78 of 80 people found the following review helpful
This is a story to which everyone of a "certain age" can easily relate. The story has a beautiful simplicity that reflects the earlier time it so accurately depicts. It is filled with the genuine, often flawed, characters that inhabit most small towns and whisks the reader back to a time when a real treat was attending a 10 cent movie or enjoying a cold drink or a chocolate sundae at the corner drug store.
It is now 40 years after the fateful summer of 1961 and Frank Drum, son of a Methodist minister, is taking a retrospective look at that time in the small Minnesota town where he and his brother Jake experienced the events that have defined the men they have become.
Ordinary Grace, is an extraordinary coming-of-age novel that is at times reminiscent of Stephen King's THE BODY (or if you are a movie buff rather than a reader, the movie STAND BY ME) and Harper Lee's TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD as it documents the strength of a father, the depth of friendship and the horrors of misfortune while capturing small town life and the profound and enduring bonds of sibling love.
Krueger has a talent for drawing the reader in with the beautiful word pictures he paints and captures the deeply layered aspects of every situation without making them convoluted. His writing is simple without being simplistic, poignant and expressive without being maudlin, and manages to be touching and inspiring without resorting to lecturing and moralizing. Beautifully imagined, William Kent Krueger has infused his narrative with an aura that, while not overtly religious, does serve to remind us that we are never alone and that time will indeed serve to heal those devastating events that may alter the course of our lives and ultimately help us grow in wisdom and shape lives that are filled with ORDINARY GRACE.
While this story is straightforward and uncomplicated it carries a message and an energy that rings true presenting the reader with things to ponder while providing moments of introspection that remain long after closing the cover on the final chapter. This is one of those books to savor again and again.
165 of 179 people found the following review helpful
"Ordinary Grace" is a standalone novel, a project the author has long desired to write. The book is significantly different from his multiple-award-winning Cork O'Connor series. Yet there are links to the thoughtful, carefully structured, series of crime novels. In one sense, for those so inclined, a case can be made that here, Krueger addresses the ultimate mystery. "Ordinary Grace" benefits from everything the author has learned over the years writing the O'Connor novels. It is directly and powerfully written, wasting no words, yet always moving the story ahead at an appropriate pace, depending on the actions of the characters and the plot. "Ordinary Grace" is a novel that will affect readers in unusual, interesting and, quite possibly, surprising ways.
Set in a small community in southern Minnesota in 1961, this is how the story begins: "All the dying that summer began with the death of a child, a boy with golden hair and thick glasses, killed on the railroad tracks outside New Bremen, Minnesota." The narrator is an adult white male, son of the Methodist minister in town. Frank is recalling the momentous events of that bygone summer when he was but thirteen years old, a teen-ager on the cusp of young maturity. The death of that child sets in motion events and revelations of suppressed attitudes that alter the lives and futures of many people in the town. Some of the people affected are important and wealthy, others, as plain and ordinary as one could imagine. Yet everyone in the novel is required to come to terms to greater or lesser degree, with who they are and how they must relate to family, friends, members of their faith, and how they function in the wider yet limited community. What Frank learns that summer, and equally importantly, how he sees and interprets the evil and the grace of that time, will affect him for his entire life. It's an important lesson.
Krueger's writing, as always, is smooth and strong and the logic of the plot is easy to follow. While the story has many layers, there are no convoluted or tricky passages readers will have to struggle to interpret. That's part of the book's charm and its strength.
The novel explores faith, mysticism, and rationality in thoughtful, even-handed and open ways that lend itself to recollection and continuing reflection, regardless of readers' experiences in those areas of life. The characters, and there are many, are carefully and consistently well-drawn. This is a novel of discovery and exploration, for the author and for readers. A well-done reading experience for anyone.
To achieve complete transparency, readers should know that Mr. Krueger and I are long-time friends and often travel together with author Ellen Hart as the Minnesota Crime Wave. A copy of the novel was presented to me.
161 of 177 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 2013
This novel is so well written and the story is so touching, I did not want it to end.
The year is 1961 and Frank Drum is a thirteen year old son of a Methodist minister in New Bremen, Minnesota. It should have been a summer of innocence, like the era. But there were four deaths in the small town that summer. And that changed everything for Frank.
The story is narrated by Frank now forty years older. He looks back and remembers the fateful summer that was full of lies and secrets. Frank's father has a secret - something that happened in the war that made him responsible for the deaths of many. Frank's artistic mother didn't marry to be a pastor's wife and has difficulty living the role. Frank's little brother, though wise beyond his years, stutters. And Frank's older sister is an accomplished pianist, organist, and composer.
Frank tries to make sense of the events as they happen over the summer. There is the death of a young boy on the railroad tracks. Later Frank and his brother stumble upon a homeless man, dead under the train trestle.
And then his sister is missing. Frank knows she had been sneaking out at night but never told their dad. As the days go by, secrets come to the light and Frank has much to think about and understand.
This is much more than just a coming of age story. It is a look into the lives of those struggling to understand what is happening to them. It is a story about the awful grace of God and the ordinary grace of God.(Spoiler) When his sister's body is found, the story becomes a mystery as Frank tries to unravel the relationships that would cause one to take the life of another.
The author has given readers much to think about in this novel. How would we face the tragic loss of a loved one at the hands of another? Could we exercise forgiveness? Would we seek revenge?
Experiencing the events of the summer through the eyes of Frank is amazing. I felt his innocence, puzzlement, anger, regret and a host of other emotions. Kruger has done such a good job of creating the scenes through the eyes of Frank I felt like I was right there. And the other characters are well developed too. I love Frank's little brother - so wise, so loving, so thought provoking.
