Ordinary Grace is a touching coming-of-age novel set in the fictional town of New Bremen, “somewhere in the broad valley of the Minnesota River.” It is the Summer of 1961, a time of innocence and hope for the country with a new, young president. It’s the first year the Twins played in Minnesota and ice-cold root beers were enjoyed at Halderson’s Drug Store soda fountain. For 13-year-old Frank Drum, it is a summer that becomes much more than a winning baseball season, as his innocence is shattered due to a series of tragic events and deaths, including accidents, suicide, and murder.
The story is told from Frank’s perspective 40 years later. He says, “I still spend a lot of time thinking about the events of that summer. About the terrible price of wisdom. The awful grace of God.” As we are caught up in his journey from innocence to awareness, we also are swept up in the amazing power of grace in the lives of the Drum family.
Frank’s father Nathan Drum is a Methodist minister with not one, but three small congregations in the surrounding area, so Frank has many opportunities to witness faith, yet that summer causes him and each character, from the wealthy to the ordinary, to come to terms with who they are and how they will respond to the tragedies that befell their community.
Like the characters in the book, the author gives us much to think about. How would we face the loss of a loved one at the hands of another? Could we exercise forgiveness? The writing is neither preachy nor moralistic, but simplistic and poignant. We are simply swept up in great storytelling with a multi-layered plot and well-defined characters.
Author Krueger is no stranger to good storytelling. He is best known for his New York Times best-selling Cork O’Connor mystery series which also take place in Minnesota, but he considers Ordinary Grace his finest writing. The story is told in two parts. First, we are introduced to the Drum family in a way that we come to care about them. Then tragedy strikes, and the remainder of the story is how this family and those closely involved respond to their horrible wounds.
The story made me think of To Kill a Mockingbird, as Frank’s father has the profound and gentle wisdom of Atticus Finch, while Frank and his little brother Jake are voices reminiscent of Scout and Jem. Initially, I thought it was perhaps presumptuous to compare it to this stellar piece of literature, but by the time I finished it, I had no doubt it will rank among the classics. Evidently, others feel the same way.
From The Bookreporter review, “One cannot read Ordinary Grace without feeling as if it is destined to be hailed as a classic work of literature… one of those rare books in which one regrets reaching its end.”
And speaking of end, what better way to pass the time than with a good book until our seclusion comes to an end.
Chandler and Phoenix libraries and on Amazon. She also reviews books on her blog at serendipity-reflections.blogspot.com. @