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Songs in Ordinary Time [Paperback]

Mary McGarry Morris
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (232 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 27 1996 Oprah's Book Club
It's the summer of 1960 in Atkinson, Vermont. Maria Fermoyle is a strong but vulnerable divorced woman whose loneliness and ambition for her children make her easy prey for dangerous con man Omar Duvall. Marie's children are Alice, seventeeninvolved with a young priest; Norm, sixteenhotheaded and idealistic; and Benny, twelveisolated and misunderstood, and so desperate for his mother's happiness that he hides the deadly truth he knows about Duvall. We also meet Sam Fermoyle, the children's alcoholic father; Sam's brother-in-law, who makes anonymous "love" calls from the bathroom of his failing appliance store; and the Klubock family, whoin contrast to the Fermoyleslive an orderly life in the house next door.

Songs in Ordinary Time is a masterful epic of the everyday, illuminating the kaleidoscope of lives that tell the compelling story of this unforgettably family.

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From Amazon

Oprah Book Club® Selection, June 1997: A dark secret lies at the heart of Mary McGarry Morris's extraordinary novel, Songs in Ordinary Time. Rooted in the delicate web of emotions, lies, and truths that bind people together, the story takes place in the primarily Catholic town of Atkinson, Vermont, during the summer of 1960. Here Marie Fermoyle struggles to raise her three children. She already has two strikes against her: she married above her station and now is divorced from her alcoholic husband, Sam. That he is the town drunk and a laughingstock only further marks the Fermoyles.

Enter Omar Duvall, a confidence man. He comes to the door asking for bread and sees an opportunity. Soon he has insinuated himself into the Fermoyle family, promising Marie companionship, love, a willing pair of shoulders to share her burden. Twelve-year-old Benjy knows something terrible about Duvall, but, desperate for anything that will make his mother happy, he hides the truth. This silence gives Duvall time to bring Marie to the brink of financial disaster and lead her sons into mortal danger.

Songs in Ordinary Time includes a chorus of other Atkinson inhabitants: town cop Sonny Stoner and his dying wife; insurance salesman Bob Haddad, so enthralled with his beautiful wife that he's willing to steal for her; and Father Gannon, the young priest with whom Marie's daughter Alice becomes involved; and the Klubock family next door, who epitomize all that is normal to young Benjy. With these lives threaded through her bittersweet tale of the Fermoyles, Morris strikes all the notes of loneliness, hope, and familial love.

