Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
Last spring, when one of my friends clasped her hand over mine and said, in a reverent tone, “Have you read Ordinary Grace?”, I knew I had to read it and that it would be a book I would love.
I love authentic book recommendations. It’s what the 9 of us on the GreatNewBooks team want our book recommendations to be, ones which are original and true, ones not biased by receiving free books to help promote, but ones which are based on books we’ve found in other ways, books we genuinely love and want to share here. Authentic.
Ordinary Grace is set in a Midwestern small town in the 1960s, as seen through the eyes of thirteen-year-old Frank Drum. His world revolves around root beer floats at the drugstore, baseball games in the dirt lot and on the radio, and passing time down along the trestle bridge (where they aren’t supposed to be), exploring with his brother.
“Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.” The prologue begins with talk of “the dying that summer”. But Ordinary Grace isn’t about the dying, though—the book isn’t grisly or horrific in any stretch of the words—but instead is about Frank and his friends and family as he comes of age in the summer of 1961.
Ordinary Grace reminds me most of the movie Stand by Me, which when it came out, took over the world, it seemed, in 1986. Like Stand by Me, the boys in Ordinary Grace find a dead body, and in the time surrounding the discovery, grow up in many other ways as well.
Ordinary Grace won an Edgar Award in 2013, and, despite several places where the grammar was frustrating (surprisingly) and baffling, I also marked many quotes which I loved:
“There’s going to be lots in this world you’re going to feel bad about. Save your regret for the important things, okay?”
“Loss, once it’s become a certainty, is like a rock you hold in your hand. It has weight and dimension and texture. It’s solid and can be assessed and dealt with. You can use it to beat yourself or you can throw it away…”
As I read, I felt as though I stepped back to a simpler time, and learned right along with Frank the meaning of what it is to be human.
The story reads as if it is real, as if as I read, I sat alongside Frank as he tells me his story forty years later. I felt the mud along the river, the cool walls of the church basement as Frank eavesdropped on his pastor father, the springy back seats of the cars he rode in, and the rotary fan as it whirred through the stifling heat of that summer.
Ordinary Grace is one of the most authentic novels I’ve ever read. It’s a book I won’t soon forget.
Have you read ORDINARY GRACE or another of William Kent Krueger’s works? We’d love to hear what you think — please share in the comments below. Thanks!