The Whodunit book group met for the first time at R.J. Julia in Madison, CT on Wednesday evening. There were five of us and we discussed William Kent Krueger’s Ordinary Grace, winner of the 2014 Edgar Award for Best Novel.
Ordinary Grace is a story told by a middle aged man about the summer of 1961 when he was 13 and death visited his small town in Minnesota not once, but three times.
We all enjoyed the book and agreed that it was the coming of age story & time period that captivated us more than the mystery/mysteries of the book. We actually thought some of the mystery aspects of the story, particularly how Frank came to his realizations about murder suspects, were some of the weaker aspects of the writing. (And by ‘weaker’ I don’t mean ‘bad,’ these moments in the story simply were not on par with the rest of the writing, which is excellent.) That said, it is a good mystery and the characters are all wonderfully drawn.
I didn’t grow up in a small town, but the urban neighborhood I grew up in had the same atmosphere as the New Bremen, MN created by Krueger: kids out by themselves all day, playing ball, playing on the train tracks, getting into trouble, getting out of scrapes, negotiating bullies, trying to make sense of adults, etc. Thankfully, I never stumbled on a dead body in my neighborhood.
While reading Ordinary Grace another novel hovered in the back of my mind: To Kill A Mockingbird. I read TKAM decades ago as a teen in high school, and the flavor of that classic has stayed with me all these years. I wasn’t surprised to learn that TKAM is one of Krueger’s favorite novels.
Ordinary Grace is a beautiful book, full of nostalgia for a time gone by and a way of life that for most of us no longer exists. There are also interesting reflections on the after effects of war, how people cope with loss & grief, and how the temperaments of adults shape children. I highly recommend it to both mystery lovers and literary fiction readers for the sense of place, character development, and exploration of relationships.
You can read the first chapter on Krueger’s website–click here.
William Kent Krueger
Source: bought it