Ordinary Grace by Kent Krueger, was a Third Tuesday Book Club selection. I had skimmed the book in large print and recommended it to the group. When the book was accepted, It had been long enough that I could remember the plot, remembered vaguely that the characters developed and changed as the novel went on, but little else. Ordering the audiobook from our local library, my Better Half and I listened together. This way, I could also count Grace as part of my 2019 audiobook challenge. The story takes place in New Brenen, a real township in Minnesota. Krueger describes the “summer of the dying and the end of childhood innocence.” The first death was Bobby Cole, a schoolmate of the protagonist and narrator, Frank. Bobby, who always was “a little slow,” was hit and killed by a train as he was playing on the tracks. Frank and Jake, two years younger often had walked and followed the tracks. That fateful summer, Frank and others learned about “the awful grace of God.” Frank’s father, a minister, was a man of faith, a veteran, and a praying man. Frank’s mother, far from the typical mother of the ’60s, lived out her thwarted musical ambitions through the musical prodigy in the family, Ariel, Frank’s teenage sister. Gus, who served under Frank’s father during WWII, a family friend lived in and cleaned the church. Add in two murders, a bad cop, a judgmental town, and many prejudices, and you have a page-turning psychological thriller as well as a coming-of-age story. Krueger’s beautifully-drawn characters gain a terrible knowledge that summer and must pay for it at a terrible price.
Book Five is a classic, a novel I’ve always heard of, spoken about in reverent tones by literature professors and critics alike, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. I’m so glad I decided to listen to this novel. I tried once to read it on my own in the print version, but couldn’t get past the thick dialect and dated “feel” of the novel. Hurston wrote her novel in 1937, but it was reissued and “discovered” for the classic it was in 1975. Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple found Hurston’s unmarked grave, derelict and abandoned much like her novel had been. Walker wrote an article which contributed greatly to the esteem in which Hurston is held today. Dealing with “Black Folk Traditions” and African American’s Literary Heritage, Hurston spins the tale of Jane, a “Black woman who, though constricted by the times, still demanded to be heard.” After two marriages, Jane finds the love of her life, “Teacake,” who becomes a third husband and an enforcing influence on her life. Not only is the novel an enlightening description of Black life during The Great Depression, but it is an excellent action-adventure story. the scenes of the great hurricane Jane and Teacake go through are exciting, suspenseful, and brimming with action. This novel has earned its description of “a seminal novel in American Fiction.”