Title: Ordinary Grace
Author: William Kent Krueger
Page Count: 307 pages
Genre: Mystery, Psychological fiction
Tone: Melancholy, Nostalgic, Strong sense of place
Looking back at a tragic event that occurred during his 13th year, a man explores how a complicated web of secrets, adultery and betrayal shattered his Methodist family and their small 1961 Minnesota community.
SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.
The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.
1. In Robert Kennedy’s eulogy to John F. Kennedy he used the phrase “Awful grace of God.” This phrase was used several times in this novel. What do you think is the meaning?
2. Do you believe as Aeschylus said, “He who learns must suffer”?
3. Why do you think Jake’s stutter permanently disappeared after he gave grace?
4. What does ordinary grace mean to you?
5. Who do you consider the main character in this book?
6. Without the war, what path do you think Nathan would have ended up taking career wise?
7. What do you think drew Jake and Lise together?
8. Do you think Emil was still in love with Ruth and vice-versa?
9. When the body of the itinerant was found Frank downplayed Jake’s presence and that upset Jake. However, when Emil Brandt tried to kill himself Frank tried to turn Jake into the hero and that really upset Jake. Why?
10. Why do you think the author never actually told us what happened in the war that changed Nathan so much?
11. Ruth did not seem to care for Gus very much in the beginning of the story, yet her attitude toward him seemed to change by the end. Why do you think that was?
12. Jake said he is afraid that his mom won’t come back. I mean she might come home, but she won’t come back (pg 260). What did he mean by that?
13. When Frankie was accusing Emil Brandt of killing Ariel, Jake asked if it really matters who killed her. What did you think about that?
14. What did you think of Warren Redstone? Why did he keep all those trinkets in his can?
15. Why do you think he was in jail?
16. Why didn’t Frank tell anyone about Warren’s connection to the dead man?
17. Jake said “There are somethings you can’t run from. You can’t run from who you are. You can leave everything behind except who you are” (pg 265). Is that true?
18. What did you think about how it ended? What happened to all of the characters?
19. On the first page, as Frank is talking about the events that were to happen, he says “You might think that I remember that summer as tragic and I do, but not completely.” After having finished the novel, what do you think of that statement?
Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!
- Reading group guide provided by Simon and Schuster
- Lit Lovers’ discussion questions
- New York Journal of Books review
- Aunt Agatha’s Q&A interview with William Kent Krueger
- Interview with William Kent Krueger (video from Arlington Heights Memorial Library)