Monday, January 12, 2015

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Sometimes, I'm just stubborn when it comes to books, and I don't read the book everyone is talking about. William Kent Krueger's Ordinary Grace won all kinds of awards. But, honestly? I haven't always been a fan of the book that won the Edgar Award. However, Beth Hoffman called it one of the best books she read in 2013. And, a reader here has been asking if I've read Krueger yet. So, I finally picked up the book. And, everyone was right. It's moving, powerful, tragic, beautifully written. Yes, William Kent Krueger's Ordinary Grace deserves every award it received.

In 1961, Frank Drum was thirteen, living in a small Minnesota town, New Bremen, with his parents, his older sister, Ariel, and his younger brother, Jake. Ariel was a music prodigy headed for Juilliard. Jake seldom said anything to anyone because of his stutter. Frank, the oldest son of a Methodist minister, was at that age when he was cocky and wanted to be an adult. Forty years later, Frank tells the story of that summer that turned him into an adult a little too soon.

It all began with the death of a boy slightly younger than Frank, a boy killed on the railroad tracks. Was it a tragic accident, or was there "something fishy" about it, as one of the policemen thought? Frank, with his brother, Jake, tagging along, is curious about the death. And, when Frank and Jake find a body near the tracks, they're soon at the heart of the events that will take place over that long, troubling summer. When tragedy strikes his own family, then, Frank finds himself more than a witness.

Krueger's novel isn't a murder mystery, despite the tragedies. It's not about murder. It is about survival, going on with life, and finding the way to do it, whether it's grace, strength, family. And, it's about how people survive, even if they use drink or turning a blind eye. Ordinary Grace is a story about a bigger picture. It's about war and survival. It's about daily life and survival. It's about those who have been knocked to their knees, or stutter, or are the wrong race. It's about how they go on with life, or shut themselves away from it.

Krueger's book came out in early 2013, and went on to win all kinds of awards. Ordinary Grace isn't an ordinary book. It's one of those special books that explains life in simple words that touch the heart. It's truly an exceptional novel.

William Kent Krueger's website is www.WilliamKentKrueger.com

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. Atria Books. 2013. ISBN 9781451645828 (hardcover), 307p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

18 comments:

Kay said...

We read this book in my mystery group and it was likely the best book we read in 2014. Not a mystery, but with certain mystery elements. For me, it was a book that I still think about. The inclusion of so many thought provoking passages and situations reminded me of Louise Penny's books. I love a book that can make me consider and ponder long after I close the cover.

holdenj said...

I've only tried Cork O'Connor, but like you, have heard so many good things about Ordinary Grace. A must for 2015, it seems!

Naomi Johnson said...

I'm about 1/3 of the way into this book. It is indeed beautifully written. This will probably end up on the shelf alongside Wiley Cash's 'A Land More Kind Than Home.'

Lesa said...

I agree, Kay. I'm proposing it for our book club for this next year. We'll see what happens. We vote on them tonight.

Lesa said...

Holdenj, I have a book club meeting tonight. It sounded like a book that would be appropriate and of interest to them, so I read it. I don't know if they'll select it, but it was wonderful. I hope you get a chance to read it this year.

Lesa said...

Interesting timing, Naomi, that you're reading it now, too. Oh, dear. Does this mean I should go back and pick up Wiley Cash's book, too? It's on your keeper shelf.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

I rarely give 5-star reviews, but Ordinary Grace received one from me.

I enjoy the Cork O'Connor books, but this went well beyond those. I saw Kent at a couple of conferences. His love of the north country of Minnesota comes through very strongly.

~ Jim

Beth Hoffman said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Lesa. Oh, how I love this book.

Lesa said...

It was an extraordinary book, Jim. You're right. It deserved 5-star reviews.

Lesa said...

I should have listened to you sooner, Beth. And, I can see why you loved this book.

Karen B said...

Finally!!!! Now you need to read his Cork O'Connor series. HUGS and Happy New Year.

Lesa said...

Eventually, Karen! I have piles of books on my floor in the spare bedroom. I thought you'd at least be happy that I read this one. (grin)

Kaye Barley said...

OH! One of the best books ever! Lesa, I agree - it is not just an ordinary book. I am a huge fan of Krueger's and resisted this because it's not a Cork O'Connor book. SO glad I gave it a try! (and I hear there's to be a sequel).

Lesa said...

See, Kaye. I definitely should have listened to both you and Beth! And, if there's a sequel, I'll definitely read it.

techeditor said...

I read this, too. Krueger may have outdone himself with ORDINARY GRACE. I've read a few other popular novels by this author,and ORDINARY GRACE is by far the best.

I hesitated to read this because the narrator is recalling the summer when he was 13-years-old, and coming-of-age stories bore me. But ORDINARY GRACE does not come across as a coming-of-age story. This is a story told by a 53-year-old man. He writes as an adult recalling what happened that summer to his family and others in his small community when one murder after another took place.

But ORDINARY GRACE mainly observes the narrator's father and brother, so full of ordinary grace.

Lesa said...

And, the reason I hesitated had nothing to do with the coming-of-age story. I actually enjoy them. You're right, though. It has a different perspective told by an adult. It was a wonderful novel.

Kim Battern said...

I just have a few pages left of Ordinary Grace. I hate to see it end. Excellent writing and story.

No one has mentioned the title - did any one else think of Frank's brother giving grace to the congregation at the end of the story? It was an "ordinary grace." I wonder if William Kent Krueger had that in mind when he found his title.

Lesa said...

You're right, Kim. It was excellent writing and story. Actually, I thought of Frank's brother, and I'm guessing as you did that that's what Krueger had in mind.