Judge: Phyllis Mitchell
Chimamanda Adichie: Americanah
William Kent Krueger: Ordinary Grace
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Kruegar
It is the summer of 1961 in the small town of New Bremen, Minnesota, when thirteen-year-old Frank learns the price of “wisdom through the awful grace of God”. Frank narrates the story of this summer with the innocence, uncertainty and hope of youth. Frank’s father is a Methodist minister. His Mother is a gifted musician, His older sister is planning on attending Julliard and his younger brother, wise beyond his years, is a stutterer, not an unusual family but one that will be strengthened by the tragedies that touch their lives this summer.
The novel is simply and beautifully written. The characters are richly drawn. The plot, entangled with murder and choices, moves the summer along. The concepts of truth and courage run quietly beneath the surface of this story. This is more than a mystery story. It is about an ordinary family that is forged by grief and survives with hope and the wisdom of ordinary grace, the free unmerited favor of God.
Forty-seven years later Frank understands that “The dead are never far from us. They’re in our hearts and on our minds and in the end all that separates us from them is a single breath, one final puff of air.”
Americananah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
It is modern day America. Ifemelu is leaving Princeton, New Jersey on her way to Trenton to a salon, which will braid her hair for her return to Nigeria. She emigrated from Nigeria to continue her studies in The United States. She writes a blog about her experiences.
Dissatisfied, Ifemelu decides to return to Nigeria and Obinize, her teenage love. The plot winds from a hair salon to parties to Nigeria. There are many storylines braided together. The characters are not very likeable, not genuine. The book was rather long and uninteresting. This is a tale of love, racism, the politics of black hair and social values in the United States, England and Nigeria.
I chose Ordinary Grace because I became emotionally invested in New Bremen and its inhabitants. I am still trying to wrap my mind around the concept of “ordinary grace”.