Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
“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.”
William Kent Krueger
Like a soft whisper you barely hear, Ordinary Grace brings your senses to full attention – you are on alert for what will happen next and in the end, you were not even close to the truth but wow – what a fantastic journey!
New Bremen, Minnesota 1961. The Twins were a new team, ice cold frosty mugged root beer was the coveted drink of choice, and Hot Stuff comic books were the way to spend that change that was waiting in your jeans pocket. For thirteen year old Frank it started out as a summer of possibilities, but this summer had other plans, plans no one could have foreseen. The summer of 1961 in New Bremen Minnesota turned out to be the summer of death.
Frank, now 40, looks back at this summer of 61 with a sense of peace and awe at the grace of it all. In 1961 he lived with his Methodist Minister father of several churches in the area, his mother who never planned on being a ministers wife but that is what she was and while she liked to smoke cigarettes and hold her own identity she did her best as part of the choir at the churches, an older sister with talent that had her heading right towards the awaiting gates of Julliard and a tag along always under foot younger brother who while bothersome, was wise at the most perfect times. At the brink of manhood, Franks thirteenth year was one that changed his way of thinking for life.
Death comes in many forms: Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder. Thirteen year old Frank is about to experience all of the above.
Why did I want to read this book? William Kent Krueger is a Minnesota legend. He is that author who is writing books that generate followers of his writing yet I had never read him. I have over the past several years picked up his books here and there, tales of Minnesota’s North Shore and while I planned on reading him…. I just never got to it. Thanks to Wine and Words and Kent’s generous offer to be a part of our debut year, I knew I had to (and wanted to!) read him and Ordinary Grace was told to be a different kind of tale for Krueger. With all that said – I was in.
Ordinary Grace is the kind of book you do not want to put down. It flows with a pace you would expect for 1961, a small town pace that reminds you of summer heat and the days before the media outpouring at every way you turn and the days of course where you could pick up a soda with a straw at the local drug store and make it last for hours.
As I melted into the pages of Frank’s life and his family I had no trouble at all seeing through thirteen year old Frank’s eyes. William Kent Krueger drew a perfect picture of the life and times of Frank and his family, and I fell right into Bremen as though I were a resident.
Drawn in completely Ordinary Grace has the town characters who are indeed “characters”. Gus (to name one)is the buddy each of us has in our life that likes to love life a little bit on the edge, not always a rule follower which keeps things interesting when you are with them and usually has a heart of gold and would do anything for you. And Gus is only one of the great people you will meet within the pages.
In the end, Ordinary Grace took my breath away. I cruised through the final pages as in rapid succession the missing pieces of the summer of 61 were dropped into place. I closed the final page with a sense of bewilderment in the crazy and amazing grace of a young boy who in a summers worth of days grew to know more than he had ever wanted or thought he needed, yet molded him into the man he was to become.
I can not wait to dig into William Kent Krueger’s books again. Tamarack County awaits for me.