Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

salt-to-the-sea“Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.” – Goodreads

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys is a woeful and fictional depiction of the true story of the world’s most disastrous maritime tragedy known to man.

In 1945, near the end of World War II, four youth from different war-torn countries and of different backgrounds converge on a frozen path, intent on traveling to board a ship – the ill-fated Wilhelm Gustloff – bound for Kiel, Germany, where they are purported to be safe from Stalin and his army, who are pursuing them. What follows is the largest maritime disaster and loss of life in recorded history

Joana is a compassionate and knowledgeable nurse from Lithuania who brands herself a murderer as she grieves for her lost cousin and family. Emilia has been fleeing the Russian troops since she left Poland and is harboring a precious secret under her coat. Florian is a Prussian art restorer who is enacting his vengeance upon the Reich as he travels undercover. Alfred is an SS officer and sailor who maniacally worships Hitler and fantasizes about proving his heroism to the world at large.

Through the voices of these four young narrators, Salt to the Sea reveals to readers the calamitous tale of the Wilhelm Gustloff – which, despite the loss of over 9,000 lives when it sank at the hands of Russian torpedoes, is to this day a much overlooked tragedy in maritime history. This enormous pit of loss, horror, and despair is where Salt to the Sea is at its best. The fear and hopelessness of these characters is palpable, as is their will to survive and continue on toward salvation and a better life. It is easy to feel their grief and guilt for those they were forced to leave behind, and for those who died along the way during the long, hard trek.

It is quite clear that Sepetys was meticulous and exhaustive when it came to her research. The content of this novel meant much to her – one need only to read her touching Author’s Note at the end of the novel for proof. Unfortunately, I found that I was unable to forge an emotional connection with the novel, nor did I form any sort of attachment to one or more of the characters. The structure of the book was short and choppy, with each chapter only a few pages or less – this isn’t always a problem for me, however, with four separate narrators it cut short the time spent with each character and put me at a disadvantage when it came to forging a relationship with anyone.

Salt to the Sea is definitely a novel worth reading, if not for any other reason than this is a haunting tale that needs to be told to the masses.  The horror and tragedy of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, the enormity of the impact on the people who were kicked out of their homes and forced to trek so many miles through vicious snow and low temperatures, and the fate of so many who were a part of Operation Hannibal as they attempted to escape the Eastern Front press of the Russian army are things that must not fall by the wayside of our awareness.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys – Read it today!

3 stars

Source: Lincoln City Libraries

11/22/63 by Stephen King

11-22-63“Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away…but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke… Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten…and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.” – Goodreads

Holy Mother of Sweet Baby Jesus.

Hands down, BEST book I’ve read this year.

Sorry, David Joy (I promise you came in at a close second).

I was a Stephen King fan back when I was in middle school. In my first year of high school, I read It, which scared the crap out of me. Beyond words. And that, my friends, was the end of me and horror novels. I broke up with Stephen King lickety-split, I will tell you what. Swore him off fo-eva, y’all.

But people would not shut up about 11/22/63. So, I bought it for my Kindle Paperwhite. Back in, oh, January of 2013. And there it sat, on my Kindle bookshelf, for two years. Taunting me, daring me, threatening me with visions of 849 pages of possibly creepy science-fiction-y boredom… Oh, how wrong I was. How. Wrong. I. Was.

Along with all of the accolades, ultimately the premise of this book was just too good to pass up. At the urging of my MomAdvice Book Club, I gritted my teeth and dug in. And I’m ever so glad that I did. There is so much to this novel that it is difficult to craft a concise summary about it. It is nothing like the Stephen King novels I read oh so many years ago. Those who enjoy historical fiction, particularly those with an interest in 60’s history – and maybe a side interest in sci-fi – will enjoy this book.

And, y’all, this is no joke – I flew threw all 849 pages of this novel – absolutely captivating, I tell you. King quite obviously researched the hell out of the time period he was writing about – details, details, details. His writing was simply flawless. I was a bit concerned that at some point, perhaps near the end of the book, that things would take a bend toward the science fiction side of things and ruin the beauty of this work – and while it did rear its head, it wasn’t in a bad way at all. Y’all, I am not lying when I tell you that I loved everything about 11/22/63. Except the fact that it ended. Boo-hoo for me.

