Saturday, January 24, 2015

Review: Ordinary Grace

Ordinary Grace
by William Kent Krueger

Why did you choose this book? a book club selection; I won a copy from ReadingGroups
When did you read this book? January 2015
Who should read this book? readers who enjoy a book of faith with a bit of mystery
Source: Reading Groups
Here is a synopsis of Ordinary Grace from Goodreads
New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were at the ready at Halderson’s Drug Store soda counter, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a summer in which death assumed many forms.
When tragedy unexpectedly comes to call on his family, which includes his Methodist minister father, his passionate, artistic mother, Juilliard-bound older sister, and wise-beyond-his years kid brother, Frank finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal.
On the surface, Ordinary Grace is the story of the murder of a beautiful young woman, a beloved daughter and sister. At heart, it’s the story of what that tragedy does to a boy, his family, and ultimately the fabric of the small town in which he lives. Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, it is a moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.
My Review

This was an interesting book club selection. We may well have chosen to read it anyway, but that fact that several of us, independently, won copies from various sources made it an easy choice.

Let me start by saying that this book is not what I thought it was when I read the synopsis. When you start a synopsis with “New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season,” …. well, I will just say this is NOT a baseball story!!!

As I started reading this book it reminded me very much of Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns. Though the stories are set fifty years apart, both have the same small-town feel with a boy coming of age, and both have a nice relaxed pace of reading. I wasn’t expecting much more than an average book, but it didn’t take too long for this book to become something completely different! While it retained the small-town, gossipy feel, the story evolved into a mystery.

We learn at the beginning that there are a series of deaths in small-town New Bremen, Minnesota that summer of 1961, but we don’t know who dies, or who, or what killed them. At least one death appears to be a murder, with multiple people suspected throughout the story. There is plenty of gossip, plenty of suspicion, and a good story! In many ways, the events in the story are predictable to a reader who is paying attention. I guessed many of the events that took place relatively early in the book.

But the deaths and mystery in this story are really just background information. The book itself is not about death, or murder, or catching a killer. The book is about people and the events that shape them, and our capacity for empathy and forgiveness. There is a discussion guide in the back of the book and available from Reading Group Guides. Our book club had a great discussion with this one, with most giving the book 4-½ stars. I didn’t rate it quite so highly, but came close.

My Rating:  ★★★★  4 Stars

I won my copy of this book from Reading Group Guides.

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