‘Ordinary Grace’ comes to HR

Long before Oprah Winfrey made book clubs trendy, a group of Hood River women began meeting to share their love of reading. Their book club, known as The Blue Stockings, is still going strong, having just completed their 31st year. At least four of the original members remain; the rest of the women have been members for at least 15 years. At last count, they have collectively read 341 books.

The Blue Stockings likely own the local longevity title, but many other book clubs have sprung up throughout our region in the last three decades. I’ve been an off-and-on member of several, including my newest, most challenging stint as a member of a “Spanish Only” reading group. Once a week, we gather at a local law office to “charlar en Español” about a selected title we’ve all agreed to read. We read difficult, sometimes complicated books meant for native Spanish readers. The going is slow — it takes me hours to read 30 assigned pages. On our weekly discussion day, we agree to leave our English at the door. Our leader and native speaker, Araceli, answers all our vocabulary and grammar questions, and figuratively holds our hands as we venture into this language adventure. To date, the group has read 26 books; I’m the most recent member, having slogged my way through six titles.

Lucky for all of us who are impassioned readers, the Hood River County Library is once again sponsoring “Hood River Reads,” a series of literary events centered around one book. This year’s title is “Ordinary Grace” by William Kent Krueger, an award-winning writer known for his bestselling Cork O’Connor mystery novels. The library series begins Sunday, March 19 at the Hood River branch. From 2-3:30 p.m., free copies of this wonderful novel will be given out and the winning poster (designed by a local student) will be unveiled. Refreshments will be served.

“Ordinary Grace,” which Krueger considers the best book he’s ever written, follows a 13-year old boy through a summer filled with adventures and tragedy. Abigail Tarttelin of the Huffington Post UK has this to say about the novel: “It’s the atmosphere of innocence infringing on experience, of the joyous, almost uncaring freedom of late childhood grating against the terrible responsibilities and knowledge of adulthood, and of rural ‘60s America.” Notes Carolyn Haley, a writer for the New York Journal of Books, “Told through the voice of 13-year-old Frank Drum, minister’s son, in hindsight 40 years later, ‘It was a summer in which death, in visitation, assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.’ One would expect, therefore, the book to be grim. But thanks to Mr. Krueger’s gift with words, the story is uplifting despite the darkness of its subject.”

Participants will have a chance to meet Krueger and hear him talk about his novel on Sunday, April 30 at 2 p.m. at the library. HRVHS high school students will meet with the author on Monday, May 1 at the high school. Hood River high school teacher Chauna Ramsey is credited with bringing Krueger and his book to Hood River. She writes, “I devoured all of Mr. Krueger’s ‘Cork O’Connor’ novels and the stand-alone ‘Ordinary Grace’ last summer and was intrigued enough to do a surface Google search on the author. I was surprised to find he spent some of his high-school years in Hood River! There was an email address on his author page, so I sent him a short message telling him how much I enjoyed his work and mentioned that I live in Hood River. He responded with a charming reply just a couple of hours later.”

Fifth graders at Westside and Parkdale Elementary schools will read “Mockingbird,” a young adult novel by Kathryn Erskine that mirrors many of the themes in “Ordinary Grace” — both books are coming-of-age stories that address the death of a loved one and the complexities of becoming an adult. In addition, there’s a character in each book who has Asperger’s/Autism. “Mockingbird” will be available for check-out at all the library branches.

Other “Hood River Reads” events include:

March 22, 5 -7 p.m. — Kick-off and book giveaway at Parkdale and Cascade Locks library branches.

April 13, 6:30-8 p.m. — The Library Book Club meets in the library’s meeting room to discuss “Ordinary Grace.”

April 20, 7-8 p.m. — Lynda Dallman and Bill Weiler present a dramatic reading and musical event inspired by the novel. Stave and Stone Wine Tasting Room, downtown Hood River (repeat performance April 22 from 4-5 p.m. at the library).

April 29, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. — A free writing workshop with author Krueger. Limited to 20 people. Pre-registration is required. Reservations for this workshop open-up at the kick-off event on March 19, and continue at the library until spaces are filled. The workshop will take place in the Down Manor banquet room.

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