Ordinary Grace

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“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.”

New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson’s Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young ...

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Overview

“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.”

New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson’s Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.

Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family— which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother— he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years.

Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.

Winner of the 2014 Edgar Award for Best Novel

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Best known for the Cork O’Connor mystery series, Krueger (Trickster’s Point) has produced an elegiac, evocative, stand-alone novel. The summer of 1961 finds thirteen-year-old Frank Drum living in small-town New Bremen, Minn. He and his younger brother, Jake, idolize their older sister, Ariel, a talented church organist who’s also the “golden child” of their parents, WWII veteran and Methodist pastor Nathan and church music director Ruth. Nathan and Ruth befriend the accomplished musician Emil Brandt, a veteran left blinded by his service, who tutors Ariel in her music education. Meanwhile, Jake, who has a stutter, forms a close bond with Lise, Emil’s deaf older sister and caretaker, while Ariel dates Emil’s wealthy nephew, Karl. The Drums’ peaceful existence is shattered, however, when Ariel fails to return from a late-night party. In the aftermath of her disappearance, Karl comes under suspicion, Ruth undergoes a crisis of faith, and dark secrets about New Bremen come to light. The small-town milieu is rendered in picturesque detail, accurate down to period-appropriate TV programs, for what becomes a resonant tale of fury, guilt, and redemption. Agent: Danielle Egan-Miller, Browne & Miller Literary Associates. (Mar.)
Dennis Lehane
“A pitch-perfect, wonderfully evocative examination of violent loss. In Frank Drum's journey away from the shores of childhood—a journey from which he can never return—we recognize the heartbreaking price of adulthood and it's 'wisdoms.' I loved this book.”
Huffington Post
“Once in a blue moon a book drops down on your desk that demands to be read. You pick it up and read the first page, and then the second, and you are hooked. Such a book is Ordinary Grace…This is a book that makes the reader feel better just by having been exposed to the delights of the story. It will stay with you for quite some time and you will always remember it with a smile.”
BookReporter.com
“One cannot read Ordinary Grace without feeling as if it is destined to be hailed as a classic work of literature. Ordinary Grace is one of those very rare books in which one regrets reaching its end, knowing that the experience of having read it for the first time will never be repeated. Krueger, who is incapable of writing badly, arguably has given us his masterpiece.”
ReviewingtheEvidence.com
“My best read so far this year.”
BookPage
“A thoughtful literary mystery that is wholly compelling and will appeal to fans of Dennis Lehane and Tom Franklin. . . Don’t take the title too literally, for Krueger has produced something that is anything but ordinary.”
From the Publisher
“A pitch-perfect, wonderfully evocative examination of violent loss. In Frank Drum's journey away from the shores of childhood—a journey from which he can never return—we recognize the heartbreaking price of adulthood and it's 'wisdoms.' I loved this book.”

“A respected mystery writer turns his attention to the biggest mystery of all: God. An award-winning author for his long-running Cork O’ Connor series, Krueger aims higher and hits harder with a standalone novel that shares much with his other work.... 'the awful grace of God,' as it manifests itself within the novel, would try the faith of the most devout believer. Yet, ultimately, the world of this novel is one of redemptive grace and mercy, as well as unidentified corpses and unexplainable tragedy. A novel that transforms narrator and reader alike.”

“...elegiac, evocative.... a resonant tale of fury, guilt, and redemption.”

“Once in a blue moon a book drops down on your desk that demands to be read. You pick it up and read the first page, and then the second, and you are hooked. Such a book is Ordinary Grace…This is a book that makes the reader feel better just by having been exposed to the delights of the story. It will stay with you for quite some time and you will always remember it with a smile.”

“One cannot read Ordinary Grace without feeling as if it is destined to be hailed as a classic work of literature. Ordinary Grace is one of those very rare books in which one regrets reaching its end, knowing that the experience of having read it for the first time will never be repeated. Krueger, who is incapable of writing badly, arguably has given us his masterpiece.”

“My best read so far this year.”

“A thoughtful literary mystery that is wholly compelling and will appeal to fans of Dennis Lehane and Tom Franklin. . . Don’t take the title too literally, for Krueger has produced something that is anything but ordinary.”

Library Journal
Krueger, primarily known for his Cork O’Connor mystery series (Trickster’s Point), ventures into new territory with this coming-of-age stand-alone that has a hint of mystery. In 1961 New Bremen, MN, Frank Drum is a typical 13-year-old who likes baseball and getting into trouble. He has an 11-year-old brother, a Methodist minister father, a sister bound for Juilliard, and an artistically inclined mother. Narrating the story 40 years after the events unfold, Frank recalls the five deaths that occurred that summer that scarred many, especially his family. He and his brother grow up that summer as they see, hear, and experience tragedy and love that is part and parcel of the adult world.