11/22/63 by Stephen King. Read it today!

5 stars

Source: Personal Library {Kindle Paperwhite}

The Thunder of Giants by Joel Fishbane

the-thunder-of-giants“Mixing the eccentricity of the circus world and the heart of a love story, The Thunder of Giants is a warm and engaging debut about two exceptional women — both almost 8-feet tall

The year is 1937 and Andorra Kelsey – 7’11 and just under 320 pounds – is on her way to Hollywood to become a star. Hoping to escape both poverty and the ghost of her dead husband, she accepts an offer from the wily Rutherford Simone to star in a movie about the life of Anna Swan, the Nova Scotia giantess who toured the world in the 19th century.

Thus, Anna Swan’s story unfurls. Where Andorra is seen as a disgrace by an embarrassed family, Anna Swan is quickly celebrated for her unique size. Drawn to New York, Anna becomes a famed attraction at P.T. Barnum’s American Museum even as she falls in love with Gavin Clarke, a veteran of the Civil War. Quickly disenchanted with a life of fame, Anna struggles to prove to Gavin – and the world – that she is more than the sum of her measurements.

The Thunder of Giants blends fact and fiction in a sweeping narrative that spans nearly a hundred years. Against the backdrop of epic events, two extraordinary women become reluctant celebrities in the hopes of surviving a world too small to contain them.” – Publisher’s Summary

Born in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia in 1846, Anna Swan was a real-life “giantess” who eventually reached a height of nearly 8 feet tall. At the age of seventeen she travelled to New York where she lived and performed in P.T. Barnum’s famous museum; during this time she was reacquainted with childhood friend Gavin Clarke who had been injured while fighting in the Civil War. Anna made a great deal of money during her time with P.T. Barnum, however, after two separate fires destroyed the museum, she embarked on tours of Europe and the United States. While touring, she married a former Confederate Captain (from the Civil War) who was also a “giant.” After retiring from show business, the two attempted to have children, but both were so large that they died within hours or days of their births. Sadly, Anna died of Tuberculosis one day before her 42nd birthday.

In Joel Fishbane’s debut novel, The Thunder of Giants, he weaves together Anna Swan’s real-life story with a fictional account of Andorra Kelsey’s life – Andorra Kelsey being another “giantess” living in 1937 Detroit and weighing in at 7’11” and 320 pounds. Andorra, her three children, and her aging father are living in near-poverty while grieving the recent death of husband, father, and son-in-law Nicholas Kelsey. Discovered walking down the street by down-and-out talent scout Rutherford Simone, Andorra is convinced to travel to Hollywood – to star in a movie about the life of legendary giantess Anna Swan.

anna-swanIn this way the two women’s lives are brought together. Each chapter alternates between Anna’s life, Andorra’s past, and Andorra’s present experiences in Hollywood. As the history – and present – of each woman unfurls, their lives hurtle closer and closer together until they meet in a way most unexpected. Fishbane collects a delightful cast of characters to surround Andorra and while her life is difficult and she experiences tragedy, he also brings to her love, laughter, and hope. Fishbane also does a wonderful job of respectfully bringing Anna Swan’s story (Anna Swan is pictured on your left) to life in these pages, avoiding the type of sensationalism that often accompanies those who are quite so “different.”

I found The Thunder of Giants to be an enjoyable read. It didn’t keep me sitting on the edge of my seat or rushing through dinner to get back to reading, however, it did sufficiently interest me. There is a bit of a mystery surrounding the death of Andorra’s husband – in the beginning of her story, she claims to have killed him but doesn’t explain how – that unfolds near the very end. I was mostly intrigued, however,  by Anna and was even encouraged to do a bit more research on her life and experiences .

The Thunder of Giants is a charming and engaging tale of two women – one real and one fictional – that will tug on your heartstrings, bring a chuckle to your lips, and perhaps even a tear to your eye a time or two. If you’re up for that, then go and get you some, y’all.

At the end of this post is a video about Anna Swan and The Thunder of Giants by Joel Fishbane.

