Wednesday, May 07, 2014

First Wednesday Book Review Club

Ordinary People by Judith Guest


I read this book when it was first published in 1976. At that time I was in my twenties, with two young children, a very different person than I am today. When my book group chose it for our May selection. I wondered if I would see it differently now. Whether I would like it less. If it would hold up--so many books don't quite. I also wondered if the movie, which I have seen at least twice, would be too dominant.Would Mary Tyler Moore's, Donald Sutherland, Judd Hirsch and Timothy Hutton's portrayals overwhelm Guest's

I am only more impressed with this, a first novel, than I was almost forty years ago.

The Jarrets have suffered the loss of one son and the near-death of another. Con is recently home from a facility that helped him cope with his suicide attempt. He is blessed with an extraordinary father, Cal, but his mother, Beth, is distant, cold. He no longer is a good fit with his friends, mostly high school swimmers either. He finally agrees to see a counselor, a man who he has immediate rapport with. This is the story of the months following his return home. The writing is perfect. I can't remember last reading a book where one page flowed from the last so easily. It's not a page turner in the traditional sense--but you become so involved in Cal's plight that you need to see him succeed. Highly recommended.

For more reviews, check with Barrie Summy.




11 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - It is a fine novel isn't it? And I really thought the film did it justice.

Scott Parker said...

Interestingly, I had no idea the movie came from a book. Shows you how much I know.

Anonymous said...

Never read it, but I found the movie very off-putting because at the time it seemed that MTM was channeling my mother. I should try the book.

Jeff M.

John said...

Wow, Jeff! My brother and I said the same thing about Moore when we saw the movie. That resemblance didn't prevent me from being involved with the story. Elizabeth McGovern made a pretty damn impressive debut. And look at her now -- a damn impressive countess on TV!

pattinase (abbott) said...

She fares no better in the book but more time is given to spelling it out.

Ron Scheer said...

I recall being very moved by the book and thought it rewarded slow, attentive reading. Good to know that it still holds up. The film, as I remember it, was a retelling of the story in another key, yet equally well done.

Sarah Laurence said...

I remember reading this book in middle school and seeing the movie. Your review makes me want to go back and reread it. It's often sited as one of the first YA novels.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Isn't it interesting how we bring a different perspective to a familiar book when we read it years later? I got a lot more out of The Grapes of Wrath the second time. Glad to know Ordinary People stands the test of time.

Patti, I'm following you now on Twitter @LyndiLamont

pattinase (abbott) said...

Interesting that you think of it as YA because much of it is from the Dad's POV and much of it concerns their marriage. Sometimes I think YA was a big mistake because so many novels are for all of us. Age-segregation in literature means we all miss so much.

Richard said...

I didn't like the movie at all, walked out halfway through. Too much angst.

Barrie said...

I saw the movie years ago, but never read the book. I really must. I was afraid to re-read The Chrysalids by John Wyndham. I'd loved it in junior high. Anyway, long story short, I re-read it with my then-junior higher and loved it all over again. So nice when that happens. Thanks for reviewing, Patti!