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Ordinary Grace: A Novel

Ordinary Grace: A Novel

Автором William Kent Krueger

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Ordinary Grace: A Novel

Автором William Kent Krueger

4.5/5 (615 оценки)
412 pages
6 hours
Mar 26, 2013


From Scribd: About the Book

New Bremen, Minnesota in 1961 is the heart of the American Dream. The Twins are playing their debut season, there is ice-cold root beer on tap at Halderson's Drug Store, and Hot Stuff comic books can be found on every barbershop magazine rack. Without a doubt it was a time of happiness, a time of innocence, and a time of hope with a new young president. But for Frank Drum, who is thirteen years old, it is the summer his life changed forever when he met death in many forms.

Tragedy often comes in many forms, and it is always unexpected, and when it strikes this classic American family no one is left untouched. The Methodist minister father, the passionate artistic mother, college bound sister, too-wise kid brother, and Frank all suffer, and he finds himself catapulted into an adult world full of dark secrets, deceit, adultery, and ultimate betrayal.

At a glance, Ordinary Grace will seem like the story concerning the murder of a talented young woman who is a beloved sister and daughter. But at its heart, this is a story of what that tragedy does to a boy, his family, and the entire town in which the murder occurs.
Mar 26, 2013

Об авторе

William Kent Krueger is the New York Times bestselling author of This Tender Land, Ordinary Grace (winner of the Edgar Award for best novel), as well as eighteen acclaimed books in the Cork O’Connor mystery series, including Desolation Mountain and Sulfur Springs. He lives in the Twin Cities with his family. Learn more at WilliamKentKrueger.com.

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Ordinary Grace - William Kent Krueger

Praise for


Besides being a terrific story that examines a powerful range of human experiences and emotions, it was the authentic voice of the teenage narrator, Frank Drum, that kept me reading late into the night. Though the tone is quiet, Krueger artfully layered the story with suspenseful examinations of family life, death, fury, spiritual fiber, and redemption.

—Beth Hoffman, New York Times bestselling author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Krueger’s stylish writing describes the town and its collection of people so well, one can taste, smell, feel what’s on the page. Krueger’s haunting story delivers with universal themes of guilt, innocence, love for family, tested friendships, and the pain of being thirteen.

Omaha World-Herald

A superb literary novel.

New York Journal of Books

I realized within pages this would be one of the best books I’ve read in recent years. The gathering threat and its consummation are satisfying and meaningful. This is an intelligent and compelling story told with great heart. . . . A perfect book club read, truly a book to love and read more than once.

Historical Novel Review

Extraordinary. . . . A moving story, replete with authentic characters who grow in wisdom and grace and learn to accept what they cannot change.

Shelf Awareness

Deeply human. . . . Reads like an autobiography, not a novel, which is a compliment to Krueger. The voice is pure; the characters are real.

Killer Nashville

A beautiful and engaging story . . . revealing in even the smallest ways how grace enters into brokenness and loss and grief and provides hope.

Englewood Review of Books

Astonishingly deeply moving. . . . A book that you can’t put down and don’t want to end. . . . It deserves as wide an audience as it can get.

Men Reading Books

Krueger has created characters that sharpen our instincts.

The Bowed Bookshelf

This delicate, sturdy, suspenseful, sensitive, and amazing story will stay with you long after you’ve finished the last page. . . . I’ve read it twice and am already looking forward to revisiting it a third time. If there are any better books written this year, or for several years to come, I’d be very surprised.

Aunt Agatha’s

"Inevitable comparisons will be made to Stand By Me, and that’s not far off the mark. Beautifully written and, at times, heartbreaking, Ordinary Grace is a must-read."

Crime Fiction Lover


For Diane, my extraordinary grace


For their kindness and generosity in sharing with me their ­experiences as ministers in small Minnesota communities in an earlier time, I’d like to thank Reverend Robert Rollin and ­Reverend Greg Renstrom, two men who selflessly answered the calling.

The heart has reasons that reason does not understand.



All the dying that summer began with the death of a child, a boy with golden hair and thick glasses, killed on the railroad tracks outside New Bremen, Minnesota, sliced into pieces by a thousand tons of steel speeding across the prairie toward South Dakota. His name was Bobby Cole. He was a sweet-looking kid and by that I mean he had eyes that seemed full of dreaming and he wore a half smile as if he was just about to understand something you’d spent an hour trying to explain. I should have known him better, been a better friend. He lived not far from my house and we were the same age. But he was two years behind me in school and might have been held back even more except for the kindness of certain teachers. He was a small kid, a simple child, no match at all for the diesel-fed drive of a Union Pacific locomotive.

It was a summer in which death, in visitation, assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder. You might think I remember that summer as tragic and I do but not completely so. My father used to quote the Greek playwright Aeschylus. 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.

In the end maybe that’s what the summer was about. I was no older than Bobby and didn’t understand such things then. I’ve come four decades since but I’m not sure that even now I fully understand. I still spend a lot of time thinking about the events of that summer. About the terrible price of wisdom. The awful grace of God.


Moonlight pooled on the bedroom floor. Outside the chirr of crickets and other night bugs gave life to the dark. It was not yet July but already hot as blazes. That may have been why I was awake. In 1961 no one but the rich in New Bremen had air-conditioning. During the day most folks battled the heat by closing their curtains against the sun and at night fans drew in the promise of cooler air. In our house there were only two fans and neither was in the bedroom I shared with my brother.

As I tossed about on top of the sheet trying to get comfortable in the heat the telephone rang. My father often said that nothing good came of phone calls in the middle of the night. He answered them anyway. I figured it was simply another part of his job, another part of all the things my mother hated about what he did. The telephone sat on a small table in the hallway outside my room. I stared at the ceiling and listened to the brittle ring until the hall light came on.


Across the room Jake shifted in his bed and I heard the frame squeak.

My father said, Any damage? Then he said, tired and polite, I’ll be there in a few minutes. Thank you, Cleve.

I was out of bed and trotting into the hallway before he hung up. His hair was wild from sleep, his cheeks shadowed blue with stubble. His eyes were weary and sad. He wore a T-shirt and striped boxer shorts.

Go back to sleep, Frank, he told me.

I can’t, I said. It’s too hot and I’m already awake. Who was it?