Verdict For fans of Wiley Cash’s A Land More Kind Than Home or Krueger’s other works, this is a touching read, with just enough intrigue to keep the story moving along.—Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., OH

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
A respected mystery writer turns his attention to the biggest mystery of all: God. An award-winning author for his long-running Cork O' Connor series (Trickster's Point, 2012, etc.), Krueger aims higher and hits harder with a stand-alone novel that shares much with his other work. The setting is still his native Minnesota, the tension with the region's Indian population remains palpable and the novel begins with the discovery of a corpse, that of a young boy who was considered a little slow and whose body was found near the train trestle in the woods on the outskirts of town. Was it an accident or something even more sinister? Yet, that opening fatality is something of a red herring (and that initial mystery is never really resolved), as it serves as a prelude to a series of other deaths that shake the world of Frank Drum, the 13-year-old narrator (occasionally from the perspective of his memory of these events, four decades later), his stuttering younger brother and his parents, whose marriage may well not survive these tragedies. One of the novel's pivotal mysteries concerns the gaps among what Frank experiences (as a participant and an eavesdropper), what he knows and what he thinks he knows. "In a small town, nothing is private," he realizes. "Word spreads with the incomprehensibility of magic and the speed of plague." Frank's father, Nathan, is the town's pastor, an aspiring lawyer until his military experience in World War II left him shaken and led him to his vocation. His spouse chafes at the role of minister's wife and doesn't share his faith, though "the awful grace of God," as it manifests itself within the novel, would try the faith of the most devout believer. Yet, ultimately, the world of this novel is one of redemptive grace and mercy, as well as unidentified corpses and unexplainable tragedy. A novel that transforms narrator and reader alike.
Washington Post
“Krueger’s elegy for innocence is a deeply memorable tale.”
Dennis Lehane
“A pitch-perfect, wonderfully evocative examination of violent loss. In Frank Drum's journey away from the shores of childhood—a journey from which he can never return—we recognize the heartbreaking price of adulthood and its 'wisdoms.' I loved this book.”
Huffington Post
“Once in a blue moon a book drops down on your desk that demands to be read. You pick it up and read the first page, and then the second, and you are hooked. Such a book is Ordinary Grace…This is a book that makes the reader feel better just by having been exposed to the delights of the story. It will stay with you for quite some time and you will always remember it with a smile.”
BookReporter.com
“One cannot read Ordinary Grace without feeling as if it is destined to be hailed as a classic work of literature. Ordinary Grace is one of those very rare books in which one regrets reaching its end, knowing that the experience of having read it for the first time will never be repeated. Krueger, who is incapable of writing badly, arguably has given us his masterpiece.”
ReviewingtheEvidence.com
“My best read so far this year.”
BookPage
“A thoughtful literary mystery that is wholly compelling and will appeal to fans of Dennis Lehane and Tom Franklin. . . Don’t take the title too literally, for Krueger has produced something that is anything but ordinary.”
Denver Post
“Not often does a story feel at once fresh and familiar. But Ordinary Grace, a new novel from William Kent Krueger, is both, and it is affecting.”
The Missourian
Ordinary Grace is engaging from the first page, a quiet novel that unfurls its sad story slowly, but eloquently, leaving its mark on your heart.”
Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“There’s such a quiet beauty in his prose and such depth to his characters that I was completely captivated by this book’s ordinary grace.”
New York Journal of Books
“A superb literary novel.”
Detroit News
“...the tone is much like To Kill a Mockingbird, with its combination of dread and nostalgia.”
The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
“Everything about this book, from language to ideas to Aeschylus’s epigram is beautiful and you’ll think about it long after you’re finished reading.”
Historical Novel Society
“I realized within pages this would be one of the best books I’ve read in recent years. The gathering threat and its consummation are satisfying and meaningful. This is an intelligent and compelling story told with great heart.... A perfect book club read, truly a book to love and read more than once. Absolutely recommended.”
Beth Hoffman
“Besides being a terrific story that examines a powerful range of human experiences and emotions, it was the authentic voice of the teenage narrator, Frank Drum, that kept me reading late into the night. Though the tone is quiet, Krueger artfully layered the story with suspenseful examinations of family life, death, fury, spiritual fiber and redemption.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451645828
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 3/26/2013
  • Pages: 307
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.12 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

William Kent Krueger

William Kent Krueger is the award-winning author of thirteen novels in the Cork O’Connor mystery series, including Trickster’s Point and Tamarack County. He lives in the Twin Cities with his family. Visit his website at WilliamKentKrueger.com.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 97 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(69)

4 Star

(19)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(4)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 97 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 25, 2013

    To maintain complete transparency, Mr. Krueger and I are long-ti

    To maintain complete transparency, Mr. Krueger and I are long-time friends, we frequently travel together as the Minnesota Crime Wave, and I received a pre-release copy of this book at no cost to me.

