Past, Present, and Premonitions

With vivid descriptions of places and characters, gifted writers are able to take us where we have never been and introduce us to people we will never meet. Author Anthony Doerr is so good at his craft that after I finished reading his novel About Grace I went back to page one and started again, this time more slowly.

In this dark story, David Winkler is an introverted and lonely man who can see people’s deaths in his dreams. When he foresees his infant daughter drowning in a flood with him as the instrument of her death, David flees to a remote Caribbean island and lives there, tortured about having abandoned his family, for 25 years.

Premonitions would be of no particular interest if they described the past instead of the future. But for us humans at least, the arrow of time moves in only one direction – even as our mathematical formulas disagree with our physical experience – and seeing into the future is not allowed.

For David Winkler visualizing the future is all too easy, if most unwelcome. Preventing the future from happening is what drives him almost to self destruction, and is what this supremely profound and engaging story is about.

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