45 pages 1 hour read

Fran Littlewood

Amazing Grace Adams

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2023

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Summary and Study Guide


Fran Littlewood’s Amazing Grace Adams is a work of contemporary literary fiction. The novel traces a single day in the life of the 45-year-old protagonist, Grace Adams, as she attempts to make sense of her fraught relationships with her estranged 16-year-old daughter, Lotte Kerr, and her husband, Ben Kerr. Over the course of Grace’s narrative, Littlewood reveals the traumatic details of Grace’s past, which include getting pregnant unexpectedly, losing her second child, and attempting to salvage her marriage amidst her grief. Littlewood uses her protagonist’s everyday activities to explore the experience of middle-aged women and mothers, alternating between the narrative past and present to consider Motherhood as an Identity, the Interconnection Between the Past and Present, and Aging as a Form of Loss.

This guide refers to the 2023 Henry Holt and Company hardback edition of the novel.

Content Warning: The source text depicts the death of a child and references sexual assault, drug use, and mental health conditions.

Plot Summary

One hot afternoon in 21st-century London, England, 45-year-old Grace Adams gets stuck in gridlock traffic. She is on her way to her daughter’s 16th birthday party at the home of her estranged husband, Ben Kerr. Although Grace and her daughter, Lotte, are also estranged, Grace is determined to pick up the cake she ordered and deliver it to Lotte. She is convinced that the cake will make Lotte forgive her and lead to their reconciliation. Therefore, the longer she sits in her car, the more upset Grace becomes. Grace, who has begun menopause, grows so hot and irritated that she abandons her vehicle in the middle of the busy street. She decides to walk to the bakery and to Ben’s house.

Throughout Grace’s wanderings through North London, her mind wanders into the past, which interspersed flashback chapters depict in greater detail. When she was 28, Grace participated in a polyglot competition. Ben also competed, and Grace was taken by him. She felt even more energized when she was named polyglot of the year. Her prize was a night in a fancy hotel, and on impulse, she invited Ben to join her. Grace and Ben spent the night together, but although Grace liked Ben, she didn’t pursue a relationship with him. She wanted to focus on her vocational aspirations instead. Shortly after the competition, she became the host of a niche linguistics show called Countdown. Then Grace discovered she was pregnant. She called Ben to tell him he was the father, and the two agreed to start a family together.

Grace hadn’t planned on being a mother, but she fell in love with Lotte. When Lotte was six, she and Ben had a second daughter, Bea. Two years later, Bea died in an accident while playing on her scooter in the street. Grace watched in horror as a bus raced into the street and killed her child. Since Bea’s death, Grace has tried to put the tragedy behind her. She got jobs as a translator and an assistant teacher.

Grace also tried focusing on Lotte, but her relationship with her teenage daughter has recently deteriorated dramatically. When Lotte began missing classes, withdrawing from her parents, and obsessing over social media, Grace began to worry but hesitated to act; she feared confronting Lotte and inadvertently driving her away. However, Grace was horrified to discover Lotte kissing her teacher, Nate Karlsson, in an alleyway one night. Lotte begged Grace to keep the incident a secret. In exchange, she would stop seeing Nate. Grace agreed but then reported Nate to the school. Furious with Grace, Lotte moved in with Ben, who had recently left Grace and filed for divorce. Lotte has been with Ben ever since.

As Grace traverses London, her frustrations mount, and she becomes involved in various altercations—e.g., ruining a display at a pharmacy. When Grace finally arrives at the bakery, she is disappointed to discover that the cake is small and expensive, but she takes the cake down the street with her. When she sees a little boy on a scooter, she remembers Bea’s death. She gives in to her feelings and opens old photos of Bea on her phone, but the iCloud footage worsens her pain. Grace tells herself to focus on the present, eventually finding her way onto a train. When a fellow passenger gropes her, she headbutts him. She disembarks near Ben’s house and in her distraction is nearly hit by a car. The driver yells at her, and she smashes his headlight with a golf club she stole earlier in the day.

When Grace arrives at Ben’s house, Grace confronts Lotte about everything that has happened between them. She begs Lotte for forgiveness. She apologizes for hurting and failing Lotte. Through tears, Lotte tells Grace she wants to come home. Grace is then arrested for the misdeeds she committed throughout the day. She is sentenced to 100 hours of community service. In the six months that follow, Grace pursues healing and renewal. She and Lotte repair their relationship, and she and Ben finally talk about Bea. Grace realizes that she and her family will be okay.