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Ordinary Grace    by William Kent Krueger order for
Ordinary Grace
by William Kent Krueger
Order:  USA  Can
Atria, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I've long enjoyed William Kent Krueger's mystical mystery series starring ex-cop Corcoran 'Cork' O'Connor, Irish and part Anishinaabe Indian. Ordinary Grace is something rather different, though similar themes run through it and mystery is at its heart.

The novel tells of the coming of age and into faith, early wisdom, and compassion of a teenage boy, Frank Drum, as tragedy overwhelms his family and community. It happens in 1961 New Bremen, Minnesota. In the Prologue Frank remembers 'It was a summer in which death, in visitation, assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder ... 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.'

The story opens in 1961 New Bremen, Minnesota where Frank's father Nathan is a Methodist minister. When Frank's parents married, his dad was about to embark on a career as a lawyer. But then came World War II. Now it's summer and Frank mostly hangs out with his younger brother Jake, who 'almost always stuttered in public'. Their eighteen-year-old sister Ariel is a talented musician, heading for Juilliard in the fall - she's their 'parents' golden child'. She studies with their mother's good friend, the prodigiously talented but very damaged Emil Brandt.

After a young boy is killed on the train tracks, Frank heads out there to see what he can find, and meets an old Indian, who turns out to be the great-uncle of his friend Danny, and who collects odds and ends that he finds. They encounter each other from time to time. Then tragedy strikes and some evidence points to the old Indian. But when Frank has the chance to turn him in, he chooses not to, and then feels guilty about his decision.

The mystery at the heart of this novel will keep you guessing and its resolution will surprise you. But what shines through the story is compassion for others, even in the midst of profound personal grief. And then there is the small miracle in the midst of everyday life that changes everything. Ordinary Grace is truly extraordinary. Don't miss reading this one; its messages will stay with you.

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