“Ordinary Grace” by William Kent Krueger / Friday, April 5, 2013 / Reviewed by Clay Stafford

Today’s featured book is Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

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

Buy the book from the Killer Nashville Bookstore and help support a new generation of writers and readers.

Visit our bookstore for other similar books.

If you want to make your own comments on this selection, we would love to hear from you. Join our Facebook Killer Nashville group page or our blog and join in the discussion.

Remember that these books are listed at a discount through Amazon. You also don’t have to purchase the version that is featured here. Many of these books are available in multiple formats: e–book, hardcover, softcover, and audio. Enjoy!