Outside the Ordinary World by Dori Ostermiller
|Outside the Ordinary World by Dori Ostermiller
|Category: General Fiction
|Reviewer: Louise Laurie
|Summary: A story which centres around families and three generations of women in particular. When secrets, love, lust ... come along these different women deal with these issues in their own way - but who's right and who's wrong here?
|Date: August 2011
|Publisher: Mira Books
|External links: Author's website
Although not keen on the title (a little clunky) I did feel that this was going to be a book I'd enjoy. Ostermiller has some fulsome praise for this debut novel including from the author Diane Chamberlain. And after reading the back cover blurb I can sense a similarity which is fine by me. (I thoroughly enjoyed all of Chamberlain's books). Would I enjoy this book as much?
It opens in 1968 as a family drive, with all their precious belongings, to a new and hopefully better life in the US. The narrator is a young girl. Life's been tough, but mostly for the mom. She's forced herself to do menial and dull jobs to pay the household bills and put food on the family table. And the father? He's studying medicine. Long and tiring hours - but it'll all be worth it in the end, won't it?
But the first sign of trouble of a marriage under strain is when Mr Robert pops up. He's mom's 'special friend'. So, he's a secret. The two young daughters just know that they mustn't say anything about these outings when they get back home. Not a word to their father. Besides, he's tetchy at times under all that pressure of studying and ultimate expectation. Secrets pile on secrets and soon it's a slippery slope ...
And as if to underline this fact the reader gets the low-down on some of these illicit meetings. Just the four of them. Mr Robert (how spookily old-fashioned and rather sinister sounding is that?) tries so hard to be nice and funny and entertaining to the two girls, it's almost scary. He must be absolutely exhausted at the end of the day. Some of the too-breezy chit-chat comes across as painfully poignant.
But the worrying aspect is that somehow the young Sylvia (one of the daughters) has got caught up in all these grown-up events. She knows that 'something's not quite right here' but due to her youth, can't figure it all out. Then again, they always meet in bustling public places so where's the harm, she's thinking in the next breath. Sylvia tries to sort it all out in her head during quiet moments. She knows that my mother might have a 'boyfriend' seemed as plausible as the sun turning to blood. She was the kind of mother who took Ali and me to the fabric store every Tuesday, wallpapered the insides of her silverware drawers .... So, no problem, just a regular mom then. But is she?
Ostermiller has created some interesting characters here. By calling him 'Mr Robert' it gives him an elderly gent feel. I was surprised to learn that he had teenage children of his own. I could also feel the pent-up anger of the father and the uncertainty of the mother as she tries to make sensible decisions.
As the plot develops, we fast-forward to the year 2004, when both girls are now adults with husbands and families of their own. And as the adult Sylvia sees her own marriage become stale, she is attracted to another man who just happens to have a son ... It would appear that history may be about to repeat itself. But only if Sylvia chooses that particular path.
And so, over many chapters, we see her dither and hesitate and change her mind about this new man. All the machinations about family life are played out here in an engrossing style. I enjoyed this book and look forward to the next one by Ostermiller. Recommended.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
If this book appeals then you might like to try Breaking the Silence by Diane Chamberlain.
You can read more book reviews or buy Outside the Ordinary World by Dori Ostermiller at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Outside the Ordinary World by Dori Ostermiller at Amazon.com.
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