The Thunder of Giants by Joel Fishbane: On sale now!

3 stars

Source: St. Martin’s Press {via NetGalley}


At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

at-the-waters-edge“In her stunning new novel, Gruen returns to the kind of storytelling she excelled at in Water for Elephants: a historical timeframe in an unusual setting with a moving love story. Think Scottish Downton Abbey.

After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father, a former army Colonel who is already embarrassed by his son’s inability to serve in WWII due to his being colorblind. To Maddie’s horror, Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and when he finds it he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces (and pocketbook).

Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war. Each day the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. And Maddie, now alone in a foreign country, must begin to figure out who she is and what she wants. The novel tells of Maddie’s social awakening: to the harsh realities of life, to the beauties of nature, to a connection with forces larger than herself, to female friendship, and finally, to love.” – Goodreads

As a fan of Sara Gruen (before Water for Elephants, thank you very much), of course I was first in line when I learned of her newest novel, At the Water’s Edge (March, 2015). Praying that I would not be disappointed, I greedily began devouring her words – and things came to a grinding halt. It. Was. So. Sloooow. My heart broke. I gnashed my teeth. I very nearly wept, y’all. No way could I not like this book – it was Sara Gruen! How could she disappoint me?! Well, thankfully, she didn’t. Once I calmed down and continued reading further, things changed. More than changed – they bloomed. Bloomed into a gorgeous novel full of life, love, loss and the courage to grow.

When Maddie Hyde and her husband, Ellis, embarrass his socialite parents at the New Year’s Eve party of 1942, they are kicked out of their home and cut off financially. Ellis and his best friend, Hank, who are both unable to serve in the War due to medical reasons, decide to make their way across the U-Boat-filled Atlantic to Scotland to hunt the one and only Loch Ness monster – dragging behind them a protesting Maggie. Arriving to a cold welcome (Ellis’s father had preceded him in his own search years before and had not left a good impression on the locals), Ellis and Hank continue to alienate the inn staff and other locals with their drinking, carousing, and Ellis’s mistreatment of Maggie.

During her time at the inn while Ellis and Hank are off hunting Nellie, Maggie is busy going through a transformation: from meek, spineless and whiny, dependent on Ellis and Hank as her only friends,  to independent-thinking and strong-willed, growing close to staff at the inn as well as other locals. When a quiet yet desperate love begins to bloom between Maddie and the innkeeper, things get even more complicated as Ellis threatens to have her lobotomized for her noticeably defiant behavior of late (no joke, y’all!).

Did At the Water’s Edge live up to the fabulousness that is Ape House or Water for Elephants? No, not really. But it is itself an enchanting and romantic read with a guaranteed happy ending that will leave readers with a smile on their faces. Go and get you some, y’all.

At The Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen: On sale now!

4 stars

Source: Random House/Spiegel & Grau {via NetGalley}

The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M.J. Rose

the-witch-of-painted-sorrows“Possession. Power. Passion. New York Times bestselling novelist M. J. Rose creates her most provocative and magical spellbinder yet in this gothic novel set against the lavish spectacle of 1890s Belle Époque Paris.

Sandrine Salome flees New York for her grandmother’s Paris mansion to escape her dangerous husband, but what she finds there is even more menacing. The house, famous for its lavish art collection and elegant salons, is mysteriously closed up. Although her grandmother insists it’s dangerous for Sandrine to visit, she defies her and meets Julien Duplessi, a mesmerizing young architect. Together they explore the hidden night world of Paris, the forbidden occult underground and Sandrine’s deepest desires.

Among the bohemians and the demi-monde, Sandrine discovers her erotic nature as a lover and painter. Then darker influences threaten—her cold and cruel husband is tracking her down and something sinister is taking hold, changing Sandrine, altering her. She’s become possessed by La Lune: A witch, a legend, and a sixteenth-century courtesan, who opens up her life to a darkness that may become a gift or a curse.

This is Sandrine’s “wild night of the soul,” her odyssey in the magnificent city of Paris, of art, love, and witchery.” – Goodreads

Taking a turn away from her Reincarnationist series of the last few years, M.J. Rose has turned out a haunting new standalone novel for 2015: The Witch of Painted Sorrows. Staking her claim – once again – as one of the masters of romantic suspense, Rose weaves together romance, the supernatural and occult, and a dash of eroticism to create a sinister and spicy tale of love and fear in 1890’s Paris.

