Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger is a near-perfect read that fails to get 5 stars due to a couple jarring anachronisms in this early 60’s setting–one character’s name is Ariel, which wasn’t used in the early 60’s, not really. Then, at a crisis point, one character is thinking, “God, just kill me now.” Again, that phrase didn’t come into use until decades later. Other than that, this was an enjoyable trip down memory lane for me.
The story follows events in the summer of 1961 when the main character, Frank Drum, and his younger brother, Jake, are just beginning to figure things out. Their father is a Methodist minister with three churches to care for, their mother a gifted musician who works very hard to bring wonderful music to the churches and community. As someone who has been a minister’s wife with children, I can affirm that those aspects of the book ring true. Five deaths take place, and we spend a great deal of the book anticipating them and wondering who was involved in each.
Do not read this if you want a “typical” mystery or suspense—because it is so much more. People talk about predictability—that shows up only about 2/3 of the way through. The suspense and dread build and build in the early parts. And certain things I was sure were going to happen never did, so it isn’t completely predictable.
People have commented that the boys were taken places they would not have been in reality. I beg to differ. That was a different age, and preteen and teenaged boys were expected and invited (sometimes forced) to be in on many things that parents would protect them from now. And as an adult who has a horrid memory of the awkward results of eavesdropping, may I defend that trope? Yes, they did it a lot, but kids do, don’t they, when calamitous events are happening around them? Or even just when Christmas is coming. The real story nestled in this gem is that of the Drum family and the terrible effects of the events on them. I loved it very much, in spite of blasphemy and bad language issues which seem to go with that age group. Highly recommended if you want an intense, lovely book about family vulnerability, loyalty, and, yes, absolutely, grace. ~ Tessa 4.5 out of 5 stars