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Showing 1-10 of 19 reviews(3 star). Show all reviews
on December 22, 2003
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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on September 9, 1997
I found this book a difficult yet compelling read. Although I couldn't find much to like in any of the characters (who range from ambiguous to pathetic), I still wanted to know what happened next. I kept expecting that *something* good would happen to at least one of these people. Alas, it was not to be until the very last chapter. Then, suddenly in one fell swoop, everything seemed to come together, everyone's eyes were opened to the truth, and they (seemingly) went on to live happily ever after. It was as though the writer had finally run out of bad situations to put these characters into and just decided to have everyone exit stage right to la-la land!

I was left feeling as though the writer had scammed me just as Omar had scammed these characters. I wanted them to come to their senses, but this was just too quick!

I was also left with a vague sense of deja vu. It took a while, but then I realized that this story reminded me in part of Stephen King's "Needful Things." In both stories, hapless characters are unduly influenced by a newcomer and start to make foolish decisions. Granted, King's version is much more extreme, but the influence that Omar exerts over Marie and Benjy (not to mention everyone else in town) is, in its own way, just as destructive as Leland Gaunt's manipulations of the folks in Castle Rock. (Please don't think I'm comparing King's writing to Ms. Morris''s like apples and oranges. I just think the stories have a common theme here.)

Ms. Morris is a good writer, painting compelling images with her words. For me, it's the story that's lacking in follow-through and vision here. Perhaps I would enjoy one of her other works more.
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on August 5, 1997
First, I must say that the humor in this book
is what made it worthwhile for me. I laughed
loud and hard when Benjy went to talk to his
"therapist." That was priceless. Also, the
subtle and yes, cynical, humor throughout the
book. Few people actually know someone like Omar, but I think we can all say that we'd rather laugh at his amazing trek through life than actually get caught up in his world.

I found Marie's story to be an important one because few people actually know and understand her predicament, and it was detailed so beautifully and completely. Even those of you who did not like to book probably gained something by thinking harder about the Maries in the world, what makes them tick, and how their children must learn to recreate survival programs after they move out on their own.

Other readers said they didn't understand the title. I'm sure there are very deep,insightful
explanations, but a few things did stick out as I read: Howard and Jozia bought those doll clothes - at one point the shopkeeper told Howard that there were no special clothes in stock - it was ordinary time. Also the band leader was alway being prompted to play his songs in a faster, catchier time. He preferred ordinary time.
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on July 30, 2000
Even for end of the day, escapism after work type reading, this novel failed to keep my attention. The structure feels as uncontrolled as the meanderings of the town drunk who stumbles into everyone's lives. The characters all seem doomed from the beginning from a combination of their own human failings and the outside forces -- poverty, family, reputation -- that work against whatever hopes they have to rise above their current squalor. When they make the effort to penetrate one another's misery and be of comfort, only fear and hostility result.
Morris' "Vanished" was one of those books that when I read it I was astonished at how the language lay over the story like clear water, no distortion at all, just magnification and clarity, like a fantastically vivid dream. I couldn't put that book down -- this one I couldn't pick up without a sigh of "Jeez, look how LONG it is...".
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on August 28, 1997
Tough to get into. Beginning was slow and confusing. There were too many characters thrown in at once. Once you figure out who's who it does move along, albeit slowly. One thing that I appreciated was Morris' effort to fully develop each character so they weren't just good/bad guys. There was a depth to each of them which made them more real. I was a bit frustrated with the characters. You kind of want to slap each one of them and point them in the right direction and tell them what they're doing wrong. I kept hoping the next page would be a bit more uplifiting or bring some good fortune to this bunch of losers. But it's a slow, painful death and the only reason I got through it was because I found myself liking some of the characters and hoping for their well-being. Not the kind of book to make you feel warm and fuzzy, if that's what you're looking for
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I knew this book had been chosen for Oprah's Book Club. So I keep reading it thinking it had to get better to have been chosen. Right? Wrong. It's very long with a great many minor characters who don't really add anything. One error is that the book is set in 1960 and a Mustang pulls into the gas station. I don't think the Mustang was made before 1964. I also found it unbelieavable that the daughter, Alice, would be going to college. She doesn't have a scholarship, the family has no money for college, and in 1960 I don't think your poor girl from the wrong side of town would have been going off to college unless she was really extraordinary or determined. She'd have been getting a full time job in a shop or factory. I sort of cared about the son, Norm and I felt sorry for the Mother. But, at the end of the book, I didn't really care about these people
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on March 20, 2002
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 been 300 words shorter. But somehow, the story of a small town in 1960, with all its meandering plots, its residents' twisted lives, secrets, desires, and blind spots, pulled me along. As unlikeable as the characters were, they were believable, and ultimately, that is what kept me going through 740 pages. At least they were 740 relatively fast pages. The one exception to the believablity quotient was that Norm, after 650 pages of hating Omar Duval, suddenly fell under his spell for about 50 pages. The sudden change of heart made no sense and seemed entirely plot driven. At least Norm did come to his senses pretty quickly!
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on May 15, 2000
This book had a very touching story to be told but the author would go on and on to get to the point. Trudi, the main character, was a courageous child who became a strong, giving adult. I wish something nice or wonderful would have happened in her life at some point. This book depicts the Holocaust Era like no other fiction I have ever read, but again I think the author throws in words just to make this book almost too long for anyone to finish. The book gets better around page 275 but up intil then you have to convince yourself over and over to keep going.
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on July 8, 1997
OK, I admit...I'm not a literary genius! In fact (shudder) I even read for pleasure. But I failed to find the deep meaning in this novel. For me, Songs in Ordinary Time was..well, ordinary.

The book provided a colorful and intriguing description of life in a small town. But, I found it really difficult to have any sympathy for Marie. I'm certain it was a struggle raising three children, on a limited income, as a single mother. Wait, was this novel set in 1997?

The only character to arouse my sympathy was Benjy. I'd love to be his mother!!
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on July 31, 1997
Especially depressing! I read about a third to half of this book and put it aside. I couldn't bear to keep reading about characters who couldn't get through the simplest daily activities without somehow screwing them up. Angst and tragedy are the backbone of many great stories, but even the most tragic literary figures have one or two luminous moments. The poor shmoes in this tale just kept stumbling from one downer to the next.

I don't regret missing the ending of this one.
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