“The dead are never far from us. They’re in our hearts and on our minds and in the end all that separates us from them is a single breath, one final puff of air.”
― William Kent Krueger, “Ordinary Grace”
The Drum family observed multiple deaths in the summer of 1961 in New Bremen, Minnesota. Death came in many forms that summer: accident, nature, suicide, murder. But every single death inspired new questions for a 13-year-old boy by the name of Frank Drum. A preacher’s son, Frank was used to death in some conformity as he always attended the funerals held in his father’s congregation. But something about this summer was different. Death was not so kind to its victims.
The Drum family must find a way to deal with loss as death becomes a regular occurrence in New Bremen. Frank’s younger brother Jake, born with a stutter, tries desperately to grasp his innocence back as Frank tries to do the same. However, death is not so good-natured.
“Ordinary Grace” is about a boy standing on the threshold of his manhood. It’s a book about understanding that death comes for us all but that it comes in different shapes and at different times. It explains how important it is to find your footing in life so that you can stand up before you get knocked down for the last time. “Ordinary Grace” is a book of mystery and discovery, about loss and freedom. It’s a book that expresses the bond of friendship and brotherhood as we watch Jake’s enduring love for his brother.
Each character has something holding them back, some barrier keeping them rooted in their old ways. Through the mighty grace of God, some characters are able to let go of fear as they find their missing piece in life even while death shakes their world.
William Kent Krueger was able to intertwine dark topics with enigma, light-heartedness, and a touch of God’s graceful hand to create a novel that spoke of death as an ever-present being. Krueger magnified the effect loss has on people no matter the age and paved a way for hope to precede within a town that seemed to be the very entrance to hell.