Tompkins County Public Library

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book Review -- Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (2013)

This book hooked me at the start by this sentence:

He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain, which cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.

This work of fiction relates the experiences of one family and particularly those of Frank Drum, a pre-teen boy, during a summer in the 1960s in a small town in Minnesota. Mysterious deaths are taking place and Frank Drum, the narrator, meets them head-on. He suffers loss, grief and growth as his family reels from their personal impact.

Frank's father is a minister and his mother, a frustrated musical artist, is the choir director who does not share her husband's faith in God.  Frank's gentle, younger brother, Jake, is wise beyond his years, but communication is difficult for him due to a stutter.  Their sister, Ariel, a beautiful, a musically-gifted young woman is preparing to leave home to study music at Julliard. Then deaths start occurring and everything changes for them. Life is different.

I was prepared for a powerful experience and was not disappointed. The voice of Frank and the humanity of the main characters in this book carries the tale along as I tried to unravel who the killer or killers might be. I felt almost transported to New Bremen, Minnesota and my own experiences of growing up in the 1960s in the Midwest.

I first became interested in Krueger's mystery when I learned that it had been nominated for the 2014 Edgar Award for best mystery. It won!

-- Joyce Wheatley

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