Ordinary People Review
Ordinary People follows the Jarrett family a little over a year after a tragic accident. We learn that a freak sailing incident led to the death of eldest son, Buck, and the Jarrett family is left to pick up the pieces and move on. The novel primarily follows Conrad, the younger brother of Buck, who is dealing with post-traumatic stress and survivor’s guilt. As the novel progresses, we learn more about each member of the family, and the varying ways in which individuals cope with their grief.
Conrad’s father, Calvin, primarily keeps his emotions internal, while the mother, Beth, tries to maintain order in her home. Beth is a fascinating character who keeps a facade going as long as possible to avoid facing her own inner struggles. Though many readers react negatively to Beth’s maternal instincts, I find it hard to condemn her; she simply grieves in a very different manner.
Ordinary People intensifies as Conrad comes to grips with his own guilt, and psychiatrist, Dr. Berger acts as a great foil for Conrad’s internal journey. Though the present tense writing might turn off readers at first, it works well once you adjust to this storytelling technique. In effect, it allows us to fully understand and appreciate Conrad’s journey as he learns to overcome his guilt and heal. The present tense provides an immediacy to the journey, as though it is happening in real time.
If you haven’t read Ordinary People, I cannot recommend a book more highly. Rather than providing readers with a tragic boating accident, Guest instead addresses the aftermath of this incident and the ways in which human beings move on and ultimately heal after tragedy. It shows us extraordinary growth through ordinary lives, and the result is riveting.
If you have read Ordinary People, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If not, I recommend you give this book a try. It’s well worth your time.