Okay, so I’m late to the party. It happens; not often, but it happens. Ordinary Grace is anything but ordinary; in fact it would not be an exaggeration to say it is extraordinary. A New York Times bestseller, School Library Journal Best Book of 2013, and as you probably know (or should know, especially if you follow me on Twitter) winner of the “EBAM” – Edgar, Barry, Anthony & Macavity awards for best novel, plus the Dilys Award and well, you get the idea. I did a little digging and could not find another mystery that had won this many awards. Closest I could find was Val McDermid, A Place of Execution (4 awards) & Dennis Lehane, Mystic River (4 awards) according to The Mystery Bookshelf.
That said, I hadn’t read it so this book had a lot to live up to, and I’m thrilled to say it did and then some. So what’s all the fuss about?
A series of deaths in a small Minnesota town are at the center of this literary mystery, but it is the characters that are at the heart of this novel, and the setting, really another character, is just the icing on the cake.
Our protagonist is 13 year old Frank Drum, who forty years later is telling us about his last summer in 1961 New Breman, Minnesota. The book opens with a friend of Frank’s found dead, and quickly other deaths occur.
Frank’s father is a minister, attending to the flocks of three small area churches. His mother struggles with being a pastor’s wife, and finds solace in music and leading the church choir. His eldest sister Ariel is a brilliant musician with a slight deformity from a harelip surgery who is slated to go to Julliard in the fall. Jake is Frank’s younger brother who suffers from stuttering, and is often tortured as children are about his affliction.
This family deals with death, with God and faith, with community and the long term repercussions of war in this beautifully written, soul searing novel. If I had to sum it up in one word it would be – unforgettable. Don’t miss it.
12/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
ORDINARY GRACE by William Kent Kruger. Atria Books; Reprint edition (March 4, 2014). ISBN 978-1451645859. 336p.