A police officer.

Is somebody hurt?

No. He closed his eyes and put the tips of his fingers against his lids and rubbed. It’s Gus.

He’s drunk?

He nodded and yawned.

In jail?

Go back to bed.

Can I go with you?

I told you, go back to bed.

Please. I won’t be in the way. And I can’t sleep now anyway.

Keep your voice down. You’ll wake everybody.

Please, Dad.

He had energy enough to rise and meet his duty but not the strength to blunt the assault of a thirteen-year-old looking for adventure in the middle of an oppressive summer night. He said, Get dressed.

Jake was sitting on the edge of his bed. He already had his shorts on and was pulling up his socks.

I said, Where do you think you’re going?

With you and Dad. He knelt and in the dark under his bed dug for his sneakers.

Like hell.

You said hell, he said, still digging.

You’re not going, Howdy Doody.

He was younger than me by two years and two heads shorter. Because he had red hair and freckles and freakish ears that stood out like the handles on a sugar bowl people in New Bremen sometimes called him Howdy Doody. When I was pissed at him I called him Howdy Doody too.

You’re not the b-b-b-boss of me, he said.

Jake almost always stuttered in public but around me he only stuttered when he was mad or scared.

No, I replied, but I can p-p-p-pound the crap out of you any time I want.

He found his sneakers and began to put them on.

Night was the dark of the soul and being up in an hour when the rest of the world was dead with sleep gave me a sinful thrill. My father often ventured out like this on some lonely mission but I’d never been allowed to go. This was special and I didn’t want to share it with Jake. I’d already wasted precious time however so I left off arguing and got myself dressed.

My brother was waiting in the hall when I came out. I intended to argue with him some more but my father slipped from his bedroom and shut the door behind him. He looked at Jake as if about to say something unpleasant. Instead he sighed and signaled us both to go before him down the stairs.

Outside the crickets were kicking up a frenzy. Fireflies hung in the still black air flickering on and off like the slow blink of dreamy eyes. As we walked to the garage our shadows glided before us, black boats on a silver sea of moonlight.

Shotgun, Jake said.

Ah, come on. You’re not even supposed to be here.

I called it.

Which was the rule. In New Bremen, a town platted and populated by Germans, rules were abided by. Even so I complained until my father broke in. Jake called it, he said. End of discussion, Frank.

We piled into the car, a 1955 Packard Clipper the color of canned peas that my mother had named Lizzie. She christened every automobile we ever owned. A Studebaker she called Zelda. A Pontiac Star Chief was Little Lulu after the comic book character. There were others but her favorite—the favorite of us all except my father—was that Packard. It was huge and powerful and elegant. It had been a gift from my grandfather and was a source of contention between my parents. Though he never came right out and said so I believe it hurt my father’s pride to accept such an extravagant gift from a man he didn’t particularly like and whose values he openly challenged. I understood even then that my grandfather considered my father a failure and not good enough for my mother. Dinner when these two sat at the same table was usually a storm about to break.

We pulled out and drove through the Flats which was what we called the part of New Bremen where we lived. It lay along the Minnesota River below the Heights where the wealthy families resided. There were a lot of people living above us who weren’t rich but no one with money lived on the Flats. We drove past Bobby Cole’s house. Like all the others we passed it was totally dark. I tried to wrap my thinking around the fact of his death which had occurred the day before. I’d never known a kid who died and it felt unnatural and sinister, as if Bobby Cole had been snatched by a monster.

Is Gus in t-t-trouble? Jake asked.

Some but not serious, my father replied.

He didn’t bust up anything?

Not this time. He got into a fight with another fellow.

He does that a lot.

Only when he’s drunk, I said from the backseat. Making excuses for Gus was usually a responsibility that fell to my father but he was noticeably silent.

He’s drunk a lot then, Jake said.

Enough. My father held up a hand and we shut up.

We drove Tyler Street and turned onto Main. The town was dark and full of delicious possibility. I knew New Bremen as well as I knew my own face but at night things were different. The town wore another face. The city jail sat on the town square. It was the second oldest building in New Bremen after the First Evangelical Lutheran Church. Both were built of the same granite quarried just outside town. My father parked diagonally in front of the jail.

You two stay here, he said.

I have to go to the bathroom.

He shot me a killing look.

Sorry. I can’t hold it.

He gave in so easily I knew he must have been dead tired. Come on, then. You too, Jake.

I’d never been inside the jail but it was a place that had always appealed greatly to my imagination. What I found was a small drab room lit by fluorescent tubes and not much different in most respects from my grandfather’s real estate office. There were a couple of desks and a file cabinet and a bulletin board with posters. But there was also along the east wall a holding cell with bars and the cell held a prisoner.

Thanks for coming, Mr. Drum, the officer said.

They shook hands. Dad introduced us. Officer Cleve Blake appeared to be younger than my father and wore gold wire-rim glasses and behind them were blue eyes that had an unsettling frankness. Even though it was the middle of a night humid as hell he looked clean and neat in his uniform.

A little late for you boys to be out, isn’t it?

Couldn’t sleep, I said to the officer. Too hot.

Jake said nothing which was his usual strategy when he was concerned that he might stutter in public.

I recognized the guy in the cell. Morris Engdahl. A bad sort. Black hair slicked in a ducktail and fond of black leather jackets. He was a year older than my sister who’d just graduated from high school. Engdahl didn’t finish school. The story I’d heard was that he was kicked out for crapping in the locker of a girl who’d turned him down for a date. He drove the coolest set of wheels I’d ever seen. A black 1932 Ford Deuce Coupe with suicide doors and a shiny chrome grille and big whitewall tires and flames painted along its sides so that fire ran the length of the car.

Well, if it ain’t Frankfarter and Howdy D-D-D-Doody, he said. He had a shiner and when he talked his words came out slurred through a fat lip. From behind the bars he settled his mean eyes on Jake. How’s it g-g-going, retard?

Jake had been called all sorts of things because of his stutter. I figured it had to get to him but usually all he did was clam up and stare.

Jake’s not retarded, Mr. Engdahl, my father said quietly. He ­simply stutters.

I was surprised Dad knew Morris Engdahl. They didn’t exactly run in the same circles.

No sh-sh-sh-shit, Engdahl said.

That’s enough, Morris, Officer Blake said.