From Publishers Weekly

Set in Vermont during the summer of 1960, Morris's latest concerns a dysfunctional family that falls prey to a dangerous con man.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
On the day that Duvall came Benjamin Fermoyle was twelve. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The search for Truth Dec 4 1999
By A Customer
Format:Audio Cassette
This story is an excellent snapshot of small town life and an intimate portrait of vulnerable people. My life has been less than perfect, so I felt a kinship with the characters in Songs in Ordinary Time and their struggles. I was especially impressed with the accuracy and detail which the author delivered in portraying the emotions and behavior of the alcoholic ex-husband, the lonely divorced mother, the ostracized teenagers, the timid child, and the master of manipulation, the con man. This book has something for everyone: love, sex, drama, murder, and best of all, lessons in living. I almost forgot it was fiction. The story seemed so real to me, that my heart ached for justice for the unfortunate family. Yet the frustrations of the characters are so drawn out that I hoped for resolution long before the end came. I couldn't put it down and spent the morning of my day off finishing it. I highly recommend it for the drama and sentiment. It is not just entertaining, it blooms with the pain, longing and unfulfilled dreams of real life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you have patience... Dec 23 2002
If you can get through the first 150 pages, you'll be happy you did. With a slow start, that's when the story really starts to pick up & you start to remember the characters, there's a lot of them! I agree with an earlier reviewer in that there were too many sub-plots & characters.
I did end up liking the book, and I was VERY close to putting it down & not finishing it. I am glad I stuck it out.
The characters are memorable. Their plights, long & hard.
You will cringe with them when things go wrong. It's a story that is so believable it feels real. I see why Oprah picked it.
Just remember, there are many books that start off slow, but they don't always have such a rewarding ending.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unworthy of Oprah's endorsement Dec 4 2003
I agree with the first three reviews I read...simply not worth the time. Maybe Oprah saw something I didn't, but I can honestly say I've never been so frustrated by ANY fictional characters as I was with the entire Fermoyle family. What a bunch of losers! Usually I can empathize with downtrodden characters, but Ms. Morris took these past my limit. I finished the book only because I kept hoping it would get better.
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By J. Fenk
This was the first McGarry Morris book I've ever read and I have mixed feelings on it. The entire mood of the book was quite depressing. No happy endings here, no sir. I also found the behavior of many of the characters to be unbelievable, thereby causing the entire tale to lose credit. For instance, I found it amazing that, after commiting murder, con-man Omar Duvall chose to take up residence in the same town where he killed a man, and the rotting, putrid body still lies. I'm not a criminal myself, but if I commited such an act, I imagine I'd want to miles away from the scene of the crime!
Next, we have Marie Fermoyle and her three unusual children. I found it sad that she was so desperate for love, that she fell for the fat, slovenly Omar Duval in his one and only shabby suit and his see-through lies.
Overall, the entire cast of characters and their individual miseries interweave into an overall story that plays out rather well. Basket-case USA.
One thing that really stuck in my craw was Alice Fermoyle's treatment of Blue Mooney. Maybe because I've always been attracted to just such a guy, I thought she should have given Blue more of a chance. Oh well. That's my opinion.
If you want to read a book that has a multitude of characters and sub-plots, this is a good choice. But don't expect a happily ever after.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A Frustrating Read... Feb. 16 2001
By A Customer
I had high hopes for this book, but it missed the mark. In fact, I was hard pressed to finish it. In Songs in Ordinary Time, it's 1960 in Atkinson, Vermont. The story centers on Marie Fermoyle and her children, Alice who is 16 years old and discovering her sexuality - first with the Police Chief's son and then with a visiting priest, Norm who is hot headed, and Benjy who is 12 years old - ignored by his family, and can't quite figure out what the shameful, nameless "sticky warmth" that unexpectedly appears in his pajama bottoms in the morning, so he sleeps in a towel.
As the story opens, we meet The Judge, but he's dead. His housekeeper lets him stay propped up in the window, refusing to admit he's dead until he starts to get quite ripe.
The rest of the story is about greed, and the human desire to believe that someone can come along and solve all your problems for you. And how badly we want someone to solve our problems, that we ignore the fact that he may be a slick talking, murdering, thief.
This book had such gross and dark images that I just did not like it. I made myself finish the book, but it was difficult.
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2.0 out of 5 stars What a chore this one was! Aug. 16 2000
Hmmm-an Oprah book. Could this book be depressing, sad, and non-redeemable like all the other books Oprah, False goddess of america, picks? The answer is yes. Depressing, but there was good writing in there. It seems like Morris was trying to create so many characters and so much plot, but in the end that ended up weakening all the elements of the novel. I hated Duvall, also hated the matriarch at times for being so blind and so self-righteous and pathetic. The town itself was realistic enough and the characters were indeed colorful, but there was too much. Case in point; the daunting and unnecessary length of the novel. And what gets accomplished at the end? There's no hope, and the Fermoyles are not any better off. I wish Morris would have paired the divorced Fermoyles together at the end. That would have been somewhat uplifting, but alas it was not meant to happen.
Still much good prose and many juicy secrets. It sort of reminded me of Peyton Place. I suppose no one would agree though because this book is not controversial (although some of the scenes in it can be morally repulsive).
Don't read this book-Fiona Range is reputed to be better (it's by the same author). And if you want to read an Oprah book, read The Bluest Eye-There is depth there.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars A Snoozer
This book was very difficult to keep my interest. Aside from it being a depressing story, it had too many characters. I often found it difficult to keep track of who was who. Read more
Published on Nov. 9 2003 by "elstrickland"
1.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't get past first chapter
My time is limited, thus I choose to read only books "worthy" of my time. My girlfriend gave me this book a month ago. Read more
Published on Sept. 23 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Not for the Faint-Hearted!!
I had a love-hate relationship with this story as I read it. In the end, my verdict is that it was well-written with Morris' characters intricately formed. Read more
Published on Dec 19 2002 by Lisa Gatz
3.0 out of 5 stars Despite all its flaws, a readable book
I really, really wanted to dislike this book. Few of the characters were likeable, there were far more subplots than necessary, and as a previous reader noted, it could have easily... Read more
Published on March 20 2002 by Tanja L. Walker
1.0 out of 5 stars You must be a masochist to read this book
The title made it seem so promising but it was not to be. If you like reading long, monotanous, novels with many characters (all lacking character)this is the book for you. Read more
Published on March 3 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars Ugh!
I HATED this book. I couldn't stand any of the characters, and for me, that is the most important part of enjoying a book. Read more
Published on Feb. 1 2002
2.0 out of 5 stars an annoying chore.
I have for the most part stayed away from Oprah's book club selections. I have found in general that the story lines are as follows.... Read more
Published on Jan. 29 2002 by Turnpike
1.0 out of 5 stars Deeply disappointed
This book was a terrible disappointment. It's decidedly anti-Catholic bent made for a disturbing read. Read more
Published on Jan. 21 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Begins and evolves as ordinary..but !!
An extraordinary book, that begins and evolves slowly and as the story unfolds it seems terribly ordinary as in the title. Read more
Published on Dec 15 2001 by Marc North
2.0 out of 5 stars Uh....
I only managed to get about a chapter and a half into this book. I set it down to answer the hpone, and never bothered to pick it back up. Read more
Published on Nov. 18 2001 by "dashmajor"
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