Frank recalls the memories of the summer in 1961 when he was a thirteen-year-old boy in a small town of New Bremen, Minnesota. The story is narrated by Frank forty years after, looking back at that particular summer which visited by frequent deaths in various forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.
I love stories set in unusual small towns, where the town itself feels like a character, with its own history and mood. There is always a mixed bag of colourful characters, and they live in a simple life but interesting in a different manner. And everyone has their personal struggle or complicated past that they need to deal with. Frank, who is just 13 years old at that time, still trying to grasp the adult world and do his best to become one.
As a son of a Methodist minister, Frank is always torn between innocent mischief and religion. His innocent simplicity which is unavoidable at that age makes it harder for him to understand about deaths. The deaths in that summer which come in different ways, force him to learn to cope them as an adult. At the same time, he is burdened with the responsibility as a son and an elder brother as well. The death of his loved one not only has affected the family but also changes the brothers to look at things differently.
Is Frank the author himself recollecting his childhood memories? The story was written as if the author is remembering his personal childhood days and acting like a 13-year-old kid at the same time. The background setting is exceptionally detailed as if you are travelling back to 60s, standing in the middle of the road in that town, and watching how the story unfolds. One of my favourites is the appearance of the occasional train passes by. The blaring horn, the rumbling sound of heavy freight went through the tracks, and the house shakes when the train passes by. It was so realistic and very well-written. I can visualise and feel most of what the author describes in the story, even the smell of the great food cooks by Lise Brandt and Frank's mother's poorly cooked food.
- Frank's sister Ariel was missing several days. Her body was found on the river by Frank. She was murdered and later found out to be pregnant.
- Everyone in the town was suspecting Ariel's boyfriend Karl Brandt is the murderer. But later Karl confesses to Frank's father Nathan that he is homosexual. Karl dies in a car accident after that. No one knows whether it was a real accident or he was attempting to commit suicide due to the widespread of his sexuality by Doyle (the wild police officer).
- Frank thought that he had found the killer, and he told his father. Together they went to confront Emil Brandt. He admitted that he impregnated Ariel, but he is not the killer. Ariel fell in love with Emil. Emil likes her but not the way she wants. He was confused, and they had a sexual relationship once because he still misses Ariel's mother.
- Lisse Brandt is deaf and gets berserk if anyone touches her. She lives with her brother Emil and loves him a lot. Lisse doesn't want anyone to take her brother away from her. She couldn't recall that she had killed Ariel and threw her body into the river. What she remembered was Ariel touched her but later only realised that she was holding a bloody crowbar. She was admitted to the hospital and spend her time there until she dies.
Rating: ★★★★ (4/5)
More reviews can be found on Goodreads: Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger.