Ordinary Grace

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger was my bookclub’s July selection. Here’s my Goodreads review:

I enjoyed reading this book, was appropriately moved at the appropriate times. I gave it 4 stars, but it wasn’t a great book and I’m thinking it won’t stick with me. Looking forward to the book club discussion of it. Small midwestern town setting, a coming of age tale for the narrator, a story line to keep your interest, and some observations on society to keep you thinking. Still there were times that it felt contrived and I wasn’t completely sold on the characters.

It’s probably actually more of a 3 star book for me, but I did enjoy reading it. It was the perfect companion on the flights to Seattle and back. Book club met last night, and, as usual, I wasn’t actually able to pull together my thoughts on the book in the moment. So here’s my “upon further reflection…”

Plot: The plot was fine, well-paced, very foreshadowed, yet still with some interesting twists and turns. It made for very enjoyable reading, yet it was just a little too contrived for my taste. This was my loudest and most oft-repeated analysis of the book, which hardly adds much to a book discussion. I really need to learn articulate my thoughts better.

Characters: The characters were a mixed bag, but for the most part I found them believable, albeit a tad one-dimensional. The social issue subplots that I found most compelling were character-driven. PTSD, autism, race, class, and other “differences” were each conveniently ascribed to different characters. So, yes, contrived, but it worked. They were all just matter-of-factly part of the story. We could have pulled each of those “issues” out and dissected how the author dealt with them, but we didn’t.

Writing: Although one of our members found it annoyingly over-written, the rest of us didn’t feel that way. For the most part, I found that the descriptions added to the time and place of the novel. I liked the midwest feel of the novel. Anytime a book is set in Minnesota and the phrase “covered dish” is used, I am happy. I had more of an issue with a couple of plot points and character statements that I found just wrong; things that I think an editor should have caught. They weren’t glaring enough to diminish my enjoyment of the book, nor prominent enough that I could rifle thru the book and find them during the meeting.

And another thing: I always enjoy how different people like and don’t like different things about a book (yay bookclubs!). One member questioned the actual possibility of something that occurred in the book. It was confirmed that it could pretty much never happen like that in real life. Here’s the thing: the narrator of the tale says point-blank that this was “the miracle I’d been hoping for.” I’m OK with people believing in miracles. Especially in books. I mean, I don’t believe zombies are real either, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy a book about zombies. (There are other reasons why I couldn’t enjoy a book about zombies, which we somehow did talk about last night, wtf.)

Do I recommend it? Sure. But it won’t make your top books of the year list.

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