    “Ordinary Grace” is a standalone novel, a project the author has long desired to write. The book is significantly different from his multiple-award-winning Cork O’Connor series. Yet there are links to the thoughtful, carefully structured, series of crime novels. In one sense, for those so inclined, a case can be made that here, Krueger addresses the ultimate mystery. “Ordinary Grace” benefits from everything the author has learned over the years writing the O’Connor novels. It is directly and powerfully written, wasting no words, yet always moving the story ahead at appropriate pace, depending on the actions of the characters and the plot. “Ordinary Grace” is a novel that will affect readers in unusual, interesting and, quite possibly, surprising ways.

    Set in a small community in southern Minnesota in 1961, this is how the story begins: “All the dying that summer began with the death of a child, a boy with golden hair and thick glasses, killed on the railroad tracks outside New Bremen, Minnesota.” The narrator is an adult white male, son of the Methodist minister in town. Frank is recalling the momentous events of that bygone summer when he was but thirteen years old, a teen-ager on the cusp of young maturity. The death of that child sets in motion events and revelations of suppressed attitudes that alter the lives and futures of many people in the town. Some of the people affected are important and wealthy, others, as plain and ordinary as one could imagine. Yet everyone in the novel is required to come to terms to greater or lesser degree, with who they are and how they must relate to family, friends, members of their faith, and how they function in the wider yet limited community. What Frank learns that summer, and equally importantly, how he sees and interprets the evil and the grace of that time, will affect him for his entire life. It’s an important lesson.

    Krueger’s writing, as always, is smooth and strong and the logic of the plot is easy to follow. While the story has many layers, there are no convoluted or tricky passages readers will have to struggle to interpret. That’s part of the book’s charm and its strength.

    The novel explores faith, mysticism, and rationality in thoughtful, even-handed and open ways that lend itself to recollection and continuing reflection, regardless of readers’ experiences in those areas of life. The characters, and there are many, are carefully and consistently well-drawn. This is a novel of discovery and exploration, for the author and for readers. A well-done reading experience for anyone.

    11 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    As much a literary novel as it is a mystery... William Ken Krue

    As much a literary novel as it is a mystery...

    William Ken Krueger’s new deeply human grief-ridden novel “Ordinary Grace” is as much a literary novel as it is a mystery.

    Told from the point-of-view of a 13-year-old boy, Frank, an about-to-be juvenile delinquent preacher’s son (according to the town), and featuring a brother who stutters, a sister with a harelip who sneaks out at night, a preacher father, a mother who hates his father’s calling as a minister, a drunk friend, less-than-stellar police, a renegade Indian, a town full of characters that would make any Southern writer happy (though this takes place in New Bremen, Minnesota), and numerous dead bodies.  The mystery, delightfully, is solved by Frank, the 13-year-old boy.

    With his father being a preacher and his father’s friend being an undertaker, death is an occupational natural to Frank’s household, though in this story one unnatural death seems to follow another.

    This is a coming of age story primarily with the backdrop of murders, which become increasingly more personal as the story progresses.  Nothing makes one grow up more than death.  

    “There’s something, it seems to me, that depends more on God and circumstances than our own efforts.”

    Krueger does an enviable and plausible job of letting Frank be the one who solves the crimes without making law enforcement in the story appear incompetent.  Kids love to spy and they can fit into small places.  Krueger plays it well.

    The novel reads like an autobiography, not a novel, which is a compliment to Krueger.  The voice is pure; the characters are real.

    Thematically, it is a story of weakness, timidity, and how not taking a stand not only destroys sunny afternoons and Sunday mornings, but also – and eventually – lives.  It is about prejudice, judgment, dark secrets, and how history leaves us, not with facts, but with the biased interpretations and sneers of survivors.  History, like faith, both in time, become personal and jaded.  It is a sad lesson for children: The dead are only one breath away from us.  Though the children make a vow with each other that they will never die, as Frank realizes, when we breathe that last breath, we cross the near veil, which was always closer than we thought.

    This is not a formulaic police procedural.  This is a story to remind us that we are human and that the important thing is not the big stuff.  The story will stick with you long after you put it down.
    - Clay Stafford, author, filmmaker, and founder of Killer Nashville

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2013

    If you only read one book this year....let this be the one!

