Sunday, March 24, 2013

Ordinary Grace

Mystery writer William Kent Krueger has taken a break from his award-winning Cork O'Connor mystery series to give readers the gift of ORDINARY GRACE, an atmospheric novel about forty year-old Frank Drum looking back on a fateful summer that changed him and his family - as well as his perceptions of the world and people in it. 

The book details Frank's journey in the summer of 1961, when he was 13 years old and living in New Bremen, Minnesota with his traditional, "All-American" family - his father, a Christian minister; his mother a once-budding musician; his younger brother, a stutterer, who is wise and compassionate;  and his beautiful, musically gifted and much-adored older sister, headed for Julliard. In 1961, the country, and this community, was infused with faith and wholesome innocence, but death paid several visits to New Bremen during a sweltering summer via the accidental death of a teenager (was it really an accident?), the natural death of a stranger, a suicide and a murder that shatters lives and futures.

William Kent Krueger renders a thoughtful portrait of small town life and the inhabitants therein. Via strong, multi-layered characterizations, the author maps the deep-rooted values that once marked the souls of flawed, God-fearing people. Frank narrates this story from the perspective of adulthood, which lends authority to the magnitude of grief and the search for understanding when evil impacts the lives and hearts of an entire community. In the end, the themes that emerge in this moving coming-of-age story become timeless as the Drum family could be any faith-filled family--past or present--forced to confront and come to terms with the vagaries of life, guilt and dark nights of the soul.

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
Atria Books, $24.99, Hardcover, 9781451645828, 320 pp
Publication Date: March 26, 2013
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE

Please note: This book was provided for review by Atria Books/Simon & Schuster

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Week in Winter

The Irish are great storytellers. This year, I hold a special affection for the work of Maeve Binchy, a writer of commercial fiction whose stories reflect wholesome values of a changing world - in Ireland and abroad. My first foray into Binchy's work was Circle of Friends, a story set in Dublin in the 1950s, where lies test the meaning of love. I've devoured Binchy's novels and short fiction ever since. Sadly, the author passed away last year. But readers can now enjoy her posthumously published novel, A Week in Winter

In this story, Chicky Star transforms an old mansion in Stoneybridge into Stone House, an Irish getaway destination that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. There, she welcomes a cast of eccentric characters who share a week of rest and relaxation. Binchy, a first-rate storyteller, brings together another diverse ensemble cast that provides readers with a cozy means of entertainment and escape.  

So after you indulge in your corned beef and cabbage and a pint of Guinness to celebrate St. Pat's, kick back and relax with this one!
A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy
Knopf, $26.95, hardcover, 9780307273574, 336 pages
Publication Date: February 12, 2013
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Book of Neil

It's 2012 and Jesus Christ returns to earth, to a "fair little city," where he is completely ignored, dismissed and scoffed at as "another mentally ill street preacher." But one day on the Crystal Creek golf course, when Jesus, wearing "a grayish robe tied by a thick rope around the waist...his hair...long and swept across his shoulders with each practice swing" strikes up a conversation with Neil, a middle-aged man in familial and financial crises, things take a dramatic turn. Jesus is desperate to make his presence known. He enlists Neil's help, as He decides to seek media attention in a secular world driven and preoccupied by technology, materialism and self-indulgence. The two hatch a plan to rob a bank in order to benefit their mutually desired goals.

The hilariously flawed execution of their plan snowballs in The Book of Neil, a smart, amusing story about faith and the nature of belief in the modern world. Author Frank Turner Hollon (Blood and Circumstance, Austin and Emily) narrates Jesus' return to earth via the points-of-view of those whose lives He touches, an array of believers and doubters: Neil, suffering pre and post-robbery panic; the skeptical police chief in town; a bank teller who feels a sudden "peace come over her" during the robbery; a New York Times reporter eager to launch the story of the "Jesus-Bandit"; and even the President of the United States.

Unexpected twists and turns shape The Book of Neil. At the end, on the rapid approach to a chilling climax, the engrossing, satirical aspects of this novel suddenly emerge in a whole new light, and Hollon's literary craftsmanship leaps from mere entertainment into a much deeper, thought-provoking epiphany.

The Book of Neil  by Frank Turner Hollon
MacAdam/Cage, $20.00, Hardcover, 978159692380, 230 pp
Publication Date: November 16, 2012
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE

Please note: This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different form) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (12/11/12), click HERE.

different character’ point of view. Not only Neil, but Edwin (the police