This is a well written novel I'll be thinking about for some time.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
52 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2013
I was captivated by this story for the first one-third of the book. Both the writing and the disclosures of family life were insightful and interesting--especially the material involving the relationship among the three siblings. Once the murder mystery enters the story, however, the story seemed to lose, rather than gain, momentum. Not only was it easy to figure out who the murderer was, but the story just seemed to drag rather than escalate in intensity while the murderer remained at large. And while I enjoyed the sermonettes that were sprinkled throughout the book, I am not sure that every reader would feel the same way.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2013
I have read William Kent Krueger before and this one touched my heart. Ordinary Grace was a bit of a nostalgia trip as that is an area of the country I have lived in during the 60's. The characters were endearing and vulnerable. The story is told from the viewpoint of the thirteen year old son of a minister in southwestern Minnesota. The whole book takes place in one unforgettable summer with a shadow of World War II hanging over three of the characters. Beautifully written with descriptive phrases that create a vivid picture. He made me care very deeply about the characters and their struggles in making decisions that would have unknown ramifications for those they love and a town where everybody knows who you are. I would highly recommend this book.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on April 15, 2013
"Ordinary Grace" by William Kent Krueger is an exceptionally well-written novel of coming-of-age in a small town in Minnesota during the summer of 1961. The narrator is Frank Drum, son of a Methodist minister, who tells the story forty years later about the summer that was filled with death when he was thirteen and his brother, Jake, was eleven. Five deaths stun the Drum family and the town of New Bremen, MN. Forty years later, Frank still isn't sure that he understands that time in his life and says, "I still spend a lot of time thinking about the events of that summer. About the terrible price of wisdom. The awful grace of God."
Frank is outgoing and not afraid to speak his mind or to constantly ask to go along with his father to certain places even when the Rev. Drum is hesitant but says he can tag along. After that battle is won, Jake hardly ever fails to go with them, too. This was the only thing that consistently bothered me about the book, that each time the father had an important visit that included adult conversations, Frank always asked to go along and the father almost always allowed one or both boys to go. The two boys learn more than they should over the course of the summer, and each will carry his own guilt and sadness until they find the wisdom and forgiveness they need.
The mother of the boys, Ruth, is a smoker, which her husband's parishioners aren't fond of, and Ruth isn't the typical Methodist minister's wife. When Ruth married Nathan Drum she thought she was marrying a lawyer. Nathan changed his mind about law school and went to seminary instead. Ruth was never totally happy about that change, but she could sing and managed the music for the three small churches that her husband held services for each Sunday. Ruth turned the choirs into something that people looked forward to hearing. The Drum's daughter, Ariel, had the same talent for music and composing and had plans to attend Juilliard in the fall.
This book holds a mystery when one of the five deaths is a murder, but it also speaks of wisdom, secrets, forgiveness, the love of family, faith and miracles. There are some very beautiful passages that I felt the author poured himself into, allowing the reader to perhaps see a bit into the author's heart. There are a few mystical events, but they fit into the story so well that they are almost expected, and I love how the author created the title of "Ordinary Grace."
This is the first of William Kent Krueger's books that I have read, but I look forward to reading many more.
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2013
I finished Wm. Kent Krueger's "Ordinary Grace" last night. He said last year that it is his best work. I think it is the book that likely most reflects his heart. It is not my favorite of the books he's written, however, it is well-written and well-researched. I consider it a pleasant, quiet mystery about ordinary people. It was definitely not a page-turner. At the same time I cannot say anything negative about it. I think it is good for Krueger fans to see another side of this nice man and talented, hard-working writer. A new Cork O'Connor mystery will be available soon for all of us.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2013
I've long been a fan of Mr. Krueger's Cork O'Connor mysteries and I suspect that one of the greatest problems any author with a long string of successful novels built around one character faces is resistance from fans if you try something new--it must be tremendously risky--especially for a best-selling author.
For me, what has distinguished the Cork O'Connor series from those of other successful mystery writers is that Mr. Krueger does not just write mysteries, although many readers will take his series as such. What distinguishes his series from those of others is that the series story line is accompanied by the personal development of several of the main characters,especially Cork. These books are not just mystery following mystery, but about characters growing and evolving as human beings. I like the fact that Mr. Krueger has always displayed respect and sensitivity to the Native American people and their culture in his books and his character Cork has embraced much of his Native heritage. Cork O'Connor is a man who is continually evolving as a human being as the series has progressed--the stories are about his personal journey as much as they are mystery stories. While Cork lives a life built around violence, the moments of self-questioning and introspection about the "rightness" of his actions are as much a part of the story line as the solving of the current "mystery". We are seldom privileged to see such introspection in a male character and it has elevated this series above many others.
We were all warned that "Ordinary Grace" would be different--I was actually a bit hesitant to read it. But this book will stay with me long after the mystery plot-lines have disappeared from recollection. This is a beautiful story about ordinary people--I can not say any better what others have already stated. It takes the type of personal character development seen in the Cork O Connor Series and elevates it to a whole new level. This new novel will not be for everyone, but it may gain him new fans from those looking for "literature" as opposed to just a good tale. It is a worthy first effort in a new direction and I will be looking for more. Bravo!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2013
This book was great on so may levels. The mystery keeps you guessing and wanting to find out. The relationships are real. The spirituality is inspiring. The first book I could not put down in a long time.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2014
Our book club read this as our January book and we were all very impressed with content and writing style.
Many of us are in our 60;s and remember that quieter time in small towns when folks ate dinner together
and attended Sunday services at the local Church. This is a book about grace, about families, has a tragic
murder. Very few of us figured out who the killer was, so this was a very well crafted story, and for most of
us with a little surprise ending. A really good read, and great book for book clubs.