Last night, I led a book discussion of William Kent Krueger's Ordinary Grace. So, I wasn't home to read a book. But, I did have the chance to reread this wonderful book over the weekend in preparation for the book discussion. It's moving, powerful, tragic, beautifully written. Ordinary Grace deserves every award it received. Saying that, today I'm rerunning my review of the novel. If you haven't read it, maybe you'll be enticed to pick it up.
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. It's about God, and whether God fails us in time of crisis. It's a coming-of-age story.
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.
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