My father gave Engdahl no more notice and asked the officer what it was all about.

The officer shrugged. Two drunks, a wrong word. Like putting a match to gasoline.

I ain’t no drunk. Engdahl sat hunched over on the edge of a long metal bench and stared at the floor as if contemplating the advisability of puking there.

And he’s not old enough to be drinking in a bar, Cleve, my father pointed out.

I’ll be talking to the folks at Rosie’s about that, the officer replied.

Behind a door in the back wall a toilet flushed.

Much damage? my father asked.

Mostly to Morris. They took it out to the parking lot.

The door in the back wall opened and a man walked out still working at the zipper on his pants.

Doyle, I was just telling these folks how you came to bring in Engdahl and Gus.

The other man sat down and put his feet on the desk. He wasn’t dressed in a uniform but from his look of comfort in that jailhouse I understood he was a policeman too. He said, Yeah I was off duty at Rosie’s. Watched ’em going at it in the bar, mouthing off to each other. When they took it outside, I figured it was time to break up the party.

My father spoke to Officer Blake: All right if I take Gus home now?

Sure. He’s in back. The policeman reached into the desk drawer for keys. Crying shame about the Cole kid. I heard you spent most of yesterday with his folks.

Yes, my father told him.

I’ve got to say I’d much rather have my job than yours.

You know that whole thing’s got me wondering, Doyle, the off-duty officer, said. I’ve seen that kid on those tracks hundreds of times. He loved trains, I guess. Can’t figure how he came to get himself killed by one.

Officer Blake said, What do you mean?

I talked to Jim Gant. He was the first deputy on the scene. Gant said it looked like the kid had just been sitting on the tracks. Didn’t move at all when the train came. Real strange, you know? He wasn’t deaf.

Maybe he was retarded like Howdy Doody there, Engdahl said from his cell. Didn’t know enough to get his butt off that rail.

Doyle said, One more word out of you and I’m coming in there and kick your ass.

Officer Blake found the keys he was searching for and shut the drawer. Are they pursuing it?

Far as I know, nope. Officially an accident. No witnesses to say otherwise.

Officer Blake said, You boys stay out here. And, Morris, you behave yourself.

My father asked, Is it okay if my son uses your bathroom, Cleve?

Sure, the officer answered. He unlocked the metal door in the back wall and led my father through.

I didn’t have to use the bathroom. It had simply been a ruse to get inside the jail. I was afraid Doyle might make a point of it, but he didn’t seem at all interested.

Jake stood staring hard at Engdahl. Staring knives.

What are you looking at, retard?

He’s not retarded, I said.

Yeah and your sister’s not a harelip and your old man’s not a friggin’ pussy. He laid his head back against the wall and closed his eyes.

I asked Doyle, What did you mean about Bobby?

He was tall and lean and looked tough as jerky. He wore his hair in a crew cut and his head was shiny with sweat from the heat of the night. He had ears every bit as big as Jake’s but he wasn’t the kind of guy anybody in their right mind would dare call Howdy Doody. He said, You know him?


Nice kid, right? But slow.

Slow enough he couldn’t get out of the way of that train, Engdahl said.

Shut up, Engdahl. Doyle looked back at me. You play on the tracks?

No, I lied.

He looked at Jake. You?

No, I answered for Jake.

Good thing. Because there are bums down there. Men not like the decent folks in New Bremen. You ever get approached by one of them men you come straight here and tell me. Ask for Officer Doyle.

You think that’s what happened to Bobby? I was thunderstruck. It would never have occurred to me that his death wasn’t an accident. But then I wasn’t a trained policeman like Officer Doyle.

He began popping the knuckles of his fingers one by one. I’m just saying you watch out for guys drifting along those tracks. Understand?

Yes, sir.

Goblins’ll get you if you don’t watch out, Engdahl said. They love tender meat like you and Retard.

Doyle stood up. He walked to the cell and motioned Morris Engdahl to come to the bars. Engdahl drew his whole self onto the bench and pressed to the wall.

That’s what I thought, Doyle said.

The metal door opened and Officer Blake came out. My father followed. He supported Gus who was stumbling. Gus seemed drunker than Engdahl but there wasn’t a mark on him.

You’re really letting him go? Engdahl said. That’s friggin’ unfair.

I called your father, the officer said. He told me a night in jail would do you good. Take it up with him.

Get the door, Frank, my father said and then looked at the officer. Thank you, Cleve. I appreciate this.

Keeps things around here simpler. But, Gus, you’ve got to watch yourself. The chief’s at the end of his rope with you.

Gus grinned drunkenly. He wantsa talk to me, tell him I’ll be happy to discuss it over a beer.

I held the door and my father hauled Gus out. I looked back where Morris Engdahl sat on the hard bench. Now, forty years later, I realize that what I saw was a kid not all that much older than me. Thin and angry and blind and lost and shut up behind iron bars not for the first time or the last. I probably should have felt for him something other than I did which was hatred. I closed the door.

At the car Gus straightened up suddenly and turned to my father. Thanks, Captain.

Get in the car.

Gus said, What about my motorcycle?

Where is it?

At Rosie’s.

You can get it tomorrow when you’re sober. Get in the car.

Gus swayed a little. He looked up at the moon. His face was bloodless in the pale light. Why does he do it, Captain?


God. Why does he take the sweet ones?

He takes us all in the end, Gus.

But a kid?

Is that what the fight was about? Bobby Cole?

Engdahl called him a retard, Captain. Said he was better off dead. I couldn’t let it pass. Gus shook his head in a bewildered way. So how come, Captain?

I don’t know, Gus.

Isn’t that your job? Knowing the why of all this crap? Gus seemed disappointed. Then he said, Dead. What’s that mean?

Jake spoke up. It means he won’t have to w-w-worry about everybody making f-f-f-fun of him.

Gus eyed Jake and blinked. Maybe you’re right. Maybe that’s the reason. What do you think, Captain?


Gus nodded as if that had satisfied him. He bent toward the open car door to get into the backseat but instead stood there making awful retching sounds.

Ah, Gus. All over the upholstery, my father said.

Gus straightened up and pulled his shirttail from his pants and wiped his mouth. Sorry, Captain. Didn’t see it coming.

Get in front, my father said. He turned to me. Frank, you and Jake are going to have to walk home. Do you have a problem with that?

No, sir. We’ll be fine. But could we have the tire iron from the trunk? For protection?

New Bremen wasn’t at all the kind of town where you’d need a tire iron for protection but I nodded toward Jake, whose face had gone a little white at the prospect of walking home in all that dark, and my father understood. He popped the trunk and handed me the iron. Don’t dawdle, he said.

He climbed into the driver’s side. You have to puke again, Gus, puke out the window. Understand?

I read you loud and clear, Captain. He smiled gamely and lifted a hand to us as my father drove away.

Under the moon we stood on the empty square. The city jail was the only lit building we could see. On the opposite side of the green the courthouse clock bonged four times.

It’ll be light in an hour, I said.

I don’t want to walk home, Jake said. I’m tired.

Then stay here.

I started away. After a moment Jake came too.

We didn’t go home. Not directly. At Sandstone Street I turned off Main.

Jake said, Where are you going?

You’ll see.

I want to go home.

Fine. Go home.

I don’t want to go home alone.

Then come on. You’ll like this, I swear.

Like what?

You’ll see.

A block off Main on the corner of Walnut was a bar with a sign over the door. Rosie’s. A ’53 Indian Chief with a sidecar was in the lot. Gus’s motorcycle. Only one automobile was still parked there. A black Deuce Coupe with fire painted along its sides. I approached that beauty and spent a moment running my hand admiringly over the slope of the front wheel well where a silver snake of moonlight shot along the black enamel. Then I set myself and swung the tire iron and smashed the left headlight.

What are you doing? Jake cried.

I walked to the other headlight and once again the sound of shattering glass broke the stillness of the night.

Here, I said and offered the tire iron to my brother. The rear lights are all yours.

No, he said.

This guy called you a retard. You and Bobby Cole. And he called Ariel a harelip and Dad a pussy. You don’t want to break something on his car?

No. He looked at me then at the tire iron then at the car. Well, maybe.

I handed that magic wand of revenge to Jake. He walked to the back of Morris Engdahl’s precious set of wheels. He glanced at me once for reassurance then swung. He missed and banged metal and the tire iron bounced out of his hands.

Jeez, I said. What a spaz.

Let me try again.

I picked up the tire iron and handed it to him. This time he did the deed and danced back from the spray of red glass. Can I do the other one? he pleaded.

When he’d finished we stood back and admired our work until we heard the screen door of the house across the street squeak open and a guy shout, Hey, what’s going on over there?

We tore down Sandstone back to Main and down Main toward Tyler. We didn’t stop until we hit the Flats.

Jake bent over and held his ribs. I got a stitch in my side, he gasped.

I was breathing hard too. I put my arm around my brother. You were great back there. A regular Mickey Mantle.

Think we’ll get in trouble?

Who cares? Didn’t that feel good?

Yeah, Jake said. It felt real good.

The Packard was parked in the church lot across the street from our house. The light over the side door was on and I figured Dad was still inside putting Gus to bed. I set the tire iron on the Packard’s hood and we walked to the door, which opened onto a set of stairs that led to the church basement where Gus had a room next to the boiler.

Gus wasn’t related to us by blood but in a strange way he was family. He’d fought beside my father in the Second World War, an experience, my father contended, that made them closer than brothers. They stayed in touch and whenever Dad updated us on his old friend it was usually to report another in a long litany of missteps. Then one day just after we’d moved to New Bremen, Gus had shown up at our doorstep, a little drunk and out of work and with everything he owned stuffed in a pack in the sidecar of his motorcycle. My father had taken him in, given him a place to live, found him work, and Gus had been with us ever since. He was a source of great disagreement between my parents but only one of many. Jake and I liked him immensely. Maybe it was because he talked to us as if we weren’t just kids. Or because he didn’t have much and didn’t seem to want more and didn’t appear to be bothered by his questionable circumstances. Or because on occasion he drank to excess and got himself into trouble from which my father would predictably extricate him, which made him seem more like an errant older brother than an adult.

His room in the church basement wasn’t much. A bed. A chest of drawers. A nightstand and lamp. A mirror. A squat three-shelf case full of books. He’d put a little red rug on the cement floor of his room that added a dash of color. There was a window at ground level but not much light came through. On the other side of the basement was a small bathroom which Dad and Gus had put in themselves. That’s where we found them. While Gus knelt at the toilet stool and puked my father stood behind him and waited patiently. Jake and I lingered under the bare bulb in the middle of the basement. My father didn’t seem to notice us.

Still ralfing, I whispered to Jake.


You know. R-a-l-f, I said and drew out the word as if I was ­vomiting.

That’s it, Captain. With some difficulty Gus stood and my father handed him a wet cloth to wipe his face.

My father flushed the toilet and walked Gus to his room. He helped Gus out of his soiled shirt and pants. Gus lay down on his bed. He wore only his undershirt and shorts. It was cooler in the basement than outside and my father drew the top sheet over his friend.

Thanks, Captain, Gus murmured as his eyes drifted closed.

Go to sleep.

Then Gus said something I’d never heard him say before. He said, Captain, you’re still a son of a bitch. Always will be.

I know, Gus.

They’re all dead because of you, Captain. Always will be.

Just sleep.

Gus was snoring almost immediately. My father turned to where we stood in the middle of the basement. Go on back to bed, he said. I’m going to stay and pray for a while.

The car’s full of puke, I said. Mom’ll go berserk.

I’ll take care of it.

My father went up to the sanctuary. Jake and I went out the side door. I still wasn’t ready to call it a night. I sat on the front steps of the church and Jake sat there too. He was tired and leaned against me.

What did Gus mean? he said. Dad killed them all. What did he mean?

I was wondering about that too. I said, I don’t know.

The birds had started to chatter in the trees. Above the hills that rimmed the valley of the Minnesota River I could see a thin line of vermilion in the sky that was the approach of dawn. And I saw something else. On the other side of the street a familiar figure separated itself from the cover of the lilac bushes that edged our yard. I watched my older sister sneak across the lawn and slip into our house through the back door. Oh the secrets of the night.

I sat on the steps of my father’s church thinking how much I loved the dark. The taste of what it offered sweet on the tongue of my imagination. The delicious burn of trespass on my conscience. I was a sinner. I knew that without a doubt. But I was not alone. And the night was the accomplice of us all.

