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Ordinary Grace
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Archived VBC Selections > Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger - VBC Nov 2014

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Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Out selection this month is this year's Edgar award winner for best novel. Here's a little synopsis blurb:

On the surface, Ordinary Grace is the story of the murder of a beautiful young woman, a beloved daughter and sister. At heart, it’s the story of what that tragedy does to a boy, his family, and ultimately the fabric of the small town in which he lives.



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Robin | 16 comments Krueger will be thrilled this was our choice. Met him at Murder and Mayhem in Muskego last year. Nicest guy!


message 3: by Margaret (new)

Margaret | 128 comments Is the story as sad and dismal as the outline sounds?


message 4: by Dina (new)

Dina | 81 comments I didn't find it sad or dismal - at least not more so than other mysteries. It is a coming of age story wrapped around a murder.

I also think it was one of the best books I have ever read, particularly as I am not a fan of coming of age stories.


Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Yeah, its striking me as much more of a coming of age story. I'm about a quarter of the way through and we've been given two deaths, one of which is suspicious, but not so much a murder mystery yet.

I wouldn't say it's sad, exactly. Contemplating death a bit; kind of philosophical. That point that everyone comes to when they're young, when the whole concept of mortality pushes you back a step and you realize that no one has any answers about it.


message 6: by Margaret (new)

Margaret | 128 comments Thank you, friends, for your clarifications. I've asked for a hold on the audio version from our wonderful library.


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Meredith Taylor | 37 comments Hi! Actually got here, for a change.I am heading off to Bouchercon soon, so I have read this and the next book. A big relief, as I have sort of been reading just as the month for that book ended.!I had some reactions which I felt were odd.

My first responsewas that it was a lot like To Kill a Mockingbird, perhaps my favorite book. My next reaction was. . .no. Though sort of.

I also had reactions to "whodunnit." Will have wait till everyone is caught up. There is no question that it's a high quality book.


message 8: by Meredith (new)

Meredith Taylor | 37 comments Bit of a Spoiler?... Regarding next month, several of the books nominated for Bouchercon were really good, but Rage Against the Dying was my favorite


Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
I really loved Rage Against the Dying too, Meredith! Really close vote between that one and Reconstructing Amelia.

Hmm....I hadn't thought about parallels between Ordinary Grace and To Kill a Mockingbird, but I'll be looking closely now! Maybe TKaM deserves a reread. I haven't read that since high school.


message 10: by Lenore (new)

Lenore | 1081 comments Erin wrote: "... Maybe TKaM deserves a reread. I haven't read that since high school. ..."

That's probably true of a lot of us. I recently went to a lecture on the book, and then re-watched the movie. I've bought a copy, and I'd vote for a re-read by the VBC.

I'm only about a third of the way into Ordinary Grace, but I'm liking it a lot. Trying to decide what the theme is. At least one theme is definitely keeping secrets -- in which respect, oddly, it's like The Expats.


Laura Stratton | 240 comments I haven't been able to find a copy of Ordinary Grace for Kindle thru the library; but I would enjoy rereading To Kill a Mockingbird and discussing it with adults. Growing up in the south it was expected reading and I read it with both of my children when they were in high school. I have often felt that teens don't really understand the nuances of the story.


message 12: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Looking forward to reading this, but haven't as of yet as I too am attending Bouchercon and have either been getting ready for the trip, or traveling!


message 13: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
It sounds like there's a bit of interest in reading To Kill a Mockingbird! I've just posted a poll to see if anyone has a problem with postponing our read of Rage Against the Dying in favor of TKaM, since there's some possible discussion overlap with our book this month. Please go vote!


message 14: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
I've found some great discussion questions for our read. To get us started, here's one I think is pretty good for start of the month (limited spoilers):

Though the title of the novel refers to a particular “ordinary grace,” what other small graces did you find in the book?


message 15: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Oh and here's another good one we can talk about without spoilers:

What do you think of Emil Brandt and his sister?


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Kate | 16 comments "Elegiac" was the adjective which came to mind, because the entire book is memories of a sad summer. As other commenters have mentioned, I don't normally read coming-of-age stories, but found this to be a beautifully written story that carried me along. I've been recommending it to people since I read it.

(And I've voted in favor of reading TKAM next!)


message 17: by Lenore (new)

Lenore | 1081 comments An interview (which I found interesting) with Krueger about the book is available on his website: http://www.williamkentkrueger.com/rea...


Antoinette | 186 comments I've made a start on Ordinary Grace. Doesn't fit well into the murder mystery category. I agree that it's more of a coming of age novel, not my favorite, but it's an easy read. Well written with a good sense of place. I'm enjoying the Emil Brandt character.


Laura Stratton | 240 comments I have it on hold at the library. I shoud have it soon.


message 20: by Lenore (new)

Lenore | 1081 comments I've just finished this, and think it is a masterful novel. "Elegaic" (Thanks, Kate!) describes it well. In reading it, I found helpful to keep in mind how "grace" is defined in Christian terms. Wikipedia says this about grace:
In Western Christian theology, grace has been defined, not as a created substance of any kind, but as "the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it", "the condescension or benevolence shown by God toward the human race". It is understood by Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to man - "generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved" - that takes the form of divine favor, love, clemency, and a share in the divine life of God. (Footnotes omitted.)

Because it seems a lot of people have not yet read far into the book, I don't want to discuss how the notion affects my view of the plot, but I thought I would toss it out there.



message 21: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Lenore wrote: "I've just finished this, and think it is a masterful novel. "Elegaic" (Thanks, Kate!) describes it well. In reading it, I found helpful to keep in mind how "grace" is defined in Christian terms. ..."

Lenore, hence "Amazing Grace," and the reason that "Grace" is one of my favorite names for a girl. Regardless of one's religious beliefs, I always thought the concept and the words beautiful:

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.


message 22: by Lenore (new)

Lenore | 1081 comments Going radically off-topic here, the hymn was somewhat ruined for me by what I know of its author. He was a slave trader who "found God" after being rescued from near death, and after he became too ill to sail, became a curate. But, as least as far as I can determine from what I've read -- admittedly, not much -- he never repented for the incalculable misery he imposed on his "merchandise," nor took a stand against this immoral trade. The author may say that he "sees," but in fact he did not. He's singing of the grace he received, but others through his hand died in intolerable misery.


message 23: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Lenore wrote: "Going radically off-topic here, the hymn was somewhat ruined for me by what I know of its author. He was a slave trader who "found God" after being rescued from near death, and after he became too..."

Lenore, interesting, it was always my understanding that the "wretch like me" referred to his time as a slave trader and that he DID repent, in part by going into the church. Whether he actively campaigned against the slave trade I don't know, but at least he never participated in it again, himself.


message 24: by Debbie (new)

Debbie (dmess) | 8 comments Later in his life, Newton spoke out against slavery and became an ally of William Wilberforce in fighting the slave trade. As a Christian myself, I believe that giving my life to Christ is not a one-time conversion, but rather a lifelong journey.


message 25: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Debbie wrote: "Later in his life, Newton spoke out against slavery and became an ally of William Wilberforce in fighting the slave trade. As a Christian myself, I believe that giving my life to Christ is not a o..."

Debbie, I'm glad to hear that. I had seen that version of his life in the film "Amazing Grace," but hesitated to cite that as an authority. I haven't read much about Newton other than the bare outlines of the story.


message 26: by Lenore (new)

Lenore | 1081 comments Further reading has shown me that Debbie is right, Newton did actively work to end the slave trade (albeit belatedly, but better late than never).


message 27: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Lenore wrote: "Further reading has shown me that Debbie is right, Newton did actively work to end the slave trade (albeit belatedly, but better late than never)."

Lenore, and a lot more than many of his contemporaries did!


Antoinette | 186 comments Last night I got to chapter 26, figured out who killed Ariel. and it finally became a mystery novel IMHO. Had to stay up half the night to finish it. The characters and the setting all rang true. I grew up in Michigan and would have been starting the ninth grade in the autumn of 1961. I don't know that I would recommend the book as a mystery- too much a coming of age cross-over, but it's a good novel.


SoulSurvivor (kimosabi2018) Antoinette wrote: "Last night I got to chapter 26, figured out who killed Ariel. and it finally became a mystery novel IMHO. Had to stay up half the night to finish it. The characters and the setting all rang true. I..."

