Summary and book reviews of Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Ordinary Grace

by William Kent Krueger

Ordinary Grace
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2013, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2014, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Book Summary

Told from Frank's perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly 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.

"That was it. That was all of it. A grace so ordinary there was no reason at all to remember it. Yet I have never across the forty years since it was spoken forgotten a single word."

New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson's Drugstore, 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 grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.

Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family - which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother - he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years.

Told from Frank's perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly 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.

Prologue

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, sliced into pieces by a thousand tons of steel speeding across the prairie toward South Dakota. His name was Bobby Cole. He was a sweet-looking kid and by that I mean he had eyes that seemed full of dreaming and he wore a half smile as if he was just about to understand something you'd spent an hour trying to explain. I should have known him better, been a better friend. He lived not far from my house and we were the same age. But he was two years behind me in school and might have been held back even more except for the kindness of certain teachers. He was a small kid, a simple child, no match at all for the diesel-fed drive of a Union Pacific locomotive.

It was a summer in which death, in visitation, assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder. You ...

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  • award image

    Edgar Awards
    2014

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Ordinary Grace is an entertaining mystery with some rather emotional content at its heart. In addition to an engaging plot, the book is thought-provoking and, at times, quite poignant. Those looking for a character-driven mystery with content that goes beyond the standard police procedural will find this one worth perusing, and book clubs in particular will find the novel provides many topics for discussion.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

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Media Reviews

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This coming-of-age story is obviously an attempt to show how grace can work through the fissures of suffering. While the setting is well rendered, the characters are too flat, and Krueger keeps striking the same monologist's meditative note throughout, while most readers will long for variety in style.

Publishers Weekly

The small-town milieu is rendered in picturesque detail, accurate down to period-appropriate TV programs, for what becomes a resonant tale of fury, guilt, and redemption.

Kirkus

Starred Review. An award-winning author for his long-running Cork O' Connor series, Krueger aims higher and hits harder with a standalone novel that shares much with his other work...A novel that transforms narrator and reader alike.

Author Blurb Dennis Lehane, New York Times bestselling author of Live by Night and The Given Day
A pitch-perfect, wonderfully evocative examination of violent loss. In Frank Drum's journey away from the shores of childhood - a journey from which he can never return - we recognize the heartbreaking price of adulthood and it's 'wisdoms.' I loved this book.

Reader Reviews

CarolK

Ordinary Faith
Can an wiser, older narrator view the past with more wisdom than he might have possessed forty years earlier in the summer he was thirteen? Ordinary Grace visits long ago events in childhood from an adult perspective. Frank, the narrator of ...   Read More

Nikki

Don't miss this one!
There was nothing ordinary about the grace with which this book was written. I would've happily continued reading as many pages as William Kent Krueger had written. It will be a while before another book measures up to this one. Don't miss it!

Becky H

ORDINARY GRACE by William Krueger
Frank, a thirteen year old on the cusp of manhood, is the main character in William K Krueger’s book “Ordinary Grace.” On its surface it is a tale of death - a murder, an accident, in war, stupidly or deliberately done, of age or illness. On a much ...   Read More

Elizabeth Goodman

The Grace of God
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The author seemed to get caught up in pointing out all the minor details and the story transitioned a little slow. However, the overall theme was consistent and the story came together nicely at the end. I would ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Year, 1961

Ordinary Grace is set in the Midwestern United States in 1961. Although it was a time of peace and prosperity for much of the country, many important events were taking place around the world that year:

  • January 20: President Kennedy 43-year-old John F. Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th President of the United States, still the youngest person ever to hold the office.
  • January 31: Ham the Astrochimp became the first primate launched into outer space. The Cameroon-born Ham (which is an acronym for the Holloman Aerospace Medical Center where Ham was prepped), was five years old at the time. He returned successfully to earth and retired to the National Zoo in Washington. He died in 1983 at the age of 26.
  • February 9: The Beatles performed for the ...

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