Ordinary Grace

4 stars

This was the July book for my book club. I’ve never read this author before, but I really enjoyed his writing and will definitely read more of his books. This book is written about one fateful summer in the life of 13 year old Frank Drum who lived in New Bremen, MN in 1961. The book is told from his perspective 40 years after the events.

Frank’s father is a Methodist minister. His musically talented mother is not thrilled with her husband being a minister. His sister just graduated high school and is set to attend Julliard in the fall. His intelligent and insightful 10 year old brother Jake has a stuttering problem and is his best friend. While not a blood relative, Frank’s father’s wartime buddy, Gus, is also an unofficial member of the family, and plays the part of favorite uncle to Frank and Jake.

Frank and Jake start out the summer spending their free time playing with their friends and generally being curious young boys. Frank’s boredom with life in their small town is set to change after the death of a young classmate. Suddenly, Frank’s small town faces instances of betrayal, secret exposed, accidents, suicides and murders, and Frank aims to get to the bottom of it all.

I really enjoyed the relationship between Frank and his younger brother. Even though Frank often expresses exacerbation with Jake wanting to always tag along, Frank always lets him. There are many times when Frank has the opportunity to treat Jake badly, make fun of him, not stand up for him, etc, but Frank always has his brother’s back, even when he’s mad at him. That fierce love and protection that Frank demonstrates toward Jake is wonderful to read. Jake is usually quiet, unless he has something important to say. He is able to get to the heart of the matter each time Frank seems to stumble, and to Frank’s credit, he accepts Jake’s insights.

The author does a wonderful job of describing the stoic, quiet manner of Frank’s father. Frank’s father keeps his calm demeanor and faith, even in the face of indescribable grief when tragedy strikes. He truly finds strength in his belief in God, and shares that belief and strength with others. The community reacts much as you would expect a small town to react to tragic events, although there are moments when the town surprises Frank’s family.

It’s hard to say too much more about the book because it will spoil it for you. Suffice to say, this is a lovely book that unfolds slowly. It’s an easy read and I had a hard time putting it down. I highly recommend you read this book.