Ordinary Grace

This afternoon I read Ordinary Grace  by William Kent Krueger, a book that took me to a small town, New Bremen, Minnesota in 1961, where complex tragedy strikes a small family and ripples through the community in astonishing ways. Krueger is an author I’ve followed for many years, relishing my dozen or so visits to the place he knows so well, Minnesota, and with his part Irish, part Ojibwe Indian protagonist, Cork O’Connor.

Although I just recently discovered it, Ordinary Grace was first published in early 2014, and is a significantly different book than any of Krueger’s previous mystery series. Krueger says he wanted to explore another way of writing to explore the themes of loss, hope, faith, and the relationships people have. Although the richly colorful characters in this literary mystery all possess brokenness in either physical or emotional ways, we are guided by the protagonist, young Frank Drum, as he comes of age and eventually discovers that the sometimes-fragile thread of grace is always present, even in the face of his own profound loss.

Krueger notes that he felt the story came largely from outside himself, although parts are drawn from his own childhood experiences. “That there was so much brokenness surprised me, but we are all broken in some way. The task became to fit these people together into a not-perfect whole; sometimes that meant letting go and allowing the story to show me what it’s supposed to be.”

Twice, lightly in the beginning and in more depth at the end, he makes mention of the following quotation by Aeschylus, often called “the father or founder of tragedy.”

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.”                               ~
Aeschylus

In this context, awful grace sounds terrible—but is not—because, while tragedy is beyond our comprehension and seems terrible, enormous grace surrounds us all and is what accompanies us as we sojourn through the tragic parts of life.

One of my favorite parts of the book is this conversation between Warren Redstone, an Indian and  prime suspect for the murder of Frank’s young sister—and Frank Drum. The actual murderer has been identified and this conversation between the two men follows:

Redstone: “They’re never far from us, you know.”

Frank:        “Who?”

Redstone:  “The dead. No more than a breath. You let that last one go and you’re with them again.”

Later, Frank verbalizes this truth to himself: The dead are never far from us. They are in our hearts, in our minds, and in the end all that separates us from them is a single breath, one puff of air.

I found Ordinary Grace to be a treasure, one that has left me feeling filled with, well, grace. And that is not an ordinary gift.

 

Advertisements

About Mary Jo Doig

Mary Jo Doig was the first in her family to attend college and graduated from the State University at Oneonta in New York’s Catskill Mountains with a degree in Secondary English Education/Educational Psychology. There she fell in love with rural life, remained, and eventually transitioned from city girl to country woman when she married a dairy farmer and raised their three children on their small family farm. A life-long lover of reading and writing, Mary Jo has for nearly twenty years been a member of the Story Circle Network. There she has been an editor, a women’s writing circle facilitator, a book reviewer, and life-writing enthusiast, working extensively with women writing their life-stories while writing her own memoir. Presently, she is a three-time Program Chair for SCNs national Stories from the Heart conference and a board member. She also facilitates Older Women’s Legacy workshops and a women’s life-writing circle in her area communities. Her stories have appeared in Kitchen Table Stories anthology, Story Circle Annual Anthologies, and most recently her story “I Can’t Breathe” was published in the Anthology, Inside and Out: Women’s Truths, Women’s Stories. Her work also appears in varied blogs and periodicals, on her blog Musings from a Patchwork Quilt Life (https://maryjod.wordpress.com), Facebook, and Twitter. Her son and two daughters grown, Mary Jo presently treasures her country life in Virginia’s Central Shenandoah Valley. She loves cooking (and eating!) healthy food, reading, writing, quilting, hiking, and spending quality time with her rescue cats, Button and Xena, and beagle, Addie, who each dream of being only children. Her first book, Patchwork: A Memoir of Love and Loss, will be published in October, 2018 by She Writes Press.
This entry was posted in A Wonderful Book, Book Reviews, Childhood, Community, Compassion, Courage, Family, Grace, Kindness, Mystery, Peacefulness. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Ordinary Grace

  1. Oh no… your review is so powerful my Goodreads to be read list is getting longer.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mary Jo Doig says:

    I know how you feel about that list. I’m looking at the pile I brought home from the conference…. Ah well, it’s all good! 🙂

    Like

  3. cynthiabooks says:

    I’m going to read this book

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s