Friday, February 14, 2014

Ordinary Grace; William Kent Krueger

Ordinary Grace; William Kent Krueger
2013 - Atria and Recorded Books

Ordinary Grace is a novel that has been getting a lot of buzz, and since I tend to enjoy coming of age stories, I decided to give this one a try.  The story is narrated by Frank Drum, looking back at his youth in Bremen, Minnesota, in particular the summer of 1961 when Frank was just thirteen years old son.

Frank is the middle child, his older sister Ariel is eighteen and a talented pianist. She has a promising future in store, having been accepted at Julliard School of Music. Younger brother Jake, is eleven and suffers bullying and humiliation for his stuttering, an affliction which only seems to surface when he is outside of his home. Their father is a Methodist minister in town and their mother Ruth is unhappy in her role as the wife of a minister. Ruth is a woman who was a talented musician and thought she would be marrying a lawyer, but war changes people, and after Nathan returned from the war, he felt a calling toward religious life instead. His wife doesn't share a strong faith in God to do the right thing, especially when time and again bad things happen in life.

In this normally quiet town four deaths occur in that summer of 1961, the first one involving a developmentally disabled young boy along the train tracks, and shortly after, in the same area, a homeless man is also found dead. Two more deaths/murders follow and one in particular, changes this family forever.

Part mystery, part coming of age story, this was an enjoyable story that held my interest until the very end.  The characters were compelling, and the writing good, but I had an issue with the way Frank always seemed to be in just the right place to overhear critical conversations, yet I do understand with a story like this, that device might have been needed to move the story a long.  Despite this minor issue, Ordinary Grace is a worthwhile read.  The audio book was read by,  Rich Orlow, who did a great job.

4/5 stars
(audiobook and eGalley)

13 comments:

  1. I think I liked this one even more than you did. I met Krueger while I was reading it and maybe that enhanced the story for me.

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  2. Oh Kathy, I did like it a lot, but it wasn't perfect for me:)

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  3. I liked this one so much, and I'm glad that you enjoyed it, too. Yes, you are right about authors needing to incorporate overheard conversations in order to advance the story. It's a tricky thing to keep balanced in a first-person narrative.

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  4. I read this, too. William Kent Krueger may have outdone himself with ORDINARY GRACE. I've read a few other popular novels by this author,and ORDINARY GRACE is by far the best.

    Some people may hesitate to read this, as I did, because the narrator is recalling the summer when he was 13-years-old. Coming-of-age stories bore me.But ORDINARY GRACE does not come across as a coming-of-age story. This is a story told by a 53-year-old man. He writes as an adult recalling what happened that summer to his family and others in his small community when one murder after another took place.

    But ORDINARY GRACE mainly observes the narrator's father and brother, so full of ordinary grace.

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  5. By the way, I had the same criticism as you do about the kid overhearing. Too convenient. But I put that aside because the rest of the story is so good.

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  6. Thanks for this reaction/review! I am looking for titles for a church reading group and think this just might satisfy the readers who like a good novel with 'meat' to talk over. What do you think ?

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  7. I read this last month and so far it's my #1 book of 2014. I absolutely loved it! I plan to get the audio as soon as it's available from my library so I can listen to it for a re-read. I'm currently reading Krueger's first mystery (Iron Lake) and although I'm enjoying it quite well, I have to say that Ordinary Grace is much, much better. He quite a talented writer and I look forward to reading more of his works.

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  8. I read a previous book by William Kent Krueger and it was just okay, so maybe I should try this one - it has gotten good reviews.

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  9. I'm reading Iron Lake with Les, my first book by Krueger, and find it okay. More on that later, in 100 pages or so when I finish, but I hear wonderful things about Ordinary Grace. Glad that you and Les both liked it so much.

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    1. Bellezza, FYI Iron Lake gets better! I couldn't put it down and finished late last night.

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  10. I've heard good things about this book and it has been on my TBR list for a while. Thanks for the review.

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  11. Coming of age stories can sometimes be too slow for me but this one looks like there's no shortage of drama!

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