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  • Writer's pictureTerrie

Part mystery, part coming-of-age, lots of heart in Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger book cover over photo by Terrie Purkey

Ordinary Grace, William Kent Krueger

Genre: Mystery

Awards: Edgar Award, Barry Award, Anthony Award

Published 2013, 307 pages

"And what is happiness? In my experience, it's only a moment's pause here and there on what is otherwise a long and difficult road. No one can be happy all the time. Better, I think, to wish for her wisdom, a virtue not so fickle."

I expected a mystery. There is a mystery, but not in a traditional police-procedure type of way. More in a quiet, thoughtful, slow-developing way. It's actually more a coming-of-age story about loss and how it affects a young teen and his family as well as the community, of growing up in a simpler age but still with big feelings and thoughts to figure out.


The Drum family consists of a minister father, a creative spirit of a mother, a talented musician teenage daughter, Ariel, a 13 year old boy, Frank (the protagonist), and younger brother who stutters constantly, Jake. Narrated by 40 year old Frank as he looks back on this summer, he's able to see the bigger picture and occasionally inserts his insights into the narrative. Over the course of a summer, the community deals with five deaths, some accidental, some not.

"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. "


This book is beautifully written and has excellent, fully developed characters that I care about. All of the Drum family (main characters) are so clear in my mind. I can feel Frank's uncertainty and inquisitiveness, Jake's quietness, mom's pain and dad's faith. Also clear is the setting - a small town in 1961, in the summer, playing outside all day, roaming the town with no fear of being abducted, swimming in the river, hot afternoons with a popsicle on the front porch - so evocative of a time that doesn't exist anymore.

While sort of slowly paced, it doesn't drag; events keep rolling along - just quietly. It also talks a fair amount about religion and faith and losing faith after loss. And, of course, grace. I have only a vague notion of grace so looked it up - it's the divine influence that exists in people to "inspire virtuous impulses and impart strength to endure trial and resist temptation". This book addresses all those things.

This is my first book by this author, but it won't be my last - now I'll have to explore his detective series. Definitely recommended.

Satisfies the reading challenge for #BooklistQueen20 #14: famous author I've never read.

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