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November 2015 > Ordinary Grace discussion

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message 1: by Kath (new)

Kath | 200 comments Mod
Good morning, All --
Hope everyone enjoyed their holiday and also found a little time for reading before the rest of the holiday craziness begins!

A couple of questions to get this discussion rolling:
1) This book had a number of mysteries and secrets attached to each character; did you suspect the truth behind Ariel's secrets and her death? How about Karl and his secret? Do you think his death was intentional or accidental?

2) What did you think of Jake's grace and how it affected him and his family members?

3) Did you agree with Frank or Jake regarding how to deal with their realization about Lise?


message 2: by Ellen (new)

Ellen | 223 comments I have to preface this by saying I finished this a couple weeks ago, when it was originally scheduled. And as soon as I start another book, my memory gets pretty fuzzy :-)

I figured out the secrets of Ariel, Karl and Lise, but not too early on. I liked this book and the author's style a lot, although I had never heard of him before. If you chose this title, Kathy, how did you hear about him? Just curious ...


message 3: by Kath (new)

Kath | 200 comments Mod
Ellen, I chose this title because my former book club in Portland read it earlier this year and really liked it. I also have not read anything else by him but may now check out his mystery series.

I really liked his writing style; he just seemed to treat every character with compassion (except Doyle who seemed casually cruel throughout). There were two descriptions in particular that really grabbed me: how he described Ruth grieving and compared her to a hollow egg and how he described Nathan as an old man walking "like a man built of toothpicks, afraid that the connections will not hold". So visual.


message 4: by Rena (new)

Rena | 50 comments The good thing about a book club is that it has you read books you haven't heard of. I very much liked this book. Unlike Ellen, I finished it last night but I had to somewhat skim the last few chapters. I may have to go back and re-read them sometime. I was also surprised that the author has a whole series of mystery books, some of which have won awards. I will definitely be trying them out.

I was surprised by all the secrets revealed in this book but looking back, I see where there were hints about most of them. I think that Karl's auto accident was subconscious suicide - understandably, he was having trouble facing the small-town gossip and couldn't see where his life would go from there.

I thought that Jake was the most interesting character in this book. He had empathy for the other people and often saw things in them that most did not. He understood that putting bad things behind him was the only way that he could survive. He didn't ignore the bad things or people - he just let them go. His continuing friendship with Lise was a good example of this, although I'm not sure that a real person could have done this. It certainly makes one think about it though.

Frank thought that Lise should be punished by the law and Jake thought that her life was prison enough. Like Frank, I would have been concerned that she might do the same thing to someone else who came between her and her brother. And I must have skimmed over the part where she was committed to a hospital as we find her many years later at the end of the book.

I agree with Kath about the author's writing style and I also really liked his "man built of toothpicks" analogy. Even though it seemed like there was an awful lot of stuff going on that summer, I think this was an excellent book. Thanks for suggesting it Kath.


message 5: by Ellen (new)

Ellen | 223 comments One thing that sort of nagged at me a bit throughout was that the boys seemed incredibly smart and wise, compared to your average boys of that age. Is it because it was told through Frank's eyes as an adult looking back? Or because they learned so much from their father, a minister? I really liked their father as a character. He was kind, but not in a cloying kind of way.


message 6: by Kath (new)

Kath | 200 comments Mod
I agree, Ellen, that the boys seemed very wise; I do think some of that came from Frank's hindsight as an adult (maybe especially in Frank's views of Jake). Like Rena said, Jake often saw things others didn't see; maybe some of that came from him being such a listener and not a talker? His compassion and understanding went way beyond his years. I also loved their father, Ellen; he was so kind and seemed to have the termperment you'd want in a minister (or neighbor for that matter).

I would have done what Frank did regarding Lise; she was too unpredictable.


message 7: by Becky (new)

Becky | 140 comments I actually got to read the book this month. Yay! It has been crazy. The holiday time off helped. It was a quick read for me. I believe because he was a very good author. He drew you in and kept you in suspense. Even when you knew or suspected what was going to happen, as in the line about there going to be 2 more deaths that summer but one almost too hard to bear. You were waiting to see how it played out or what the consequence would be. The characters were very specific. I found I either liked them or very much didn't. I didn't find a lot of middle ground.
I suspected early on what was going on but wasn't absolutely sure of the killer til near the end.
I agree, as an adult, I would have recommended Lise being interned. I also think the wisdom of the boys is due to the narrative being a look back at his childhood and the happenings.
All in all I liked the book. I hadn't read anything by this author either. I agree the book club is a wonderful catalyst for this sort of thing.


message 8: by Marlies (new)

Marlies Borzynski | 61 comments I'm with all of you, I too liked the book. My natural curiosity wanted to know more of what happened during the war to the father, one of my favorite characters. I would have also liked to know more about the bond between the father and Gus.

I don't know who I am more like regarding Lise. As the parent of a disabled child I can see both sides. I realize that this takes place in 1961 but the family should have know that Lise was unpredictable and taken steps to prevent anything like this from happening. It's just sad.


message 9: by Kath (new)

Kath | 200 comments Mod
Marlies, I also wanted to know more about what happened to Gus and Nathan during the war but was also a little glad it was left as a secret between the two of them.

I did think Ariel's death a tragedy for all involved and found much of the book had a melancholy feel to it (maybe from Frank looking back at a difficult time in his life?).

Anyone feel they would have reacted differently or the same to how the family treated Emil after the revelation that he had impregnated Ariel? I know all the characters felt pity for Emil on some level but I think they showed extraordinary grace in their dealing with him. Or maybe after their grief of losing Ariel that betrayal no longer felt important?


message 10: by Ellen (new)

Ellen | 223 comments The relationship between Emil and Ariel really creeped me out, especially in light of the fact that Emil had also been in a relationship with her mother. As you say, Kathy, I think there may have been sort of a tipping point in what the family could endure that summer and that anything after that was bad, but they couldn't muster up any more outrage, hurt, etc. than they had already reached.

I found the parts about the native Americans in the story interesting also.


message 11: by Rena (new)

Rena | 50 comments I had forgotten that he had been with Ariel's mother - so creepy indeed! I agree that the kids seemed wise for their age, but I also think that we don't give kids credit for thinking deep thoughts, especially when they have been badly hurt. It was almost better that we didn't find out what happened to Gus and the father in the war - if they had told us at the end of the book, I would have felt like it was all wrapped up too neatly.


message 12: by Kath (new)

Kath | 200 comments Mod
Thanks everyone for participating in this discussion!

Next up, Amy will lead January's discussion of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley.

Enjoy your holiday season!


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