William Kent Krueger has quickly climbed to one of my favorite authors. He is a masterful storyteller, simple as that. Krueger is able to create characters that are so three dimensional it is hard to believe that they are not real people. His stories have existential themes that are incredibly though provoking and leave you pondering well after you finish. Krueger is a master of his craft and Ordinary Grace and This Tender Land are prime examples of that. I adored This Tender Land and it’s endearing coming of age story with a band of misfits, but after finishing Ordinary Grace, I think I liked it a smidge more. (And that is saying a lot, because I am a bit obsessed with TTL!)
Ordinary Grace is a coming of age story involving two brothers, Frankie and Jake, who are on the cusp of manhood and learn what separates this life from the one that awaits us after. Both sons of a Methodist preacher, they grew up with the presence of God and themes of faith and grace woven in their childhood. Frankie pushes the boundaries and limits, while Jake tends to sit back and observe. Both of their childhoods reach a turning point the summer of ’61, when they are faced with unimaginable circumstances. Told from Frankie’s perspective, almost 40 years later, he can reflect on what he experienced as a young teen and what it means to him now as an adult.
This was one of those stories where I could not get enough. I devoured it within days and am still in a major book depression. It is incredible to me how Krueger can create these characters that feel so life like. I was so emotionally invested in Frankie and Jakes story that I found myself lost in time and transported back to 1960’s rural Minnesota. Not only is Krueger incredible with character development, his sense of place makes the setting feel as though it is its own character. Rural Minnesota comes alive with his writing and I could picture the type of town Frankie and Jake ran though, the trestle they sat on, and the river they often overlooked. I grew up in a small, river town in Wisconsin and imagined the same trestle that I walked over countless times and watched kids jump off into the murky river flowing below. As a reader, I can connect with Krueger’s stories on multiple levels, one being the strong Midwest setting, which is why I love them so much.
Ordinary Grace is a perfect balance of character and plot driven, with elements of suspense, that will keep you absorbed in the story. For fans of This Tender Land, I promise you will like this one as much, if not more. Ordinary Grace gets all the stars for me and is one of my favorite books of all time. This is one that I will be recommending for years to come and a story that I will never forget.