    In a departure from his Cork O'Connor series, Krueger gives the reader so much to think about. The characters are complex and fascinating and the plot will keep you guessing until the end. But this novel has a message that will stay with you long after you finish it. The best book I have read in a very long time

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2014

    Memorable More than memorable

    Ordinary Grace is far from ordinary...5 stars for sure.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 12, 2014

    Moving Story

    In his novel Ordinary Grace, William Krueger has crafted the moving story of the tumultuous summer, in which a small town seems to experience more than its share of deaths. In a way, it’s a coming-of-age story, but it’s not just about young Frank. Krueger does a beautiful job of character development; I felt like I knew the residents of this town. I found myself feeling for them - sharing in their joy, sorrow and anger. I also appreciated that it was not nearly as predictable as some other books that I have recently read. My only quibble with the book would be the overly simplistic way it deals with war. I think anyone would agree that war is a terrible thing, should be a last resort - and that it’s always sad when someone has to kill another human being. However, I think Krueger should have acknowledged that sometimes, it IS necessary, when there just isn’t any way to bring justice. An obvious example would be related to the very war whose effect he describes - World War II. Adolph Hitler couldn’t be reasoned with; the only way to stop him was militarily. If you don’t believe that war is sometimes necessary, talk to the children or grandchildren of the Jewish victims of the holocaust, who were enslaved and then often burned alive, with even their remains treated as simply material for lamps etc. With that disclaimer, I would recommend this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 11, 2014

    I totally enjoyed this book, it kept me intrigued and i couldn't

    I totally enjoyed this book, it kept me intrigued and i couldn't put it down until I finished it

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2014

    Lorrie

    A very good book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2014

    I loved this book. Takes you back to a time where adults were re

    I loved this book. Takes you back to a time where adults were respected by kids and people treated each other kindly. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 13, 2014

    The book hooked me in from the beginning and I could not stop re

    The book hooked me in from the beginning and I could not stop reading. Something about the tone of the story reminded me of To Kill a Mockingbird . Both are stories of youngsters facing real life adult situations. I definitely plan to recommend this to my book club.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2014

    One of the best books I have ever read. Check out the editorial

    One of the best books I have ever read. Check out the editorial reviews--they say it so much more eloquently than I can. I can only say I'm crying as I write this, and even though I know it is only fiction, I feel as if those characters and their lives are very real. The fact that a writer can do that is amazing to me. This book deserves to be read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 6, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I'm in two book club, one for over fifteen years. We have read

    I'm in two book club, one for over fifteen years. We have read a multitude of books, but this is my all-time favorite. My husband reads the author's Cork O'Conner books and loves them. I also enjoy them, so when I saw this stand-alone title, I was intrigued. I am on my second reading and am enjoying it as much as I did the first time. For me, this is a must read for all my friends. It is a book about a time long since gone, but familiar to all of us in our senior years. The characters are real, and I cared about each and every one of them. And then there is the story. I love a good story and this was one of the best I have read in a long time. I think this is a book I may read over and over. I don't have many like that. I truly loved this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 1, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Told from a young boy¿s perspective while growing up in a small

    Told from a young boy’s perspective while growing up in a small town, this is a remarkable insight into families, death, and adult relationships. The different and unique ways that this boy finds out about happenings and his concept of these revelations show an ability to understand the psyche of a child. The child’s relationship with his younger brother starts out ordinary, but because of the extraordinary circumstances they come to be involved with, that relationship also takes on a new meaning. The family is riddled with birth defects with adds issues in over coming them which also adds issues to the story. While reading this book, I could pull some of these characters out of my past. There is a lesson to be learned as we walk or stride through life and in the end ordinary grace saves the day.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2014

    Great book

    Beautiful story told by an older man about his youth. Heart warming, emotional and intriguing. Murder, love, pain, all are there. Would like to read more of his books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 2, 2014

    LOVED THIS BOOK! DIDN'T WANT IT TO END!

    LOVED THIS BOOK! DIDN'T WANT IT TO END!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 28, 2014

    Very compelling read. A page turner full of great mystery and he

    Very compelling read. A page turner full of great mystery and heartbreak. Highly recommend!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2014

    Top of your list!

    I've read all of Kent's books and totally enjoyed them. He has a knack for making you feel you are part of "the family." Ordinary Grace does that. It is an intimate family story/mystery and you are somehow a part of it, feeling the love, the pain and the loss.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 17, 2014

    An excellent author

    I am half way through this book, and I love it. Krueger demonstrates his ability to write more than excellent mysteries.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 5, 2014

    Loved this book...

    I'm a great fan of William Kent Krueger, and he did not disappoint me with "Ordinary Grace".

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2013

    This is a wonderful book. It's moving and thoughtful and deep. I

    This is a wonderful book. It's moving and thoughtful and deep. It has sadness and love and humanity and wonder. The characters are beautifully developed. There are great moments of faith and great questions about faith. There is mystery and intrigue. There is truth about life. This is really a wonderful book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2013

    Once again a real page turner

    I have read all of WKK's books and love them . The characters are people u can identify with. They are everyday people in extrodinary situations. Theyhave flaws and they have integrity like eachof us. So as u read a WWK book u can look at your life and see u aren't without adventure and excitement. Because if WWK wrote about your life I am sure it would be a great read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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