|Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger|
“That was it. That was all of it. A grace so ordinary there was no reason at all to remember it. Yet I have never across the forty years since it was spoken forgotten a single word.” Ordinary Grace follows the lives of two young boys in small town Minnesota the summer of 1961. Death comes often that summer and Frank and Jake find themselves more and more thrust into a grown-up world as they navigate the dynamics of their family and their town.
My favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird. In the sense that this book also focused on the kids' perspective in a small town in a "simpler" time, Ordinary Grace reminded me of To Kill a Mockingbird. I'm sure my enjoyment of Ordinary Grace benefited from my love of the Harper Lee classic. This book was, though, at it's core, a who-dun-it - an enjoyable one at that. Some "conclusions" were pretty obvious from the start but many twists and turns took you by surprise.
The father, Nathan, was an almost unbelievably gracious and forgiving man, while the mother, Ruth, played foil with great emotional instability. Probably my favorite character was Gus, a friend of Nathan's from the war, who was constantly a rock upon which the boys could lean and a lighthouse in the dark to help Frank and Jake navigate tough issues. Yet, he was flawed in very real, authentic ways.
The one distraction for me was the layout of the town. I don't think the author used a real town or a map of his imaginary town or he was bad at describing directions of things. Many times I found myself "lost" in town (no, the trestle is the OTHER WAY!). Or a description that something was past of the edge of town, with a real sense that it was far away - tucked away on purpose - but then it was only a 5 minute car ride later on. Or a bike ride in the middle of the night from the poor part of town to WAY up in the high rent area - again, earlier depicted as far away - that takes very little time. Given how I mentally "Google map" the books I read, these discrepancies were jarringly noteworthy as I read.
All and all, an engaging read. This was a book club selection for me and not something I would have likely picked up on my own.