BKMT READING GUIDES

No.
14


 
Insightful,
Dramatic,
Inspiring

129 reviews

Ordinary Grace: A Novel
by William Kent Krueger

Published: 2014-03-04
Paperback : 336 pages
219 members reading this now
349 clubs reading this now
86 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 129 of 129 members
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
WINNER OF THE 2014 EDGAR AWARD FOR BEST NOVEL
WINNER OF THE 2014 DILYS AWARD
A SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL BEST BOOK OF 2013

“That was it. That was all of it. A grace so ordinary there was no reason at all to remember it. Yet I have never across the forty years since it ...
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Introduction

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
WINNER OF THE 2014 EDGAR AWARD FOR BEST NOVEL
WINNER OF THE 2014 DILYS AWARD
A SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL BEST BOOK OF 2013

“That was it. That was all of it. A grace so ordinary there was no reason at all to remember it. Yet I have never across the forty years since it was spoken forgotten a single word.”

New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson’s Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. 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—which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother—he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years.

Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.

Editorial Review

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Excerpt

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Discussion Questions

1. Discuss the final revelation of Ariel’s whereabouts. Had you guessed correctly?

2. Much of Frank and Jake’s knowledge comes from overhearing and snooping. Which instance of eavesdropping provided them with the heaviest, most important information? Is there a particular overheard conversation that led most directly to the loss of their childhood innocence?

3. Along those same lines, in what ways have the two boys been transformed by story’s end?

4. Who is ultimately responsible for the death of Karl Brandt?

5. A number of characters carry secrets that eventually come to light. Was there a certain catharsis once they were able to unload the truth? Did it do them any good? Consider especially Frank’s father, whose deeds in the war remained a mystery. Is there some merit to carrying the burden of a secret alone?

6. Though the title of the novel refers to a particular “ordinary grace,” what other small graces did you find in the book?

7. Why does Ruth leave her family? Do you think she was truly mad at Nathan? At God? Discuss the ways in which she and the other characters deal with their grief over Ariel.

8. Do you agree with Frank’s insight in the epilogue that, “there is no such thing as a true event?” What makes a story real? How do we deal with varying perspectives and reflections of history?

9. Do you think Frank had a responsibility to tell Emil about Lise? Was there merit to Jake’s argument that her fenced-in estate was prison enough?

10. Do you forgive Emil for his moment of indiscretion? Is he in some way to blame for everything that happened in New Bremen?

11. Frank and Jake often make a case to come along to the sheriff’s office, crime scenes, and pivotal confrontations during the upheaval in New Bremen. Should they have been allowed to bear witness to these things? Should children be shielded from the occasional darkness of adult life?

12. What do you make of Gus? Is he in some ways the backbone (though not a true relative) of the Drum family?

13. Do you agree with the sentiment of the older Warren Redstone? Is it true that the departed are never far from us?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Tragedy and controversy will occasionally befall a small town like New Bremen. Has something similar ever happened in your town? Discuss the details of that incident, and how/if it changed things for you.

2. Much of our perspective in Ordinary Grace comes through Frank and Jake’s by-foot travels throughout town, through the hidden passages and remote clearings. Make a similar journey through your own neighborhood. What places are ripe for a secret? Where can you go for peace and meditation?

3. List and discuss the ordinary graces and miracles you’ve experienced. How do small moments help us deal with larger-than-life trouble?

4. Read any one of the novels in William Kent Krueger’s Cork O’Connor mystery series and discuss how the suspense of the Minnesota that O’Connor inhabits compares to the more pastoral mystery of the Drum family.

Suggested by Members

We utilized the readers questions sent by Book Movement - appreciated it.
by LadyD918 (see profile) 12/02/16

Discuss what 'ordinary grace' means - in the book and to each member.
by rmreader (see profile) 11/15/16

A father changing his vocation from a lawyer to a minister with what effect on his family?
What children should be allowed to see and hear before they may be ready to understand.
How some deaths can affect a family and even a community.
by smokey1 (see profile) 05/19/16

How does each character's religious faith affect his/her actions?
by carolkaskin (see profile) 04/29/16

Grace What is grace and where does it appear in the book
Awful. What is meant by the term awful grace
Ordinary what makes the grace in this book ordinary
by debi123c (see profile) 02/21/16

Book has list of discussion topics in back of it
by DThomas (see profile) 09/29/15

There are many types of stereotypes that occur in this book. Discuss these stereotypes and how they created conflict in the story.
How would the story have ended if Frank had not reported Lise.
by ccroft78248 (see profile) 07/07/15

Train tracks, faith, childhood freedom, small towns, secrets, regrets
by bookmoot (see profile) 05/14/15

Make sure you know the "ordinary graces" God gives us versus "the awful Grace of God."
by CarolynChapman (see profile) 03/18/15

What was Ariel about
What about the Indian and his significance
by sedonasue1 (see profile) 02/13/15

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

Dennis Lehane

“A pitch-perfect, wonderfully evocative examination of violent loss. In Frank Drum's journey away from the shores of childhood—a journey from which he can never return—we recognize the heartbreaking price of adulthood and it's 'wisdoms.' I loved this book.”

Huffington Post

“Once in a blue moon a book drops down on your desk that demands to be read. You pick it up and read the first page, and then the second, and you are hooked. Such a book is Ordinary Grace…This is a book that makes the reader feel better just by having been exposed to the delights of the story. It will stay with you for quite some time and you will always remember it with a smile.”

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by sldavis515@gmail.com (see profile) 08/18/17

 
by kcmednick1@gmail.com (see profile) 08/17/17

 
by silhanek@comcast.net (see profile) 08/16/17

 
  "Ordinary Grace"by curlytop (see profile) 07/19/17

Beautiful story of forgiveness in light of tangled relationships, small town prejudices and tragic losses. Flawed characters and flawed perceptions abound but it is still insightful? and inspirational.... (read more)

 
  "Grace"by Anita7 (see profile) 07/19/17

Do not assume you know someone!

 
by cpoole@meigslibrary.org (see profile) 06/28/17

 
  "Ordinary Grace"by gandskraayeveld@gmail.com (see profile) 06/27/17

Worth reading!

 
  "Beautifully Written, Small Town Story"by phesselbart (see profile) 06/27/17

Some of our members thought it was sad; but most enjoyed Krueger's wonderful prose and the tender relationships between the characters. We had a great discussion using the questions from the Book Movement... (read more)

 
  "Wonderful coming of age story"by kimloves2read (see profile) 06/15/17

I liked the story and the characters. I figured out the mystery about part way through the telling. I thought the writing was well done and you really felt for the characters. Sometimes their story got... (read more)

 
  "Ordinary Grace"by Nschulte (see profile) 05/13/17

This story centered on two young boys' coming of age in the early sixties, in a rural Midwest town that experiences mysterious deaths. It is a captivating narrative and very well written character study... (read more)

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