Places of Grace


186 pages
ISBN 1-55050-117-8
DDC C813'.54






Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is the trade, scholarly, and reference editor of the
Canadian Book Review Annual.


David Elias, who was born and raised in the Mennonite community of
southern Manitoba, offers a splendid evocation of that world in these 11
interrelated tales.

Young Steven Zacharias’s rule-bound and insular community is
inhabited by rigid conformists like his joyless and life-denying father;
sadistic monsters like the Bible-spouting teacher in “Dickie
Derksen”; and rebels of all stripes, from his wandering Uncle Abe to
his defiantly unmarried (great-) Aunt Martha. Steven himself is a rebel
in the making; so too are his crippled sister, Trudy, and their mother,
Nettie, who is leading a life of quiet desperation. By the end of the
collection, all three characters are building new lives in the outside
world. The seeds of their eventual liberation are to be found in the
respective “places of grace” that sustain and inspire them: a lush
meadow (Trudy), the soaring gospel music of Mahalia Jackson (Steven),
and a photograph of the ocean taken by the free-spirited Aunt Martha

These clear-eyed, compassionate, and unpretentious tales are told with
engaging simplicity. Elias’s second story collection marks a welcome
return to the virtues of old-fashioned storytelling.


Elias, David., “Places of Grace,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 17, 2024,