In Front of God and Everybody — "Confessions of April Grace" Series
In Front of God and Everybody by K. D. McCrite has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first in the "Confessions of April Grace" series.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Red-haired April Grace Reilly is 11 and lives on a farm in the somewhat unsophisticated world of the Arkansas Ozarks with her parents, her 14-year-old sister and her grandma. She is as sassy as she is country. She talks in the vernacular of the Ozarks — a colorful, simile-laden style (for example: "Isabel's voice quivered like Jell-O in a windstorm"). When new neighbors Ian and Isabel St. James move in from California to a nearby dilapidated property, April Grace wastes no time in detecting their faults as a couple and giving voice to all of her thoughts. Isabel, on the other hand, is a cigarette-smoking, ultra-thin, ballerina who misses city life and loathes the country.
April Grace's grandma becomes romantically involved with a boisterous, overbearing widower, Jeffrey Rance, also new to the area. April Grace immediately dislikes him and is suspicious of him when she spots him snooping in Grandma's purse and house.
When April Grace's parents later visit Ian and Isabel's house and see that it is uninhabitable, her mother tells Ian and Isabel that they can live with them until their home is fixed up. Her father has the couple work for him for the summer, while they live with his family. In turn he helps them restore their house.
Her parents give Ian and Isabel their master bedroom, and the girls have to share a room. Naturally, the guests have a huge impact on the Reilly family. April Grace's parents are compelled to have a private conversation with them about their profanity and fighting. April Grace's sister, Myra Sue, already enamored with big-city ways, idolizes Isabel.
Not one to pitch in and help with household chores, Isabel spends her time sleeping or exercising. She begins giving hair and makeup lessons to Myra Sue, who mimics Isabel's facial expressions and eating habits. She develops anorexia to the point that her parents have to seek medical treatment for her.
When Grandma changes her hair and clothing to impress Mr. Rance, April Grace is alarmed. Everyone is alarmed when Grandma consults Isabel for hair and makeup tips. Thinking that Grandma's relationship with Mr. Rance has become too serious, April Grace decides to investigate. She asks the librarian to request the obituary for his wife from a Texas newspaper. Because this novel is set in 1986, modern technology isn't available. Her request is sent off by regular mail, and she has to wait for a reply.
Meanwhile, Jeffry Rance and April Grace's grandmother become engaged, and he pressures her to set a wedding date only two weeks away. Preparations are underway for the big event, and April Grace expresses her dislike of the situation with her parents and grandma, but no one listens to her except Ian, who sides with her. After a discussion with her father one day, April Grace ends with a statement about how she can see Myra Sue's ribs when she wears a leotard, and that is sufficient for her parents to take notice of Myra Sue's eating disorder. Myra Sue is whisked off to a town doctor, leaving April Grace and Isabel alone. Isabel asks April Grace why almost everyone dislikes her, and April Grace unloads her long list of Isabel's faults. She is surprised when Isabel responds by telling her they are a lot alike, and April Grace realizes her own faults as well.
Then the phone rings, and it is the librarian calling with the reply from Texas. April Grace learns that Mr. Rance's wife is not dead and that they are still married. He has a history of finding older widows to romance and marry so he can get their money. The wedding is canceled.
April Grace and Isabel admit their faults and work on being nicer; Isabel apologizes to April Grace's mother, gives up smoking and becomes the school's dance and drama teacher, and Myra Sue recovers from her anorexia. At the end of the book, all the characters come together for a group hug.
April Grace's parents model Christian behavior. Much of this story focuses on forgiveness, grace and the Golden Rule. The family always attends church on Sundays. A picture of "Jesus in the Garden" hangs in April Grace's grandmother's home. Cautioning April Grace about fault finding, her grandmother says that there's only been one perfect person in the world, and "they killed Him." She quotes part of 1 Corinthians, chapter 13 and says that April Grace's mother lives her life by it. In listening to her list of faults, Isabel says, "[Y]ou may as well drive the nails in my hands and feet." Her parents have the Prayer of St. Francis framed on their bedroom wall.
Other Belief Systems
April Grace describes another set of nearby neighbors as old hippies, and she calls Estelle and DeWayne the Freebirds. Estelle, who goes by the name Temple, says she is the "temple of her inner goddess." She tells April Grace that she would be able to find her lost cat more easily if she centered herself in the universe and sent out her patient, loving vibes. DeWayne, who goes by the name Forest, says he "inhabits the souls of trees." Isabel tells April Grace that Myra Sue has decided to "embrace her inner goddess" when she dyes Myra Sue's hair black, applies too much makeup and dresses her in a sparkly dress.
April Grace describes Ian and Isabel as cussing at each other, but precise words are not used; rather she'll say "a you know what" or "names I can't repeat." She adds that they take the Lord's name in vain. Ian, Isabel, April Grace and Myra Sue engage in name-calling, using words such as idiot, dumb, wretch, miserable cur, knotheads, toad, stupid, brat, ignorant hillbilly, frog wart, dopey, beast, lout, goofball, gullible dumb hicks, and pantywaist. Myra Sue tells April Grace that she'll grow up to be trailer trash and that she looks like dog poop. Expressions include good gravy and gall-durned.
April Grace initially assumes that Ian has punched Isabel in both eyes before realizing that Isabel wears heavy eye makeup. At dinner, she thinks how she would like to take Isabel's crutches and hit her and Ian on the side of the head with them. The sisters kick and pinch each other, and at one point their squabble leads them to yanking each other around by their hair, face and neck.
April Grace catches Myra Sue kissing herself in the mirror. Jeffrey Rance and Grandma kiss; when Mr. Rance kisses, it is a "loud smooch." April Grace refers to his kiss as "a big wet one." Isabel emerges from the bedroom wearing a nightgown so sheer, "you could practically see her gallbladder and spleen." April Grace decides not to tell the sheriff that "old man Rance got into my grandma's drawers." She is referring to a chest of drawers, but some might see a double meaning since Rance is courting Grandma. When Isabel says she needs to go exercise her flabby glutes, Ian eyes her "scrawny butt" and says they aren't flabby.
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Sarcasm: April Grace's sarcasm comes across as mean-spirited. Her sister uses sarcasm as well.
Vices: Isabel smokes cigarettes. While a dinner guest at the Reilly home, she asks if they have anything to drink, and April Grace knows she means booze. Myra Sue suggests sherry, even though she knows the family does not keep alcohol in the house. Ian lost the couple's last remaining dollars by gambling in Las Vegas.
Media: Myra Sue and Grandma regularly watch "Days of Our Lives" and "Search for Tomorrow." April Grace's mother listens to NPR in the afternoons. Literary mentions: Oliver Twist, Jane Eyre, The Hobbit, Karate Kid II and "Murder She Wrote."
Lying: April Grace lies to the librarian when she explains her reason for researching Mr. Rance's presumed-deceased wife. Each time April Grace catches Mr. Rance snooping, he lies about what his purpose is.
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