Having flourished as an actress in the late 40s, Grace has the charisma and feminine qualities one would associate with a woman of that era. Her mannerisms - in both speak and dress - and the grace and composure with which she holds herself together hint at old Hollywood glam. But the edge to her smiles and the glint of fear captured in her gaze are reminders of the abusive life she escaped.
"They wait for me, the crowd, like savages awaiting a sacrifice. They want me. What I am, what I have."
Left with a debilitating side effect as the result of the youth serum, she finds it hard to trust strangers and even harder to be near them. I found her reactions to various situations in Grace Doll - though sometimes a little extreme - were understandable considering her past, and her fear and distrust of Brenden made it easier to believe in her emotional scarring.
Brenden is your typical teenager - full of angst over his father's passing and anger for his negligence, he agrees to track down Grace only to serve his own purposes: to tell Grace off for destroying his father's chances for happiness with any other woman, and to gain access to his trust fund. What he finds though, completely derails both of his plans. While I empathized with Brenden's newfound orphancy, and his practically nonexistent relationship with his father, I do wish we had been shown the reasons behind Jonathan's distance and that we had gotten to see them interact. Seeing everything through Brenden's perspective in Grace Doll kept me from understanding his father's motives; why trust his son with such an important task? Why hadn't he provided Grace with the contents of the safe deposit box earlier? Why leave things to chance? Questions that could have only been answered by Jonathan were left unanswered because of his untimely demise.
Something both protagonists commented on was the speed with which their relationship developed. I had to wonder why Brenden didn't question Grace's attraction to him - especially considering her relationship with his father. With the compassion and concern he showed for her, I also had to wonder why he didn't question if her attraction was in part because of the side effects of the truth serum. His complete lack of fear over being with someone who had lived for over eighty years, and his level of commitment at such a young age were both things I viewed with skepticism. But I wasn't only skeptic of Brenden - why was Grace to quick to start a relationship with the only person her age she had had contact with in years? Especially considering he was the son of someone that, while considered a dear friend, she was incapable of loving? And other then promise to keep her secret, what had Brenden done to truly gain her trust? Maybe Grace was just ready to let her past demons go, but while I did feel some chemistry between them, it did come across a little rushed and unrealistic.
The story flowed smoothly until about halfway through, where I felt it stalled slightly. After the intense emotional opening, I was expecting to hear more about Grace's abuse at the hands of Rufus and I was hoping to get a glimpse at her new found freedom. Once Grace returned to LA with Brenden however, the pacing picked right back up! Her reunion with Rufus was something I had hoped for since she left him to die in the house fire; I sat on the edge of my seat in anticipation for most of Grace Doll, waiting for Grace to show a flicker of interest in seeking vengeance. When the time came, Grace was subtle and sophisticated - which suited her character - but I had been hoping for something a little more thought out; I would have liked to have seen some preparation in anticipation of meeting with her abuser and tormenter. I did love the twist at the end though, as well as the Vanity Fair article - which I won't comment on further, for fear of spoilers!
Grace Doll captured my attention with it's dark and emotional intro, and then took me on a journey I didn't expect. Though there were things I questioned, I really enjoyed reading Grace's story and seeing how being with Brenden helped her work through her demons. A nice twist at the end caught me by surprise and the finality of the ending really tied up all the loose ends!