Book review: ‘In the Company of Grace’

'In the Company of Grace' book cover
Having survived an abusive childhood, a veterinarian finds fulfillment in his work and discovers his place in the world.
By Sally Rosenthal

In the Company of Grace: A Veterinarian’s Memoir of Trauma and Healing by Jody Lulich. University of Minnesota Press, 2023. Softcover, 232 pages, $19.95.

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As a book reviewer, I try to stay away from buzz words like “compelling” and “luminous.” But in the case of veterinarian Jody Lulich’s memoir In the Company of Grace, I have to use those terms. Jody’s story of surviving an abusive childhood on Chicago’s south side and his journey through veterinary school at Tuskegee University had me turning the pages more quickly than any mystery novel. More than that, his personal and professional achievements despite systemic racism — plus the self-acceptance and love he found by the memoir’s last page — made it difficult to remember when I had last been so moved by an author’s life story.

The son of an African American mother and a White father who met at a civil rights rally, Jody did not have an easy childhood by any standards. His parents’ explosive relationship, fueled by anger and alcohol, made him old before his time.

His mother’s death led to an even more chaotic life until he moved to Tuskegee University to study veterinary medicine. There, following his academic dream and befriending his 75-year-old landlady Grace, Jody began to find his place in a more ordered world. His love of animals and of needing to right a wrong performed by his father against a particular dog saw Jody through years of study and eventually to excellence in his field.

These professional successes, however, did not fill the hollow spaces and assuage the guilt Jody carried as a trauma survivor and hid from his peers. The adage “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” might have a ring of truth to it, but wounds can also fester for years and greatly impact a survivor’s life. How Jody found the courage to bear witness to his scars and emerge as a proud gay man of mixed-race heritage makes for — dare I say — compelling reading.

Smiling person hugging a large white dog outside in a fenced area
Photo by Sarah Ause Kichas

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