I said, Jake? But he didn’t answer. He was asleep.

My father would pray for a long time. It was too late for him to go back to bed and too early to fix breakfast. He was a man with a son who stuttered and another probably on his way to becoming a juvenile delinquent and a daughter with a harelip who sneaked in at night from God knew where and a wife who resented his profession. Yet I knew it was not for himself or for any of us that he was praying. More likely it was for the parents of Bobby Cole. And

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  • Drastically different from his main book series, the Cork O'Connor mystery series, Ordinary Grace is probably Kruegers best piece of writing. It is written from his heart, it is powerful, it is emotional, and it is raw. It is the story of a young boy who experiences a murder, his sister, and the cascading effects that this has not only on him and his family, but the entire town in which they live. It is a story of being forced to grow up before you are ready, and a story of betrayal and lessons learned. I loved this book not only because it is riveting, but because it is so naturally written. Krueger doesn't create unrealistic characters, or rely on absurd circumstances to tell a compelling story, he instead paints a normal town, fills it with normal people, and puts them all through a tragic story that does more than break them.

    Scribd Editors
  • When a book can stir so many emotions in me, I always give credit where credit is due. I cried out of sadness, I cried out of happiness, and I cried out of frustration while reading this story. There aren't many stories that can do that, for me, and for this I am grateful to the author for what he has created. From the first page, he hides nothing, telling you right away that the book will be about death. But it is so much more than that, sure it is a book about losing a sister/daughter, but it is also a book about family love, about growing up, about finding who you are in the face of a storm that is whirling around you. I'll definitely be reading this book again in the future, and I am certain that even though I know the plot, it will still bring me to tears.

