Ordinary Grace [Book Review]

August 28, 2020

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (cover) Image: a wooden railroad trellis over a river underneath a partially cloudy sky

Genre/Categories/Setting: Adult Literary Fiction, Coming of Age, Faith, Minnesota

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


The summer of 1961 should have been another ordinary summer for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum, but it was a summer of hardships, tragedy, grief, adult problems, and questions of faith. Told from Frank’s perspective forty years later, Ordinary Grace is a poignant coming-of-age story with elements of mystery and suspense.

My Thoughts:

Writing: William Kent Krueger is a masterful storyteller and an exquisite writer! It seems to me that the award-winning Ordinary Grace is an excellent example of Literary Fiction (a mostly character-driven novel where the primary focus is on understanding the world, your place in it, and the meaning of life). In Ordinary Grace, the story is straightforward and easy to follow. Krueger’s effortless storytelling ability is impressive (which, in actuality, means it took a lot of hard work!). Mystery, suspense, relationships, and ethical dilemmas drive the action.

Characters: Told from one point of view, the story includes a cast of interesting characters. Frank’s immediate family consists of a father who is a Methodist minister, an artistic mother, an older musical sister who is known for her piano skills and a beautiful voice, and a younger, socially awkward brother. Frank is the wild and independent one! In spite of this, he shows his father respect. I loved the loyalty the two brothers shared and one touching scene occurs when Frank enters his brother’s bedroom and assures him he will always be his friend. Both boys are kept in check somewhat by the expectations of being the minister’s sons….a situation I can relate to being a PK (preacher’s kid) myself! I appreciate the unwavering faith of the father and the example he sets as a spiritual man. In fact, once he is described in the book as having an “embracing heart.” I love that!

Strong Sense of Place: Krueger writes Ordinary Grace in a way that I can picture myself living in this small Minnesota town in 1961. It’s a simpler (but not safer) time when kids played outside until the street lights came on and were given quite a bit of freedom. If you enjoy a strong sense of place, you will enjoy the vivid world that Krueger creates!

Themes: Thoughtful themes are the driving force in Ordinary Grace as Frank comes to terms with the world around him. Themes include grief, sibling relationships, faith, loyalty, trust, respect, mystery, bullying, mental health, friendship, community, loss of innocence, forgiveness, prejudice, and the Grace of God.

“He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

Recommended: I’m highly recommending Ordinary Grace for fans of literary fiction, for readers who love stories of complicated families, and for book clubs. One member of my online book club said that some parts remind her of Dearly Beloved. I can see that connection, especially in the relationship between the strong faith and resolve of the minister and his reluctant wife.

Favorite Quote:

In your dark night, I urge you to hold to your faith, to embrace hope, and to bear your love before you like a burning candle, for I promise it will light your way.”

~William Kent Krueger

***May contain spoilers***
Trigger Warning/Content Consideration: death of a YA child

Related: This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (cover) Image: a wooden railroad trellis over a river underneath a partially cloudy sky

My Rating: 5  Stars

Ordinary Grace Information

Meet the Author, William Kent Krueger

Author William Kent Krueger

Raised in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon, William Kent Krueger briefly attended Stanford University—before being kicked out for radical activities. After that, he logged timber, worked construction, tried his hand at freelance journalism, and eventually ended up researching child development at the University of Minnesota. He currently makes his living as a full-time author. He’s been married for over 40 years to a marvelous woman who is a retired attorney. He makes his home in St. Paul, a city he dearly loves.

Krueger writes a mystery series set in the north woods of Minnesota. His protagonist is Cork O’Connor, the former sheriff of Tamarack County and a man of mixed heritage—part Irish and part Ojibwe. His work has received a number of awards, including the Minnesota Book Award, the Loft-McKnight Fiction Award, the Anthony Award, the Barry Award, the Dilys Award, and the Friends of American Writers Prize. His last five novels were all New York Times bestsellers.

“Ordinary Grace,” his stand-alone novel published in 2013, received the Edgar Award, given by the Mystery Writers of America in recognition for the best novel published in that year. “Manitou Canyon,” number fifteen in his Cork O’Connor series, was released in September 2016. Visit his website at http://www.williamkentkrueger.com.


Is Ordinary Grace on your TBR or have you read it?


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25 thoughts on “Ordinary Grace [Book Review]

  1. I’m so glad you liked this one, Carol. It’s on my list of Top 10 favorite books ever. Just beautiful! I have This Tender Land on my bookshelf, and need to get to it soon.

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    • Thanks so much for the tag! I’m horrible at following through but I’ll save it under good intentions!
      Btw…I couldn’t find a comment section on your blog post. Maybe just me!

    • Thanks very much for the tag! I don’t have a very good track record of following through, but I’m saving your post in my good intentions file!
      Btw… I couldn’t find a place to comment on your post. I might have been looking too fast!

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  8. I read this in 2021. I was truck with the excellent writing. You are correct, this book took a tremendous amount of hard work to achieve a mix of words that grab you and don’t let you go until the very end…and what a truly lovely end it was. As I write this, I feel such sadness with all the news (Ukraine). Revisiting “Ordinary Grace” gave me hope for the softer, often simpler side of life.

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