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by William Kent Krueger
Atria, March 2013
307 pages
ISBN: 1451645821

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It's the summer of 1961, and 13-year-old Frank Drum is just an average boy in a small town in Minnesota. His father, who originally trained as a lawyer, became a Methodist minister after the horrific experiences he faced in World War II. His mother is a fine musician who chafes under the strictures of the religious life—she didn't sign on to spend her life with a man of God. Frank has a wonderfully understanding older sister who is also musically talented, Ariel, who is bound for Julliard. His constant sidekick is his younger brother who stutters terribly, Jake.

What should have been a normal summer soon becomes a season of death in New Bremen. One of the boys Frank knows is hit by a train; after that, there are several other deaths, some natural, some not, that rip apart the fabric of lives in the community where they live. There are many secrets revealed. One of the saddest has to do with a young man whose homosexuality is revealed by an insensitive cop. Even Frank's family is not immune to disaster; when one of them goes missing, it is a severe test of faith for all involved. It's hard to believe in a God who lets bad things happen to good people—Krueger expertly captures how the different characters in the book wrestle with the issue.

Frank struggles to make sense of it all. He is aided by his surprisingly intuitive brother and his father's alcoholic friend from the military. He punishes himself terribly for not revealing information about a man who he feels has caused some of the destruction of life. It's a heavy load for a young boy to bear.

The story is narrated by Frank forty years after the fateful summer, and Krueger does a great job of expressing Frank's point of view. Overall, the writing is excellent. Frank and Jake made an indelible impression on me; these are characters who live and breathe and get into your heart. The book is emotionally compelling and deals with maintaining faith and moving on from terrible losses. I'm not a fan of Krueger's Cork O'Connor series, so I wasn't expecting to like this book. As it turned out, I loved it; and ORDINARY GRACE is my best read so far this year.

§ Formerly a training development manager for a large company, Maddy is now retired and continues to enable the addiction of crime fiction fans as owner of the online discussion group, 4 Mystery Addicts(4MA), while avidly reading in every possible free moment herself.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, April 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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