Book Review: GRACE

Jennifer M Koskinen
2 min readApr 4

The minute I started reading I saw it coming, and indeed, GRACE has officially jumped to become one of my *all-time* favorite books. The kind of book I hugged, often, between laughter and tears.

Written by Obama’s chief speechwriter, GRACE is an intimate glimpse into the process of creative collaboration — between Obama and Keenan, yes, but also it’s about the collaboration of words and ideas, policy and a vision for a more perfect union… an alchemy of time, stress, creative thinking and caffeine.

The narrative of ten particularly iconic days in the Obama administration unfolds at high speed, fueled by mess-hall meals, black coffee, Miles Davis, artificial light, smoke-breaks, bourbon, sleepless nights, friendship, more coffee and above all — a team of singularly driven good people working to make life better for, well, everyone.

Cody Keenan mentioned at a book signing that he “didn’t want to write a typical memoir.” But from what I’ve learned of memoir writing, he’s written the perfect one: a larger story with a clear and propulsive narrative arc, into which he’s artfully threaded details of his own story.

The result is exquisite: a gripping story of the grueling evolution of a eulogy no one initially wanted Obama to deliver. The story itself is at once universally relatable (the kind of raging self-doubt that pushes us to do our best work) and deeply personal (we don’t all get to work with Obama, nor are we lucky enough to fall in love with someone paid to correct our work).

GRACE is hopeful and humble, nuanced and laugh-out-loud funny, engaging and alive (every shrug, f-bomb and hand-gesture leaps from the page). It’s vulnerable, deep, agonizing, meaningful and just so damn well written.

As I read, I kept thinking how grateful I was to Keenan for sharing this glimpse of high integrity public service, every page so beautifully infused with love, humor and grace.

All the stars — and throw in some fireworks — for this one!

If you love books, come say hi on my all-book instagram account @openbookwithlight where I’ve been sharing reviews and pretty photos of literary fiction, memoir, cli-fi books and more.

Jennifer M Koskinen

photographer | writer | tree-hugger