MAF Discussion Summary for Ordinary Grace
Last Thursday night William Kent Krueger proved to us that his way with words is not confined to this wonderful book. The whole group was delighted to talk with him “face to projection screen” – when we successfully Skyped with him, allowing folks to see him as he talked with us. We knew going into the novel that is has received rave reviews, awards, and accolades. In fact, Ordinary Grace has won the Edgar Award for Best Novel, Midwest Booksellers Choice Award for Best Fiction, Dilys Award, Independent Mystery Booksellers Association, the Left Coast Crime “Squid” Award for Best Mystery Set Within the US, Barry Award for Best Novel, Anthony Award for Best Novel, and the Macavity Award for Best Novel – among others!
Bev was on to something when she said that the story is so realistic, she had to believe at least some of it is real. Kent confirmed that a number of things in the story are variations on things and people he has known in his life. Like Frankie, Kent’s father was a minister. They both have grown up in small towns in the Midwest, Frankie’s mom is a frustrated musician – so was Kent’s own mother, and Kent has long been interested in the indigenous tribes in Minnesota.
Perhaps the most fascinating thing we learned about from Kent, is how this book, in particular, has been the book he just had to write. When he first started the novel, no one was particularly interested in it, and he had no contract for it (as he did throughout the writing of this book, for his Cork O’Connor series). But it was the story that just wouldn’t go away, and when he finally sat down to write it, it was the fastest flowing writing he’s done for a novel. He indicated that this may also have been due to the characters and situations he grew up with, so the story really resonates with a believable nostalgia for how things were lived in small town America in the summer of ’61.
It is this exploration of the times and the perspectives of the characters in Ordinary Grace that truly held our interest. The backdrop of Frankie’s transition from child to young man had its own intensity and is a totally engaging journey. As in real life, there are situations that are not easily resolved, and several that never are fully explained – yet somehow the author still achieved that satisfied sensation when the story comes to a close. We loved the scene where Nathan is momentarily flummoxed by his wife asking if he can’t just do “an ordinary grace”—that Jake so beautifully supplies. This was satisfying in so many ways: the humor of the situation, the acknowledgement that maybe Nathan isn’t perfect, and the poignant step it is for Jake in finally conquering his stutter. Ordinary Grace is full of such moments.
We liked the addition of an epilogue that further solidified our impressions of the man Frankie would turn out to be. We were surprised initially by Jake becoming a minister, but given his talent for listening and observing people, we felt his community was lucky to have him. Kent has referred to writing Ordinary Grace as a spiritual journey. We completely agree with him – and that it is a spiritual journey for the reader as well. We also agreed with him that as wonderful as the story is, it is complete in itself, and a sequel or attempts to make it a series is just not needed. What we all agree IS needed, are more books with a feel like Ordinary Grace, and we were very excited to learn that Kent does have another stand-alone novel in the works. We ended saying we hope to talk to him again when the next comes out – and that at least some of us, are going to be trying to get to Murder and Mayhem in Chicago to tell him again in person, how very much we enjoyed this book and the chance to Skype with him!
Two of our members were not able to make the meeting – and still took the time to share their opinions on this book. One declared that: “It was excellent.” And the other send email stating she “could picture each scene and envision the actions and emotions of the characters just by his descriptions. Sometimes it was almost reading a play.”
To a person, every member of Murder Among Friends found this novel to be outstanding; not only for this year’s picks – but for all the books we have read and discussed as a group!
Note: Our Trace Evidence page has been updated to include Kent and Ordinary Grace's Cast of Characters, fun facts, and links! Click here -- or on the Trace Evidence page to go to it.