A Book Review:

Full of Grace

(One of the perks of being an author is getting encouraging book reviews. Here’s one— published in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine—that put sunshine in my steps that day.)

"They’re probably the best antidote to the creeping dread one feels when reminded, once again, that 2009 is bound to be a difficult, crisis-logged year.

"The three slim volumes of Gifts of Grace promise just that—with their collection of heartening encounters between the author, former advertising whiz, Grace Chong, and the assorted folk who define her circle: her mother, cousin, neighbor, mentor, boss, sister, aunt, client, brother, teacher, pastor, and so on.

"Reading the short conversational vignettes, one is struck by how Chong’s circle of family and friends seem to be extraordinarily kind and generous with their time and resources, how uniformly inspiring each fellow is and how each encounter bequeaths a blessing. Now why can’t we have a neighbor like that? How come Chong gets all the good ones, while we’re stuck with cranky acquaintances and ornery relatives? Are these people even real?

"But they are, and one soon discovers why the author seems to have cornered a major chunk of these made-for-TV commercial personalities. The answer, quite literally, lies in the eye of the beholder. It’s Chong’s guileless perspective and open-hearted acceptance of people—their flaws, merits and circumstances—that have made the difference. Yup, the usual half-empty or half-full glass point of view.

"Chong’s attitude towards life’s sudden changes illustrates this.

"The former EVP of a multinational ad agency recalled how she balked at the offer of early retirement when their company merged with another biggie. It took a major win at the Palanca Short Story for Children category for her to turn the corner.

"'There is life after advertising,' Chong discovered. At the same time, she shrugs, there was no life after advertising: no rush, no deadlines. 'So I kept busy by writing and rewriting the manuscripts I had written as a closet writer for years.'

"It was at an International Book Fair where she found a brochure of OMF Literature and read about its need for fresh and young writers. 'I am not young but I am definitely fresh,' she chuckled, and forthwith sent the Christian publishing company some manuscripts. 'From that day forward, I have been writing—no longer about shampoos, toothpastes, refrigerators, or other consumer goods—but about God’s grace,' she declared.

"In her three-volume collection, Chong introduces us to people who, in their unique way, have touched her life. Out of everyday encounters with people from all walks of life, she has crafted inspiring stories—at times funny, sharp and witty, often heartwarming and honest.

"'I hope that the people I have written about will make you remember a gift of grace you have likewise received but may have failed to celebrate,' says this author of over 20 children’s books.

"The three volumes, according to their publisher, 'should help you recognize your part in the circle of grace—receiving extraordinary everyday blessings and passing them on to others.

"'Whether you know it or not, you are likewise a channel of grace—healing, inspiring, teaching, pushing, empowering, and disciplining others.'"

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