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After two recommendations from sources I respect, I finally ordered Ordinary Grace from my library.  I wasn’t disappointed. Krueger’s sensitive, understated, but all-you-need-to-know description keeps characters, action, and scenery in proper perspective.  Main character, Frank, tells this story in retrospect, which is a good way to collect every lesson possible.  He is part of a Methodist minister’s family in the early 1960’s living in Minnesota.  Each character will contribute to the story that involves deaths and a miracle.  The last death shakes Frank’s world like nothing else, but also helps him start building a faith based on ordinary grace from an extraordinary God.  Don’t expect to like everything that happens, but  expect to like the way it ends!

The Joy and Light Bus Company by Alexander McCall Smith, 2021, Fiction

The popular  No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series adds a new adventure, In Botswana. At the center are detectives Mma Ramotswe and her assistant Mma Makutsi. They juggle domestic conflicts and community mysteries in their Botswana village. When Ramotswe’s husband plans to join a friend's bus company  which, if it failed, would threaten their detective agency; Mma Ramotswe fears her future for the first time since she started her successful agency.  Waiting for resolution, she  works on other domestic and community issues with her common sense wisdom and understated presence. The Kirkus Review calls this new release “comfort-food reading” and I agree!   

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger,  2014, Fiction

 
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Three boys find their opportunity to run away from the abusive, cruelly strict Indian School run by a woman they call the Black Witch. The trio becomes a quartet when 4-year-old, newly orphaned Emmy begs for rescue as well.  Thus begins a journey by an unlikely foursome by canoe on the Mississippi River.  Think Tom Sawyer meets the Great Depression. The heart of the story is about courage and resilience and finding home in unexpected places.  I join the thousands of others who say this is a must read for its story of heart, its masterful telling, its memorable characters, and for the hope it leaves you with,

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger, Fiction, 2019

 
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Irish immigrant, Sophie, answers a generic marriage proposal by newspaper.  She needed a new start after a failed marriage. She hoped that marriage to widower Martin Hocking who was father to Kat would provide it.  Sophie fell in love, but not with Martin who was alwayhs away on business. She fell in love with Kat, who had spoken little since losing her mother.  Just as Sophie discovered that Martin had secrets she didn’t know about, the San Francisco earthquake destroyed the rest of her life.  What ensues is a story of betrayal, new beginnings, friendship and belonging in surprising ways and unexpected places.. 

The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner, Historical Fiction, 2021

 

The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett, Fiction, 2019

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Patchett understated description, impeccable word choice, and complex family story is a work of literary art.  There are two central relationships to this sweeping story of family, secrets, loss, and discovery.  The first is the relationship between Danny, the story’s narrator, and his older sister, Maeve. Then, there is the family house, The Dutch House, named for the previous owners who built it.  It was a three story, six-bedroom house of grandeur and show.  How each person related to the house and the decisions they made because of it, affected everyone. I listened to an audio version narrated by Tom Hanks. He read it as if he had lived the story.  I highly recommend the audio version!

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Rin Tin Tin: The Life and Legend by Susan Orlean, Nonfiction, 2011

 

“The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin." was a 1950’s TV show about a orphan boy and his dog and their adventures living with soldiers on  a US Calvary post.   What I wasn’t prepared for was how the true story of the original German shepherd dog named Rin Tin Tin began during World War I!  Nor was I prepared for the way a dog was the cause of lawsuits and retationship rifts as well as filling deep pockets for the film industry.  Susan Orlean (author of The Orchid Thief  and The Library Book) knows how to take you on a journey through history as if you are a participant.  She not only tells a historical story, she tells a personal story. This book almost confirmed what I believed as a child—that Rin Tin Tin was part human, could read minds, and was the perfect companion, body guard and playmate.  This book almost made me believe it was true!

 
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The Memory Weaver by Jane Kirkpatric,Historical Fiction, 2015

Jane Kirkpatrick write Oregon historical fiction and this book is based around an 1847 Cayuse Indian massacre. Jane builds a story around Eliza Spaulding, daughter of missionaries to the Nez Perce Indians and well accepted by them. When young Eliza is held hostage for a while after the massacre, the story becomes one of how the mind weaves memories using the threads of assumption and perspective.  As Eliza becomes a young woman, marries, and has children; you will cheer her pluck, caution her strong willed defiance and embrace her epiphany when she must let go of memories to accept the truth.

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I, Saul by Jerry Jenkins with James MacDonald, Biblical Fiction, 2013

 

Jerry Jenkins delivers a high-stake story of intrigue that connects the life of Paul imprisoned in Rome and the life of seminary professor August (Augie) Knox in Texas, (present day).  A frantic call from an Italian friend draws Knox into a race to procure a lost parchment penned by Paul.  While Jerry tells a fiction story, he bases it on biblical facts that lead to could-have-happened situations and what-if dilemmas.  Toggled between Paul’s reminiscing with Luke in the days before his death and present day August Knox who must make an unscheduled trip to Italy to save the life of a friend, it is a story that will make you ask again and again  . . . what if. 

 

Once Upon a Wardrobe, by Patty Callahan, Historical Fiction, 2021

 

Patty Callahan, best-selling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis, tells an enchanted tale of her own to uncover how Narnia of The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe came to be.  She uses 8-year-old George, who won’t see another Christmas, and his big sister, Megs, a student at Oxford where Lewis is a professor to do it.  George must know more about Narnia and asks Megs to ask Lewis how Narnia came to be.  What follows is an unexpected relationship with the Narnia creator who answers Megs’ questions with stories about his boyhood Ireland, his brother Warnie,their imagined worlds, an agnostic professor, and so much more.  Lyrically written as if Lewis penned it himself, this is a book I had to re-read as soon as I finished it. 

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