‘It would almost be funny if it wasn’t so terrifying.’ Read an excerpt from Amazing Grace Adams – the fiercest debut of 2023
More about the book!
Penguin Random House has shared an excerpt from Amazing Grace Adams, Fran Littlewood’s tender, funny and unapologetic debut novel!
Amazing Grace Adams tells the story of a life, a marriage, a family, set against a single north-London day. A rollercoaster ride of redemption and discovery, it’s a powerful celebration of womanhood.
About the book
One hot summer day, stuck in traffic on her way to pick up the cake for her daughter’s sixteenth birthday party, Grace Adams snaps.
She doesn’t scream or break something or cry or curl into a ball. She simply abandons her car in traffic and walks away. But not from her life – towards it. Towards the daughter who has banned her from the party. Towards the husband divorcing her. Towards the terrible thing that has blown their family apart …
She’ll show her daughter that no matter how far we fall, we can always get back up. Because Grace Adams was amazing. The world and her family might have forgotten. But Grace is about to remind them …
Read the excerpt:
Grace is hot. There’s the sun, like boiled breath, on the roof of her car but it’s more than that. This feeling that from nowhere she’s been set on fire from the inside out. Between her breasts a line of sweat is tracking a slow, itchy S, and she wants to jam a hand under the neck of her shirt and wipe it away. It’s gridlock, though, and she’s hemmed in on all sides, and there’s the man in the Audi, whose car window is level with hers. He’s staring at her like she’s the distraction he needs in this. Screw you, she thinks. Screw you, screw you, screw you.
‘If you’re feeling hot out there today,’ the woman on the radio is saying, ‘according to the latest report from climate think tank Autonomy, it’s only going to get hotter …’
Grace revs the engine to drown out the words and her eyes find the clock on the dashboard: 12:23. Can that be right? She checks her phone on the passenger seat. Shit. She’s late. Really late. There’s the Love Island cake to pick up, the one she’s had specially made. The cake she can’t afford but is staking everything on. One, two, three, four … She begins the CBT count that doesn’t work – the half-remembered one from the online course she abandoned after the first few sessions – then takes a deep breath in through her nose. Now her jeans are sticking to her thighs. Grace fiddles with the vents, stabs yet again at the button for the air-con she knows isn’t working. It’s the cheap heat in the synthetic fabric that’s making it all worse and she spreads her knees as wide as they’ll go, trying to get some non-existent air between her legs.
On the passenger seat her phone goes and she starts. Lotte? The thought is automatic, that it might be her. But even as she’s leaning across to check she already knows. Instead there’s the shock of a jowly face frowning from the screen, and it’s a moment before she recognizes herself, understands that Cate is trying to FaceTime her again. Grace shrinks back against the driver’s door. She doesn’t want to answer, and although she’s pretty sure she can’t be seen – Lotte has laughed at her about this a hundred times – still she has the sense that her sister is somehow watching her. Grace knows already what Cate is phoning to say: she’s left a vomit of messages over the past fortnight that somehow manage to be both compassionate and accusatory. Mum called me to say she’s been trying to get in touch, Grace. She’s worried about you. Dad too. It isn’t really fair on them to … Listen, call me and let me know you’re okay. I mean, not okay but … We’re all worried, Grace …
There’s the blast of a horn behind her and she twists in her seat. Like it’s aimed at her. The traffic is solid, stretching back as far as she can see along the skinny road that runs from the foot of Muswell Hill all the way to the Emirates Stadium. The kind of road that would be better suited to a sleepy village, or medieval times, but that’s clotted chaotically with work vans and city buses and delivery drivers and SUVs. ‘Really?’ she says, into the void of the car. ‘Really, arsehole? You want us to do what exactly?’
The sides of the car are closing in on her and she can smell burned plastic. How are they not moving yet? Sitting here like this it’s reminding her of something – a book, a TV show, a screenplay … She can’t remember. She can barely remember her own name these days. Slumping in the seat, she tries to bring to mind the things she hasn’t been able to recall recently. But, of course, she can’t. It would almost be funny if it wasn’t so terrifying. Like a part of her brain dropped out when she was looking the other way.
Her phone starts to ring again, and someone is leaning into their horn. The man is still staring at her, the heat in the car … and something is trapped and buzzing in here with her now. A fat black fly vibrating against the windows. Sweat pops at her temple and she’s slapping herself because the fly is dive-bombing her, ricocheting frenetically around the car’s interior.
Suddenly a face appears at the rear window of the car in front. A little girl with a grubby doll clutched in her hand is staring at Grace, unsmiling. She can hear the hiccupping beat of a track on the radio, the bone-judder of drilling from the roadworks ahead. And the fly is on her cheek now, on her arm, in her hair, and the traffic still isn’t moving, and time is jumping forward in units that aren’t as they should be, and she can’t be late, not today, there’s just no question.
And that’s it. She’s had it.
Claggy fumes catch in her throat as Grace steps from the car, gripping her phone, and jamming her credit card and a twenty-pound note into her back pocket. It’s all she needs. She doesn’t want to lug her bag around in this heat – she’s wearing the wrong clothes as it is: too-tight denim that makes her legs feel as if they’re melting. Grace slams shut the door, points her key and – ca-chunk – the doors are locked. And she’s walking away, picking a path along the white lines in the middle of the road, when there’s a shout behind her.
‘Hey, love. Love! What d’you think you’re doing?’
She stops and turns.
It’s the man in the Audi. He has his window down and he’s raising his voice above the blast of horns starting up. She registers the threat in the pulse of the engines around her, the angry atonal soundscape, but she has the strange sense that she’s somewhere beyond it, that it’s separate from her.
‘You’re not seriously …’ the man is yelling now, gesturing wildly so that she can see the sweat patches under his arms. ‘You need to get back in your car! You can’t leave it there!’
Grace can taste the metal heat coming off the vehicles wedged either side of her as she smiles at him. With her mouth, not her eyes.
‘Deal with it,’ she whispers.
Categories Fiction International
Tags Amazing Grace Adams Book excerpts Book extracts Fran Littlewood Penguin Random House SA