The epigraph of the novel is taken from II Corinthians 5:17: "The old things have passed away; behold new things have come." Fall From Grace is an attempt to deal boldly with the new and often frightening order of things in contemporary society. The novel deals frankly with the changing character of marriage and its lost expectations and ideals. In a parallel plot, it deals with the apparent loss of ideals and expectations in the Catholic Church and the hypocrisy of some of its priests. However, the novel is also an affirmation that the real ideals in society's institutions will endure despite the "new things which have come."
The quest motif is the spine of this Greeley novel. Kieran O'Kerrigan searches for the answer to why his childhood love might be asking him to perform an AIDS test on her and her three children and why she has bruises on her body. The search for answers leads him to discover the nightmare marriage in which Kathleen is trapped and for which her brother James insists that she is to blame.
Brendan McNulty's quest is to make Bishop James Leary aware of the Church's unchristian attempts to buy off the families of the victims of priestly child abuse and to illuminate for him the true nature of the affliction — that a pedophile hurts an average of 300 victims in a lifetime and that unlike an alcoholic, a pedophile does not respond to treatment.
The hope in the book lies in its themes of forgiveness and redemption. As in many of Greeley's other novels, Fall From Grace emphasizes that it is neither the ideal nor the quest for it which is at fault. Faults and flaws lie within individual human natures and are deserving of forgiveness.
Redemption and absolution are major themes of the novel. Kathleen realizes after Brien's death that he had demons to conquer and not enough time to conquer them. The most poignant forgiveness comes, however, from the parents of a boy sexually abused by a priest. "They told us we should never judge the church by what its leaders do," says the father. Adds the boy's mother: "What good does it do to be angry at them? They're not the church. We're the church."