I like your review , and might recommend 'Peace Like a
River' by Leif Engler if you haven't already enjoyed it !


SoulSurvivor (kimosabi2018) Merrily wrote: "Lenore wrote: "I've just finished this, and think it is a masterful novel. "Elegaic" (Thanks, Kate!) describes it well. In reading it, I found helpful to keep in mind how "grace" is defined in Ch..."
Amen !


message 31: by Lenore (new)

Lenore | 1081 comments Hoping that it is not too early to get to plot details: Frank's little brother says that he was able to say grace without stuttering at the funeral meal because he was no longer afraid. What was he afraid of, and why was he no longer afraid?


Antoinette | 186 comments Ed wrote: "Antoinette wrote: "Last night I got to chapter 26, figured out who killed Ariel. and it finally became a mystery novel IMHO. Had to stay up half the night to finish it. The characters and the setti..."

Thanks for the recommendation.


message 33: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
So one scene that's really bugging me is the bit with the fireworks and the frog. And the fact that Gus tries to excuse Doyle by saying he's "not a bad man," just an unthinking man.

Except I can't think that a man who blows up frogs for a laugh is in any way a good man. I get that he's a war veteran, but why is that an excuse for doing inhumane things for the fun of it? Just because he fought in a war doesn't mean he's any less psycho or malicious. Maybe moreso!

Similarly, the guy who beats up his wife and son. While Frank's mom is appalled by the man's behavior, his dad excuses his actions as the man having "had a bad war." And the only thing he tries to do about it is get the man to pray with him. Perhaps it's just the timing of the story; that we didn't have domestic abuse laws in the 60s so he really -couldn't- do very much legally. His approach just struck me as whole ineffectual and token.

These everyday violences really bothered me. Maybe -because- they're so everyday. I really felt for Frank, feeling ashamed that he didn't say or do something about them.


message 34: by Lenore (new)

Lenore | 1081 comments Erin wrote: "So one scene that's really bugging me is the bit with the fireworks and the frog. And the fact that Gus tries to excuse Doyle by saying he's "not a bad man," just an unthinking man.

Except I can'..."


I'm with you on the subject of Doyle, but I think you're wrong about the wife-beater. Frank's father takes Gus and goes in search of the guy, and says something to him that makes a difference, because the wife isn't beaten again and the guy starts teaching his son about the machines (instead of keeping him out of the shop) and starts attending church and participating in the life of the community.

Frank's father and brother both seem to have the gift of intuiting how to reach others. The interaction with the wifebeater shows it for the father, and the brother's relationship with Lisa shows it for him.


message 35: by Dina (new)

Dina | 81 comments I thought you all might be interested to know that Ordinary Grace won the Anthony at Bouchercon!


Lesley | 57 comments I really enjoyed this book and I admit that this was not on my radar until it became the pick of the month.
This is definitely more of a coming of age novel than a murder mystery. TKAM and Robert Goolrick's HEADING OUT TO WONDERFUL both came to mind while reading ORDINARY GRACE. All of these books dealing with heavy topics and the idea of belonging and not belonging and what constitutes a community. Also they deal with ethical principles without being preachy. Especially in OG, I did not feel like Minister Drum's convictions and faith were being forced upon me. The characters were well-formed and we're human in that their faith faltered and they struggled with comprehending what was going on in their little community. Grace in itself whether "awful" from the standpoint of being beyond the scope of normal understanding or "ordinary" in its simplicity and commonplace-ness abounds with Gus and Jake's ability to read people and situations even better than Nathan and to get to and express the essence of an idea that others are struggling to comprehend or express. Or Frank and his astute-ness to gather the facts and impressions and follow their convoluted path to the end.
I had figured out who killed Ariel quite easily. Doyle and his questionable methods had me boiling mad as my husband is law enforcement and is the extreme polar opposite of Doyle. I felt sorry for Emil and Lise and abhorred their actions all at the same time.
All in all I thoroughly enjoyed this book.


Laura Stratton | 240 comments I know I am late to this discussion but I just got the e-book from my library. I can't believe how much I liked this story and how well it grabbed me and pulled me into the story. I was concerned that it would be too sad but it wasn't. And yes it does have a similar feel to "To Kill a Mockingbird". I am looking forward to rereading it in December.


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