for her? Not likely, or her mother would have mentioned something. Was Ian to marry, then? Quite as braw as their handsome father, her brother would make a fine catch for any lass. Nineteen years of age come October, he was man enough to take a wife. Ian was in every way her older brother. Responsible. Trustworthy. Intelligent. The twins used other words: Predictable. Unimaginative. Dull. Davina suspected that envy fueled such sentiments: Ian would inherit all of Glentrool. Still, it was Will and Sandy who’d come looking for her on the hills, speculating about an announcement. Might their father not have some favorable word to share with his younger sons? If so, she would mark this day as a rare and welcome occasion.
As they neared Glentrool, Davina lifted her gaze to its square central tower and the round turret nestled in the heart of its L-shaped design. Built of rough granite from the glen, the house was rugged and imposing, like the Fell of Eschoncan that stood behind it; immovable and unshakable, like the faith of the great-grandfather who had built it.
After crossing the threshold, they started down the long entrance hall, the twins’ boot heels loud against the hardwood floor. Davina paused at the mirror to smooth the muslin tucker round her neckline and pluck the flowers from her hair, now a tangled mess after her early morning ramble on the hills. Drawing a steadying breath, she turned away from her reflection and walked into the dark-beamed dining room where she was greeted by portraits of McKies from generations past. A single window did little to brighten the dim interior. The rest of the family was already seated, with Father at the head of the long table, Ian to his left and Mother on his right. Though Ian simply said, “Good morning,” she saw the wariness in his gaze, heard his unspoken warning. Something is amiss. A slight furrow carved her father’s brow. More cause for concern.
“I was about to send Rab off to find you.” Their mother’s tone was kind, without censure. “You see, my husband?” She touched his sleeve.
“Your sons have joined you at table, just as you requested.”
“So they have.” Jamie rested his hand on hers, a slight smile softening his features.
Most marriages among the gentry were forged in silver, with little thought for romance; not so her parents. Davina thought they made a handsome couple: Leana, with her porcelain skin, silvery blond hair, and wide, blue gray eyes; and Jamie, his brown hair still thick but shot through with silver, his dark brows arched over moss green eyes that missed nothing. Her mother had quietly celebrated her fortieth year in March and her father the same a few years earlier.
“Dearest?” Leana’s voice stirred Davina from her reverie. So did the sketchbook that she slid toward her. “I found this in your room and thought you might have need of it.”
Davina opened the clothbound volume to a blank page, then fingered the attached charcoal pencil, carved to a fine point by her father’s horn-handled knife. Whenever facial expressions or hand signals would not suffice to share her thoughts with others, she scribbled them along the margins of her sketches. Just now she felt a strong urge to draw something, to keep hand and mind occupied while the others ate, for she had little appetite.
Two servants entered from the kitchen, steaming dishes in hand. Rashers of bacon and a fragrant pot of cooked oats were added to the sideboard, joining a cold platter of sliced mutton and boiled hens’ eggs.
The twins stood to fill their plates, more subdued than Davina had seen them in many a morning.
She swallowed a bit of dry oatcake, then quietly sipped her tea, searching her mother’s face for some clue of what the morning might hold. Was that a slight tremor in Leana’s chin? a hint of moisture in her eyes?
All at once her father thrust aside his half-eaten plate of food and dabbed his mouth, signaling his intentions. “I have important news that cannot wait any longer.”
Davina’s breath caught. Please, Father. Let it be good news. Her brothers turned to the head of the table, their expressions grim, as Davina found her sketchbook pencil. It seemed their questions were about to be answered.