Grace McDonald is an experienced mediator helping divorced couples negotiate joint custody over their children. However, even in this demanding profession, there are extremely challenging cases. Mike Flores is a military veteran who only just learned he has a son called David. David’s mother Becca is a member of the Westboro Baptist Church. Mike seeks joint custody over their son but Becca, her husband Timothy and other members of their fundamentalist congregation aren’t happy about this.
It would have been far too easy to write this novel as a sensationalist story about a group regularly labeled as “the most hated family in America.” Author Susan Kraus instead approaches sensitive subjects like divorce, custody, abuse, and limits of religious freedoms with compassion and tact. ALL GOD’S CHILDREN is, above all, a family drama about a father trying to connect with a son he barely knows. It is also a story about a child torn between a well-intentioned stranger and the bigoted community that raised him.
There are other stories in ALL GOD’S CHILDREN. Grace’s daughter Molly is a single mother struggling to raise a son who is on the spectrum. Next, there are David and Margaret, whose joint custody over their kids turns disastrous as they sabotage each other out of foolish spite. None of these stories are strictly necessary for the main narrative. For some readers, they may even make the novel feel meandering and dull.
And yet, these stories are not only interesting by themselves but also serve a larger thematic point Kraus wants to make. Namely: marriage and parenthood are hard. ALL GOD’S CHILDREN reminds us of familial tragedies and triumphs that quietly unfold around us every day. People persist despite setbacks, trying to carry out what they believe it’s right. Even when they fail, their mistakes are, if not always excusable, at least understandable.
ALL GOD’S CHILDREN is Kraus’ second novel in her Grace McDonald series. All of them address complex issues like spousal abuse or sexual assault. Yet, Kraus’ writing radiates warmth. She presents a compelling argument for humanity of all of her characters, even those we dislike.
Well-researched and deeply humane, ALL GOD’S CHILDREN by Susan Kraus is a sympathetic look into challenges of marriage, parenthood, divorce, and growing up under the shadow of bigotry.
~Danijel Štriga for IndieReader