    Scribd Editors

Отзывы читателей

  • (4/5)
    “For thirteen –year old Frank Drum, the preacher’s son, it was a grim summer in 1961 in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.” A coming of age story set among an unsettling Minnesota background.Frank is growing up scrambling for meaning and full of confusion and fear. In the midst of that, a lot of frightening things happen that leave him in a constant state of apprehension. There are so many troubled characters in this book:Jake is Frank’s younger brother. Jake is often quiet, especially outside of his home because he has a bad stutter: “I don’t like to talk to people because I’m afraid I’ll stutter and they’ll make fun of me. I feel like a freak sometimes.” There is a lot more to Jake than his stutter. He also has a way of understanding things and seeing things others don’t notice.Ariel is Frank and Jake’s older sister. Ariel is her parents golden child. Everyone believes she is destined for greatness. She is her mother’s favorite. Ariel is hope for mother’s unfulfilled longings. Jake and Frank adore her. She is their confidante, conspirator, defender, encourager, and supporter. But is she as innocent as everyone thinks? Frank often catches her sneaking out late at night and he knows something isn’t quite right.Their father, Nathan Drum, is a preacher. He is also a war vet and is clearly troubled by his past. There are several other war vets in the book as well. Gus- his father’s friend, a drunk, who lives in the basement of the church. Nathan often says that he owes Gus his life, but we never find out why.“There are a lot of men left troubled by the war. Every man handles in a different way the damage war did to him. Some men seem to have put their wars behind them easily enough.”“Whatever cracks were already there the war forced apart, and what we might otherwise have kept inside came spilling out.”“The truth is when you kill a man it doesn’t matter if he’s your enemy and if he’s trying to kill you. That moment of his death will eat at you for the rest of your life. It’ll dig into bones so deep inside you that not even the hand of God is going to be able to pull it out, I don’t care how much you pray.”Emile (Ariel’s piano instructor and Mrs. Drum’s dear friend) returned from World War II blind and disfigured and wanting to feed in isolation on the meat of his bitterness. He lives with his sister Lise who is also a bit of a recluse. Lise is mentally retarded and has no future that anyone could see. They are both two damaged souls that the rest of the family has pretty much abandoned.The preacher’s wife and mother to Frank, Jake and Ariel is less than delighted with her life as a minister’s wife. She has a fondness for martinis and as things progress that summer, she becomes angrier and angrier at her husband for putting God before his family.I had great expectations for this book and was a little disappointed that it didn’t quite live up to them. It was a little slow going at first, but once things start happening, I had just had to know how they ended. I hate that I had figured the book out before it ended, but not everyone will. A literary mystery that isn’t that thrilling, but will really get to the heart of things.“What is happiness? In my experience, it’s only a moment’s pause here and there on what is otherwise a long and difficult road. No one can be happy all the time.”
  • (5/5)
  • (5/5)
    I didn't think I would like this book as much as I did, it was so well done and human. The author's description were able to place us right in small town america in 1961. The narrator was a boy of 13 years old. We saw what happened through his eyes. I liked the ending, we really understood what happened to all these caracters. Recommended.
  • (5/5)
    Not really a mystery in the classic sense, but an excellent novel. Well written, the descriptions of the small town in Minnesota are such that one feels that one is there.
  • (5/5)
    This was the story of Frankie Drum, a pastor's son, aged 10, growing up in Minnesota during the summer his sister was murdered. It's really a great coming of age story as well as a "who dunnit." Frank tells the story 40 years later. 307 pages 5 stars
  • (4/5)
    I have been a big fan of Kruegar's, Cork O'Connor novels for years, yet in this, his first stand alone he has surpassed himself. The narrator is a 13 year old boy, living in a small town in Minnesota. The book set in 1961 has all the innocent charm, TV dinners, watching family shows on the television, a barber shop that has magazines and where all the men go to talk about things. All this innocence is contrasted with the deaths that are plaguing the town, deaths that will cause our young narrator and his younger brother to grow up rather quickly. Their dad is a minister, and churches and miracles are part of these boys upbringing and will play a key part in the novel. Actually wasn't until towards the end, that I figured out what was going on. This book is well written, the characters well fleshed out and the storyline exceptionally good. ARC from publisher.
  • (5/5)
    Ordinary Grace is the coming of age story of Frank Drum and his brother Jake. Told by Frank forty years after that tragic summer filled with death and grief. An accidental death of a little boy, the death of an itinerant, the murder of a teenage girl and the suicide of a teenage boy was what the small community of New Bremen, Minnesota dealt with that hot summer of 1961.This story deals with the raw emotions that come with the death of a young person, how grief can overcome everyone in the family and a community as a whole. I found myself eagerly turning the pages and almost feeling the heat of a hot summer, smell the cigarettes and feel the emotions of the people affected by the deaths that occurred that summer and the aftermath. If you enjoy books like A Death in the Family by James Agee or To Kill a Mockingbird then you will enjoy Ordinary Grace. A wonderful book by a talented author.
  • (4/5)
    Compelling reading, notably when the foreshadowing of three deaths transpires...yet the steady foreboding makes it complicated reading since rarely is any character (or reader)allowed to be happy. How it feels to kids and adults to deal with mounting horrors, as well as the solutions to the crimes, propel reading right up to the most welcomeand unexpected "...a grace so ordinary...."It was good to learn that the wrenching despair of that God-awful summer did not ruin life for Frank Drum and his Father.
  • (5/5)
    William Kent Krueger may have outdone himself with ORDINARY GRACE. I've read a few other popular novels by this author,and ORDINARY GRACE is by far the best. If you like Kreuger's books, you'll love this one.You may hesitate to read this, as I did, because the narrator is recalling the summer when he was 13-years-old, and coming-of-age stories bore you. Fear not. ORDINARY GRACE does not come across as a coming-of-age story. This is a story told by a 53-year-old man. He writes as an adult recalling what happened that summer to his family and others in his small community when one murder after another took place.But ORDINARY GRACE mainly observes the narrator's father and brother, so full of ordinary grace.
  • (2/5)
    I know so many others readers adored this book, and Krueger has quite a following, so my not enjoying this book won't hurt too much. I gave it two chances and I could *not* get into it; I kept falling asleep. It's sleepy--that's the word I would use to describe it, which is odd considering it's about mysterious murders. The descriptions of the land and its people reminded me a bit of Willa Cather, but...not as engaging.
  • (5/5)
    In Ordinary Grace, William Kent Krueger leaves behind his Cork O'Connor series to give us a stunning stand-alone coming of age novel. Krueger has said he thinks this is his best work, and I don't disagree.Set in New Bremen Minnesota in the summer of 1961, the narrator Frank Drum reflects back from 40 years' perspective about events and how he reacted to them at the age of 12-13, how he helped his 9 year old brother Jake make sense of the adult happenings in their lives, and how their father, a war veteran turned preacher, held the family together through very traumatic events. There were murders, missing persons (including their 18 year old sister), an emotionally absent mother, and mysterious happenings.The book opens with the gruesome death of a 13 year old boy who is run over by a train. Was it an accident? A suicide? A murder? Shortly after, Frank and his brother discover the body of an "itinerant". Yes there's a murder mystery to be solved, but the book is so much more. Secret keeping is a central theme. The negative impacts on the lives of those who keep secrets, even when the intentions may be good, are examined in a compassionate retrospective as Frank looks back on the events of that summer, his feelings of guilt, his youthful inability to deal with everything happening, and his relations with his father, his mother and his brother. While the characters are all believable and well drawn, it is the setting both in time and place that is one of the stars of this remarkable novel. The author places the reader squarely in a small town in 1961, from the neighborhood barber shop where men go to be men and catch up on gossip, to the local drugstore/soda fountain, the TV dinners in front of black and white tvs, the bicycles, foot travel, phone firmly hooked to the wall (and only one phone per household), and houses without air conditioning,we are transported to a softer, kinder time, even with the murders festering on the edges.The reader is reluctant to end the book. The times, the story and the characters are destined to become engraved in the reader's memory. The title is not correct - - - - this book is in no way Ordinary. It will certainly be on several Best of the Year lists for 2013.
  • (4/5)
    What a special treat to read this wonderful book. Loss of innocence, coming of age stories always seem to simultaneously break my heart and strengthen my belief in human kindness. Ordinary Grace has at its heart a typical middle class Minnesota family in the early 60’s. The father fought in the war, which changed him from a man who wanted to do battle in a courtroom as an attorney, to a man who wanted to provide guidance as a minister. In this summer when two deaths (and more to come) have occurred in this small town, so much weight is on the dad’s shoulders to hold the town’s families together, as well as his own. We feel his pain and that of his family. At the center is the narrator, Frank, 12 years old with a fierce independent streak, and his little brother Jake, who is Frank’s shadow, constant companion, and someone very special. The mother is a very reluctant minister’s wife who drinks martinis and smokes cigarettes. Her favorite child is 18 year old, Ariel, who provides much of the mystery which is constantly underlying in the story. Gripping, honest, tragic, and even funny at times.
  • (5/5)
    I was anxious to read ORDINARY GRACE as there had already been many wonderful reviews for it. I met Krueger in 2008 and even though I haven't read his Cork O'Conner series, I was still a big fan of his. I'm not typically a mystery reader, but I just may have to try out that series after hearing him talk about it again. He was a delight then and stardom hasn't changed him one bit. He was still charming, witty, and modest.ORDINARY GRACE is a bit historical fiction and a bit mystery. Even though murders are happening in this small Minnesota town, the novel still leaves you feeling good about family, friends and having faith. I read this book in a day and a half after hearing that Krueger was again coming back to our area. I couldn't pass up the chance to see him again. But, I think I would have read it quickly regardless. The book worked its way into my mind and heart. While reading in between loads of laundry, I couldn't stop thinking about Frank and Jake. As the mom of 2 boys at the same age as these boys, it made me wonder about how my own boys would have handled such circumstances in the book. Jake is a stutterer and this also make Jake reside close to my heart. There were numerous twists and turns in this story and just when I thought I had it all figured out, a new angle was brought into the story and left me rethinking all that had happened. Krueger truly has a gift for storytelling in a way that brings your heart and your head into it. When reading a book, I'm always looking for the way the title is brought into the story and I loved the subtle way he worked it in. Krueger fits it in when you least expect it and makes the least expected person shine as the hero of the story. When tragedy strikes, many of us feel we can't go on, that our life is over, but I think Krueger said it best in this novel:"We keep doing what we always do and someday it'll feel right again." Pg 196 "I thought if a man who'd lost everything could still see the beauty in a sunset then sooner or later things would look up for Jake and me and our family." Pg 198 I really fell in love with this story and have thought about it many times after finishing it a week ago. I am quite confident this will be a top book of 2013.
  • (4/5)
    Excellent coming-of-age story that manages to combine insight, inspiration and solving a murder.
  • (5/5)
    Frank, a thirteen year old on the cusp of manhood, is the main character in William K Krueger’s book “Ordinary Grace.” On its surface it is a tale of death - a murder, an accident, in war, stupidly or deliberately done, of age or illness. On a much deeper level it is the story of a family, the love that binds them together and the faith that sustains them. This is not an explicitly “Christian” book and yet you will finish the book and know why faith is and what it is. Krueger uses words in wonderful and unique ways to evoke a time and place that will live with you long after you finish reading this book. His description of a mother’s sorrow is expressed “She was flesh without spirit, eyes without sight” (page 182) and setting sun “was caught in the branches of the trees and the light across the lawns was yellow-orange and broken (page 133). This is a lovely book. Now that I have finished it, I want to read it again – only slowly so I can savor each word. His writing is believable. You know that is just what each character would say or do or think. His metaphors and similes are precise and unique and exactly right, yet they do not make think “oh, he learned that lesson on metaphor well.” Instead you are simply lost in the time, the place and the character.
  • (1/5)
    Compared to the Cork O'Conner series, this book felt slow, didactic and strained. The beauty and mystery of the O'Connor books -- encompassed in the characters, the rugged natural surroundings and the challenges inherent in the environment -- often have moved me and left me pondering for days. Those books have a spiritual side that is never overt or overbearing, allowing the spirituality to resonate or not as the reader may be inclined.