After the death of her father – for which she blames her own cold and cruel husband – Sandrine Salome flees in secrecy to Paris, seeking refuge with her beloved grandmother. She arrives, however, to find that many changes have taken place in her grandmother’s world – and that not all will be as she had expected. As she investigates, Sandrine embarks on a journey of self-discovery that will mercilessly thrust her into the world of occult-ridden Belle Epoque Paris. Experiencing changes she never expected, Sandrine begins having thoughts and urges that aren’t her own. But where are these unsettling feelings coming from? Things become more and more clear as she delves deeper into her family history and moves forward into a future of independence and power.

I don’t want to share too many details of the novel here; it would be easy to tell you the whole stinking story in just a few sentences. You’ll need to experience that for yourself, if you choose. As a fan of Rose’s Jac L’Etoile novels, I was familiar with her writing style and The Witch of Painted Sorrows did hold my interest as I read it, however, it’s not really  my style. I’m not really a “romance” or “supernatural” fan and don’t see myself turning into one anytime soon. That said, it is rumored that this novel is the first in a series, and if this is true then there is a good chance I’d read the next one to be published (I’m nothing if not thorough, y’all).

Oh, yes, I mentioned that this novel is somewhat erotic… Um, yeah. There is sex. Graphic sex. This is not my thing. I’m a total prude (let’s not even talk about when my BFF made me read the Fifty Shades trilogy). Not that I don’t approve, or that I think it’s inappropriate in any way – there’s nothing wrong with it at all; sex scenes just gross me out. They didn’t used to; it started a little over ten years ago. No idea why. I just cringe and gag and skip over the pages to the next part. Maybe it’s a Mom thing…? So… FYI, y’all. Be prepared.

Would I buy this book? Not for myself – but I would purchase it for a friend who was into the genre. Totally worth your time if this is your thang. Go and get you some!

The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M.J. Rose: On Sale Now!

3 stars

Source: Atria Books {via NetGalley}

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

kindred“Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.” – Goodreads

After I finished reading Kindred by the late Octavia E. Butler, I was surprised to learn that not only was it not a recent release, but that it was actually published in 1979. Furthermore, I learned that its author classified its genre as Science Fiction. Feel free to call me biased; I would never have expected to connect with this book the way I did had I known it’s genre and publishing date. But connect I did, and in a profound way.

I don’t want to go into the content of the tale too much beyond the book summary posted above this review, in fear of including spoilers. I’ll admit that it was a bit of a stretch for me to crack open a “historical fiction” novel that included time travel – definitely not my usual sort of thing. Yet Butler does not attempt to explain the details or mechanics of the time travel in Kindred, in fact it is but a small detail of the larger story she is trying to tell; the time travel simply playing the role of allowing the tale to unfold. Instead,  Butler seems to be approaching a different question: How would a modern day person – Black or White – react if they were thrown back into the darkest days of slavery? How would he/she survive? What could they learn? And most importantly, how would their perception of these times change after personally living there?

A rich tale of love, gender, race, and responsibility, this harrowing and emotional read is also a fast-moving and action-packed novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat. When I wasn’t reading Kindred, I was thinking about it; counting the minutes until I could get back to it and read it until the very end. This was difficult to read at times because of the blatant look at the violence and tragedy of slavery, but I do believe that opening readers’ eyes to these things is a part of what Butler had intended. She is an expert at communicating knowledge through story, and I know that am better for what I read and learned in this novel. Highly recommended.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler: Read it today!

4.5 stars

Source: Lincoln City Libraries

Library Love: March 17, 2015


Library Love is a recurring post in which I share the weekly bounty from my public libraries.




Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, y’all! As you can see, we’ve got our green goin’ on today – how about you? I had to run out last night to buy The Boy & I Shamrock shirts for today so we would be pinch-proof. Other than that we don’t actually do much around here to celebrate the holiday (although you should check out my Pinterest Board for some fun ideas) but it’s always nice to at least dress the part. Not that anyone actually sees us since we homeschool, but at least we know we’re complying with the Irish Holiday bylaws! I found some awesome reads last week at the libraries, y’all – I’ve already cracked open a couple of them and cannot wait to get to the rest. Let’s take a look:


I will say that I’ve already read Kindred and Speak, and they were both great novels, particularly Speak. Very powerful stuff, y’all. God Don’t Like Ugly is a novel I tried to read about ten years ago but never finished (for some unknown reason) so now it’s time for Round #2! I’ve had The Paying Guests on hold for a long, long time and it’s finally my turn – woo-hoo! A Goodreads friend rated Finding Jake very highly, so I have high hopes for it. I’ve also heard great things about T. Geronimo Johnson, so Hold It ‘Til It Hurts will hopefully be a winner, as well. It looks like I’m up to my eyeballs with books this week so I’d better get crackin’. Happy Reading, y’all!

Do you do anything to celebrate good ‘ol Saint Patrick’s Day? Share below!

The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell by William Klaber

the-rebellion-of-miss-lucy-ann-lobdell“The riveting true story of Lucy Lobdell, who, in 1855, left her home and family, cut her hair, changed clothes, and went off to live her life as a man. By the time it was over, she was notorious.

At a time when women did not commonly travel unescorted, carry a rifle, sit down in bars, or have romantic liaisons with other women, Lucy Lobdell boldly set forth to earn men’s wages. Lucy Lobdell did all of these things in a personal quest to work and be paid, to wear what she wanted, and love whomever she cared to. But to gain those freedoms she had to endure public scorn and wrestle with a sexual identity whose vocabulary had yet to be invented. In this riveting historical novel, William Klaber captures the life of a brave woman who saw well beyond her era.

This is the fictionalized account of Lucy’s foray into the world of men and her inward journey to a new sexual identity. It is her promised memoir as hear and recorded a century later by William Klaber, an upstream neighbor. Meticulously researched and told with compassion and respect, this is historical fiction at its best.” – Goodreads

The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell is a fictional novel. Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell, however, was a very real woman. Allow me to explain. Author William Klaber, a part-time journalist, took artistic license to tell the true story of Miss Lobdell, who in 1855 left her family and child behind, cut her hair and donned men’s clothing, and struck out to live life as a man – as Joseph Israel Lobdell, to be exact. What followed was a journey of self-discovery, discrimination, pioneering, successes and failures, and the development of an entirely new sexual identity for Lucy/Joseph.

The tale Klaber weaves is gleaned from actual letters, newspapers, and other historical documents passed on to him from a local historian in upstate New York. He obviously performed meticulous research and worked hard to stay true to the Lucy/Joseph he met that way. Says Klaber,

“It has taken a long time for her voice to ring true in my head. Someone else might go into the forest and hear a different voice, but this is Lucy’s story as I have heard her tell it.”

Indeed, with this novel, Klaber has given us a rare gift. So little written history is found regarding women both great and small (this brings to mind a short story collection I am currently reading, Almost Famous Women – Joseph Lobdell could well have been included in its pages). Furthermore, the respect – and yes, even love – Klaber treats his subject with comes through as one reads each page leaving readers with a reverence for Lobdell all their own.

In an age where marriage and gender equity have made enormous progress, and the rights of transgender individuals have some protections (although not nearly enough), The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell gives us an enlightening view of what life was like in earlier days for those who first bravely broke the mold and blazed a trail for future generations. Highly recommended.

The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell by William Klaber: Read it today!

4 stars

Source: Free Library of Philadelphia

Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique

land-of-love-and-drowning“A major debut from an award-winning writer—an epic family saga set against the magic and the rhythms of the Virgin Islands.

In the early 1900s, the Virgin Islands are transferred from Danish to American rule, and an important ship sinks into the Caribbean Sea. Orphaned by the shipwreck are two sisters and their half brother, now faced with an uncertain identity and future. Each of them is unusually beautiful, and each is in possession of a particular magic that will either sink or save them.

