Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

In Ordinary Grace, Frank Drum's world is rocked when tragedy descends upon small town New Bremen, Minnesota, in 1961. His teenaged worries seem small compared to the bigger issues he now faces. The secrets, lies and betrayal that are uncovered force him to grow up and face decisions that will test his nerve.

I love this book! The whole mood and setting of the book was terrific. It sort of reminded me of the TV show The Waltons with the character and his casual narration looking back on his teenage years in simpler times. There are many tragedies that descend upon this family and small town, but the action isn't graphic or gratuitous. The unrest that is normally associated with that 1960s decade either hasn't started yet or hasn't made it yet to this small town.

Frank Drum is a wonderful narrator. I loved that the story was told from his point of with him looking back on his life when he was a teenager. It really felt like he was sitting in front of me relating the story. He wasn't filled with angst and didn't make rash decisions that I often associate with teenagers. He was mild-mannered...more like Jim-Bob Walton and less like Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye. I think some of the wisest statements I've heard came from the youngest Jake, near the end of the book. He really got to me in the end. Who would have thought someone so young and quiet would turn out to be filled with wisdom?

The other main characters in the book were varied and a little eccentric. I loved that they weren't stereotypical or syrupy. They were: Frank's Methodist minister father, who's haunted by the war; Frank's artistic mother, who doesn't exactly act like a minister's wife; his older sister Ariel, who's off to Julliard; and his younger brother Jake, who seems to grow up before our eyes. There were also some peripheral characters who stood out for me: Lise and Emil Brandt as well as Karl.

I often wonder how an author picks which character is going to tell the story, especially when the protagonist or narrator is a child or in this case a teenager. It definitely would have been a whole different story had it been told from another character.

I also liked that the story took place not too far from here, Minnesota. It's not quite my backyard, but at least it's a state that I've been to that isn't too different from where I live.

New word: surcease (page 71): cessation or stoppage

I adore the following quotes. They made me love the book more and will definitely be added to my list of all-time favourites. I'm amazed that I found three I love from just one book.
Loss, once it's become a certainty, is like a rock you hold in your hand. It has weight and dimension and texture. It's solid and can be assessed and dealt with. You can use it to beat yourself or you can throw it away. (page 175)
...there is no such thing as a true event. We know dates and times and locations and participants but accounts of what happened depend upon the perspective from which the event is viewed. (page 306)
The dead are never far from us. They're in our hearts and on our minds and in the end all that separates us from them is a single breath, one final puff of air. (page 307)
This is the first book I've read by this author. He also writes a mystery series featuring Cork O'Connor, but haven't read any of them. This book is a standalone and is not part of that series. There's a mystery element to the story, but it's not strictly a mystery.

Highly recommended. I hope he writes another standalone book like this one.

For more information about this book, please visit Simon & Schuster's website.

For information about the author and his other books, please visit William Kent Krueger's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Simon & Schuster for this review copy.

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger, Atria Paperback (Simon & Schuster) ©2013. ISBN 9781476740126(Trade paperback), 307p.


  1. i haven't read anything by this author yet, though I do have one on my 'soon to be read' shelf. I have heard that this one is different from his earlier works.

  2. This book sounds wonderful. I'm a huge Waltons fan, so that appeals to me. Also like the way you describe his narration. I'm adding this to my TBR. Thanks!


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