    In contrast, the characters and circumstances here felt predictable and the messages obvious almost from the outset. I never felt engaged in the story or cared much about the outcome. The "ordinary grace" of the title never convinced me of its existence or value.
  • (4/5)
    More than a murder mystery - a has more depth than just a who done it. Two brothers experience death, adultery, lies and loss during the summer of 1961 in Minnesota. I liked it.
  • (5/5)
    "Ordinary Grace" will stay with me for a long time. I will likely read it again, or at the least tell myself I will so that I give it the respect it deserves.
  • (4/5)
    On a mission to read all the Edgar nominees before the announcement, I was bowled over by this book. I have read this author before , the Cork O'Connor series. Although it shares the same locale, as the series it is very different. This story of small town life in Minnesota in the summer of 1961 is truly excellent. The Drum family, dad who is a pastor, mom, sister, younger brother and the narrator, 13 year old Frank, live through a summer that forever changes their lives. The author has captured the small town of the 60's and the coming of age emotions of the narrator. The book gives the reader an insight into the life a clergy family and how difficult it is to live under the watchful eyes of the church parishioners. The mystery may be obvious but the journey to the solution is an emotional one.
  • (4/5)
    This slice of life during a thirteen year old boy's summer is poignant and suspenseful. In his small town there are several deaths that define the summer, bringing grief and fear to the small community. There is friendship and family to both soften the blow and complicate the sadness, but there is also bigotry and violence that lead to a loss of innocence and test of faith.
  • (2/5)
    Set in a small town in Minnesota in the 1960’s, this novel started out with good intentions, however, there were too many deaths and too many issues all seemingly crammed into one predictable murder mystery.
  • (4/5)
    This novel is a slow sizzler that I honestly almost quit, but now I can not put it down. More after I finish.
  • (4/5)
    One of my favorite authors, mainly because he sets his stories in my home state, Minnesota. WKK departs from his Cork O'Connor mysteries with a beautiful, poignant, sort-of-coming-of-age tale of a 13-yr-old farm boy whose life changes drastically with the death of 3 people one summer in a rural community.

    WKK writes with subdued elegance, tells a compelling tale, and does a nice job of understating the tension and shocks of the story, which seems to make the impact on the characters that much more powerful.