Chronicling three generations of an island family from 1916 to the 1970s, Land of Love and Drowning is a novel of love and magic, set against the emergence of Saint Thomas into the modern world. Uniquely imagined, with echoes of Toni Morrison, Gabriel García Márquez, and the author’s own Caribbean family history, the story is told in a language and rhythm that evoke an entire world and way of life and love. Following the Bradshaw family through sixty years of fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, love affairs, curses, magical gifts, loyalties, births, deaths, and triumphs, Land of Love and Drowning is a gorgeous, vibrant debut by an exciting, prizewinning young writer.” – Goodreads

The year is 1917 and the Virgin Islands have  just been transferred from Danish control to become a part of America. The Bradshaw family, along with the rest of the inhabitants of the Islands, are swept up in the excitement and change, but they have no idea of just how much change is coming their way. Captain Bradshaw, who has spent his life on the sea, is soon claimed by that same sea when his ship breaches a coral reef. Orphaned by the shipwreck are two young sisters and their estranged half-brother, each of whom possesses an unusual beauty, as well as a touch of magic that will factor importantly in their lives.

Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique possesses the kind of storytelling that slowly weaves a spell around you until you are fully entranced and committed to this tale. Combining fantasy and fiction with historical events, Yanique carries readers on a wave of magic and reality. Brought into play are such momentous events as WWII and the Civil Rights Movement (both in the U.S. and the U.S. V.I.).This powerful family saga also manages to explore the rich history of the Caribbean islands and the people who live and love there.

Land of Love and Drowning is a powerful and absorbing novel that brings to readers the question of whether we can escape the events destiny has planned for us, or if we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of our ancestors before us. Yanique’s writing is imbued with a magic all its own as she masterfully pulls us inside the world of the Bradshaws and their home in the lush and magical Virgin Islands. For those who appreciate highly literary fiction, this is definitely the read for you.

Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique: Read it today!

3.5 stars

Source: Free Library of Philadelphia



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Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

ordinary-grace“From New York Times bestselling author William Kent Krueger comes a brilliant new novel about a young man, a small town, and murder in the summer of 1961.

New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were at the ready at Halderson’s Drug Store soda counter, 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 summer in which death assumed many forms.

When tragedy unexpectedly comes to call on his family, which includes his Methodist minister father, his passionate, artistic mother, Juilliard-bound older sister, and wise-beyond-his years kid brother, Frank finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal.

On the surface, Ordinary Grace is the story of the murder of a beautiful young woman, a beloved daughter and sister. At heart, it’s the story of what that tragedy does to a boy, his family, and ultimately the fabric of the small town in which he lives. Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, it is a 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.” – Goodreads

In 1961, Frank Drum was living in a small town in Minnesota with his parents and two siblings. His older sister, Ariel, was a music prodigy who was headed to Julliard at the end of the season; his younger brother, Jake, suffered with a terrible stutter. Frank’s father was a Methodist minister; his mother a homemaker who did not share her husband’s love for the church. During this fateful summer, Frank was thirteen years old and at that age when he was still exploring exactly who he was, and anxious to prove his manhood to others. This tale is narrated by Frank – forty years later – as he looks back upon the summer that changed him irrevocably and, in fact, did cause him to grow up a bit faster than expected. During that summer of 1961, four deaths occurred – one of which shook Frank and his family to the core.

Despite all of the tragedy and the inherent mystery that follows, Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger is assuredly not a murder/crime thriller. This definitely leans more toward the literary fiction side of the scale, for it is about so much more than the tragedies of the novel. It’s about survival and moving on, and doing it with grace and strength. It is about the strength of the family unit in times of crisis. It’s about how those who are considered to be weak are beaten down, yet fight to remain standing. It’s about choosing to face life head-on, or hiding from it behind closed doors.

Krueger’s rich and evocative writing style paints a detailed picture in the reader’s mind. His loving and vivid descriptions of Minnesota bring you right there. He writes a heart and soul into each of his characters that brings them to life in our minds. Ordinary Grace won the Edgar Award for Best Novel in 2014 {,as well as the 2014 Dilys Award} and in my opinion it was definitely deserved, for this is a novel that is far from ordinary. Go and get you some, y’all!

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger: Read it today!

4 stars

Source: Free Library of Philadelphia



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