Ordinary Grace

Ordinary Grace

by William Kent Krueger

Paperback(Canadian Export)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781476740126
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 03/26/2013
Edition description: Canadian Export
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

William Kent Krueger is the award-winning author of the New York Times bestselling Ordinary Grace, winner of the Edgar Award for best novel, as well as eighteen Cork O’Connor novels, including Desolation Mountain and Sulfur Springs. He lives in the Twin Cities with his family. Visit his website at WilliamKentKrueger.com.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Ordinary Grace includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


In 1961 New Bremen, Minnesota, all is quiet and serene. The Minnesota River flows through the countryside, the town barber knows everyone’s name, and folks dutifully attend church every Sunday. But that serenity is thrown into turmoil as a series of tragic deaths lead thirteen-year-old Frank Drum and his family on a hunt for terrible truths. But at what cost comes wisdom? In this powerful novel from the author of the Cork O’Connor mysteries, a boy must leave his childhood behind and confront the dark nature of the adult world and its myriad moral questions: What secrets will destroy us? How do we deal with grief? And what solace is there in the ordinary grace of the world?

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Discuss the final revelation of Ariel’s whereabouts. Had you guessed correctly?

2. Much of Frank and Jake’s knowledge comes from overhearing and snooping. Which instance of eavesdropping provided them with the heaviest, most important information? Is there a particular overheard conversation that led most directly to the loss of their childhood innocence?

3. Along those same lines, in what ways have the two boys been transformed by story’s end?

4. Who is ultimately responsible for the death of Karl Brandt?

5. A number of characters carry secrets that eventually come to light. Was there a certain catharsis once they were able to unload the truth? Did it do them any good? Consider especially Frank’s father, whose deeds in the war remained a mystery. Is there some merit to carrying the burden of a secret alone?

6. Though the title of the novel refers to a particular “ordinary grace,” what other small graces did you find in the book?

7. Why does Ruth leave her family? Do you think she was truly mad at Nathan? At God? Discuss the ways in which she and the other characters deal with their grief over Ariel.

8. Do you agree with Frank’s insight in the epilogue that, “there is no such thing as a true event?” What makes a story real? How do we deal with varying perspectives and reflections of history?

9. Do you think Frank had a responsibility to tell Emil about Lise? Was there merit to Jake’s argument that her fenced-in estate was prison enough?

10. Do you forgive Emil for his moment of indiscretion? Is he in some way to blame for everything that happened in New Bremen?

11. Frank and Jake often make a case to come along to the sheriff’s office, crime scenes, and pivotal confrontations during the upheaval in New Bremen. Should they have been allowed to bear witness to these things? Should children be shielded from the occasional darkness of adult life?

12. What do you make of Gus? Is he in some ways the backbone (though not a true relative) of the Drum family?

13. Do you agree with the sentiment of the older Warren Redstone? Is it true that the departed are never far from us?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Tragedy and controversy will occasionally befall a small town like New Bremen. Has something similar ever happened in your town? Discuss the details of that incident, and how/if it changed things for you.

2. Much of our perspective in Ordinary Grace comes through Frank and Jake’s by-foot travels throughout town, through the hidden passages and remote clearings. Make a similar journey through your own neighborhood. What places are ripe for a secret? Where can you go for peace and meditation?

3. List and discuss the ordinary graces and miracles you’ve experienced. How do small moments help us deal with larger-than-life trouble?

4. Read any one of the novels in William Kent Krueger’s Cork O’Connor mystery series and discuss how the suspense of the Minnesota that O’Connor inhabits compares to the more pastoral mystery of the Drum family.

Customer Reviews

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Ordinary Grace: A Novel 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 160 reviews.
Carl80 More than 1 year ago
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.
cs More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
sstrider More than 1 year ago
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.
PierresFamily More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ordinary Grace is far from ordinary...5 stars for sure.
PAMOM More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
pjg380 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
William Kent Krueger is the type of writer that keeps the reader engaged at all times in a tragic story of family, community and church relationships. His writing style keeps you on the edge of your seat, unable to put it down. I read it in two days. The characters are varied, believable and relatable. A great read that leaves one feeling satisfied, and wanting the next novel.
mustang-girl More than 1 year ago
Alfie_65 More than 1 year ago
Truly great! Real people in real circumstances with real problems I could relate to. I always keep a list of the books I read and rate them - this book got an Excellent rating. Do yourself a favor and read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent book, warm, sensitive, wonderful ending.
addictedPW More than 1 year ago
The moving story of a Minnesota family during the summer of 1961. I couldn't stop reading. Very powerful and consuming. Mr. Krueger had outdone himself with this wonderful story. I was in tears at the end. A must read.
TERMILLER More than 1 year ago
I totally enjoyed this book, it kept me intrigued and i couldn't put it down until I finished it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very good book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. Takes you back to a time where adults were respected by kids and people treated each other kindly. 
JKW24 More than 1 year ago
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.
Marley717 More than 1 year ago
Very compelling read. A page turner full of great mystery and heartbreak. Highly recommend!
Was-Red-Ed More than 1 year ago
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.
Tim_S More than 1 year ago
I am half way through this book, and I love it. Krueger demonstrates his ability to write more than excellent mysteries.
BigMastiffmama2 More than 1 year ago
I'm a great fan of William Kent Krueger, and he did not disappoint me with "Ordinary Grace".
Atthebeach More than 1 year ago
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.
EunieKS More than 1 year ago
An Excellent Story! Frank, the main character, now 40 years old, reflects back to the summer of 1961 when he was thirteen-years-old. Set in a small Minnesota town where Frank’s father is a Methodist minister, the story begins with the death of a young boy on the railroad tracks and soon after a homeless man is found dead in that same vicinity and then Frank’s sister is missing. That summer a special bond develops between Frank and his younger brother, Jake. Jake stutters and is self-conscious and yet at times, he does not stutter at all. There is something special about Jake, in my opinion, a goodness that nothing can erase. I saw in Nathan Drum ,Frank and Jake’s father, that same sort of goodness. In fact he brought to mind Atticus Finch, the father in To Kill a Mockingbird. Ruth Drum, the boy’s mother is a gifted musician, a woman who is not wholly a believer, a woman who smokes and doesn’t care who sees her, a woman unsuited it would seem for a minister’s wife. One reviewer said “The book is filled with the genuine, often flawed characters that inhabit most small towns.” I smiled at the use of “small towns” for those characters live in every town and hamlet and city in the world, endless fodder for the storyteller. And all of us, whatever our flaws, are on a journey through life, a life often rocked by events so devastating we think we can not go on and yet we do, often in those worst of times we are touched by an ordinary grace that lifts us up so we can go on and even be happy again. I loved, loved, loved this story.