    A good stand alone read, and if you like this one, I highly suggest reading his O'Connor mysteries, but start from the beginning. Each one builds upon the previous book.
  • (5/5)
    This novel is narrated by a middle-age Frank Drum who recalls a hot 1961 summer in the fictional town of New Bremen situated along the Minnesota River when he was thirteen. When a young boy is hit by a passing train on a train trestle, this inaugural death begins a series of deaths which includes one that shatters his family. However, as the title of the book indicates, healing comes as other family members and friends serve as instruments of God's grace.Although this book is set in the north central US, I couldn't help seeing it set in a Southern setting. I guess it was because I could identify the innocence of that time. The characters were so well developed, I had no problem in seeing them in my mind's eye. I particular like Frank's father, a Methodist minister, who reminded me of Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. I loved the relationship between Frank and his younger brother, Jake, who has a speech impediment. Everywhere Frank went, Jake wanted to follow. Several of the characters hold secrets that are revealed but healing occurs. The author writes beautifully and successfully transports you to 1961.I have never read any books by William Kent Krueger, but if other novels are like this one, it won't be the last of his.
  • (4/5)
    This is a story set in Minnesota, along the Minnesota River somewhere near Mankato and mentions Granite Falls and other towns quite close to where I live. It is a story of the Drum family and of Frankie, the middle child, who is thirteen. The year of 1961 there are several deaths in their little town where their father is the Methodist minister and Frankie and his younger brother Jake experience the awful grace of God. I read a lot of high falluted literary works and this book was very simple ordinary fiction but I cried my heart out. I haven't read any thing else by this author who writes a series set in Northern Minnesota (my original home area) and the reviews tell me that this stand alone work is different than his usual writing.
    What would I find fault with in the story would be that like a lot of books now days the author tries to cover every major issue that exists. At times I think he might have tried to find too many products to set the story in the sixties. Still in the end it was great fun to read about all these things from when I was a young girl. I would have been about the age of Jake.
    I appreciated the story of grace that the author created and I love the final line in the story. Which I am going to quote here so if you don't like to read the final line, quit now..."The dead are never far from us.They're in our hearts and on our minds in the end all that separates us from them is a single breath, one final puff of air."
  • (5/5)
    13 year old Frank Drum is about to step into an adult world way to soon and way to sudden. He will experience things this summer of 1961 that will change him and his family forever. Death comes in many ways this summer. By accident, murder, suicide. Secrets will be revealed that shatters two families. This is not strictly a crime story or mystery story although both elements are there. Mostly it’s a coming of age story with some nuanced interesting characters. It’s a gripping family drama, an emotional roller coaster. There are many scenes both beautiful and haunting. I liked very much the relationship between the two brothers and their dear, dear father. Their father is a methodist minister and the moral center of the story - his wisdom and gentle empathy is a guiding light in midst of all the uncertainty and tragedy. A wonderful novel, beautifully narrated by Rich Orlow. I haven’t read William Kent Krueger before, but now I will explore more. There’s an interesting interview with Krueger about the novel on this audible-edition - I like his explanation of the “ordinary grace” and the “awful” grace of God that binds the story together.
  • (4/5)
    I was not familiar with Krueger's books, but was drawn to this one because I grew up in small town Minnesota in the 50s and 60s and was intrigued by a story whose narrator was looking back on his 13th year and how it shaped his life. There were so many things that took me back to a Minnesota childhood -- tuna casserole and jello salad, Saturday night baths, 24" b/w TV, the Twins (Killebrew, Allison, and Lemon), frosty rootbeers, and the list goes on. The family dynamics and the nature of small town life and its inhabitants are well-developed. This is a very readable and realistic story of class structure, prejudices, family secrets and tragedies. I would highly recommend it. PS I do agree that it could have used some editing...there were occasional awkward sentence structures.
  • (4/5)
    Digital audio narrated by Rich Orlow. Adapted from the book jacket: New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder. Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family, he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years. My reactionsKrueger is best known for a series of mysteries set in Minnesota. Here he departs from that formula to write a stand-alone novel that explores issues of family loyalty, decency, and faith. The catalyst this particular summer is death – an accidental death, a natural death, a murder, a suicide. Through the Drum family we see how differently people react to death in this small town, where every person, related by blood or not, is somehow close to you and any death affects you. Frank’s father is the Methodist minister, a steady man who is looked up to and relied upon in the community. His mother is not the typical pastor’s wife; she’s artistic and passionate, and struggles to fit the role she’s been thrust into by her husband’s vocation. Younger brother Jake is nine years old and given to stuttering; he’s a keen observer and a good judge of character. Older sister Ariel is a talented musician, headed for Julliard, if she can bear to tear herself away from her steady beau, Karl Brandt. Karl is the scion of the Brandt family – “as near to royalty as you’d find in the Midwest” – and a star athlete in their high school. The rest of the characters are friends, neighbors and colleagues in the town, and all are as richly drawn as the Drums. Father Nathan relies on his training as a minister, remaining outwardly calm, despite sometimes being as devasted as someone could possibly be. Their mother tries to escape with her music or alcohol; she rales against the God her husband relies upon for comfort. Frank and Jake struggle to make sense of the tidbits they hear, of vignettes they witness, and of the people they feel they should (or should not) trust. Residents jump to one conclusion after another: “obviously” the Indian did it, or the hot-headed school bully, or …. The ending is satisfying without being pat. I feel sadness for the culprit, empathy for the victim’s family, and can only hope that I would also be given the grace to forgive were I to find myself in similar circumstances. I loved the relationship between the Drum brothers. I was ten years old the summer of 1961, my brother was seven, and we were free to roam our neighborhood and the nearby “woods,” exploring and learning. So this aspect of the book really resonated with me. This is the first book by Krueger that I’ve read. It will not be the last.Rich Orlow does a marvelous job voicing the audiobook. He has a great pace and is able to differentiate the many characters. I particularly liked how he portrayed Jake, Nathan, Lise and Gus.
  • (4/5)
    In a departure from his Cork O’Connor mystery series, Minnesota author William Kent Krueger tells the story of Frank, a preacher’s adolescent son, in his 2013 novel, Ordinary Grace. Through the haze of family life, Frank experiences firsthand about death and human failings in a small river town in 1961. Place, in this case the Minnesota River and its environs, is a significant element in Krueger’s writing. His father’s faith is communicated in preaching, eulogies, and counseling and stands as a counter point to learned stereotypes about wealth and poverty, marriage and sexuality, and exclusion. It’s a faith that calls him to refrain from hasty judgments, sometimes painfully so, as a series of deaths occur over the course of the summer. Frank’s understanding grows through loss and the pain of his own misjudgments. Thoughtfully written, the story trudges through the day to day and is given flight with a few moments of sheer joy and unaccustomed freedom.
  • (5/5)
    It's the summer of 1961, and thirteen-year-old Frank Drum is living in New Bremen, Minnesota, with his Methodist minister father, mother, older sister, and younger brother. The sister, Ariel, is a gifted young musician, and is bound for Julliard in the fall. Their brother, Jake, speaks with a stutter and so doesn't speak very much at all, but watches and listens and thinks. Ruth Drum, their mother, is a wonderful singer, an excellent music director--and not happy to be married to a minister. She thought she was marrying a hotshot young lawyer; then the war intervened and Nathan came home from the war headed for the ministry instead. Despite that disappointment, Ruth and Nathan have a loving and mutually supportive relationship, and cherish their children. It's an almost idyllic life.

    Then a young local boy, Bobby Cole, is found dead on the train tracks, and the police, who doubt he could have been so oblivious as to not hear the train coming, start asking questions. This is followed, much too soon, by Frank and Jake discovering a dead man near the tracks--with an old Indian sitting near the body, a presence they neglect to mention when reporting the body, the first of the summer's many lies.

    It also sets the tone for the summer, a series of deaths and questions, mysteries, and lies hiding what's really going on. Frank is crossing into manhood, learning the weaknesses as well as the strengths of his father, the family friend, church handyman, and town drunk Gus, the local cops. He discovers how observant and thoughtful his brother is, and the complexities of his family's relationship with a wealthy local family, the Brandts. Ariel is dating Karl Brandt, and taking music lessons from his uncle Emil, but their mother Ruth also has a past with him. And Jake is one of the few who can easily communicate with Emil's sister Lise, who is deaf and (as Frank, reflecting on events forty years later, realizes) probably autistic.

    Before summer is over, tragedy strikes the Drum family, and Frank struggles with the tragedy itself and the fear that it will break his family apart.

    This is a thoughtful, beautiful, moving book, a story of ordinary people coping with tragedy and reaching for God's grace.

    Highly recommended.