My on-line book club just finished reading, “Ordinary Grace” by William Kent Krueger. I first saw the book at the library at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, which shows that a role still exists for church libraries. I chose the book as it combined my favorite themes—mystery, living in Minnesota, and faith.
Frank Drum was looking back at the summer of 1961. That year he was thirteen. He lived in the western Minnesota town of New Bremen; his father was a Methodist pastor; the temperature was frequently hot. And he experienced deaths of five people who he knew.
The narrative brought us through what Frank experienced through each death. Frank’s father brought theological order to the novel; his mother was the honest one. When Frank’s sister was murdered, his mother left their home. She couldn’t bear to hear her husband preach a honest, but sentimental sermon on how he couldn’t give up on God. She could—she had lost her daughter. She eventually came back to their family and the church where she was the Music Director. We’re not sure if she came back to God.
The book appealed to my imagination as I could identify with the setting and the two main characters. I’ve driven in the towns of western Minnesota, so I could imagine the feeling of place and presence. I still can remember being 13 during a hot summer. Frank’s desire to explore and find out for himself what had happened hit home. And I could relate to Frank’s dad. As a pastor he was trying to help people around him make sense of what was happening. My pleasure in reading was further helped with the frequent references to the 1961 Minnesota Twins.
I had some issues with the theology of the book. The title came from a prayer that Frank’s brother shared at a pivotal moment. We know of grace as a prayer that can be ordinary, but I don’t think of grace as ordinary. Krueger mentioned the awful grace of God in a few places. The events of the novel were certainly awful, but I wouldn’t pair the word with grace. God didn’t cause the pain in the story, just as God doesn’t cause our own pain.
The book is worth reading—especially with a group. Grace is not ordinary, but the story Krueger wrote was extraordinary.