Wednesday, January 23, 2013

SONGS IN ORDINARY TIME by MARY McGARRY MORRIS


I did a fairly long post on this book. I felt it deserved it as I took over a month to read it. It disappeared from blogger which was very discouraging but since it has to be done, here I go again.

My first read of an Oprah Book Club recommendation. Set in the 1960s at a time when America seemed very simple, very innocent the story revolves around a family and particularly Marie Fermoyle. Marie is confused, bitter, so worried over "what would people say" and seems to think that everyone is judging her and her family by her drunkard husband's behaviour, so much so, that there is nothing in her life that is actually free of this taint.

Marie has three children - Alice on the brink of entering college (money has to be found somehow), Norm hostile and first with his fists and Benjy cowering and nervous, just wanting his mother to be happy.

Enter Omar Duvall - a con artist to beat all con artists. Smooth, slick, oily you want to shriek and warn Marie who is vulnerable to beware. Despite her instincts kicking in and telling her to be cautious, Marie falls headlong into Omar's plans of marketing a miracle soap, ends up signing for a loan and perjuring herself by signing her brother in laws signature as a guarantor for the loan.

The story goes on and on - this is a book of 700 odd pages - and there is a murder, there is cheating, there is alteration of cheques, there are love affairs galore - a priest and Alice, the police chief and his sister in law whilst his wife is an invalid and dying and then there is Omar one love affair with Bernadette and one with Marie. Cleverly balancing both, lying through his teeth with both, cheating both of them financially at one and the same time, Omar is one of those slick men who will escape at the end.

What I found difficult right through the book was that the characters seemed too exaggerated. Their characterization was too minute - Sam was not just a drunk, but he was intent on disgracing his family at every turn, Renie the cowardish brother in law was not just cowed down and nervous but he also made obscene phone calls to women in the locality, Helen his wife was not just mean spirited but also miserly - counting every cent of Sam's expenses so that at the end of the day, he would not inherit even ten cents from his mother's bequest. Every fault was too much for me to handle  there seemed to be such an abundance of faults in everyone. Even our Marie the chief character of the story comes across as being wilful and mean in her remarks, almost deliberately wanting to hurt her own children at every turn with her spite.

The book was not an easy read at all. The font in my version was very small which did not help. I am glad I finished it though as DNF is generally not for me. I will not be going back to this author anytime soon though!

5 comments:

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Mystica, it does sound like a rather depressing book where all the characters are only thinking about themselves, to put it mildly. I am trying to figure out the title.

Mary (Bookfan) said...

Oprah picked a few good books but I thought most had the same depressing themes and similar characters like the ones in this book. I recall reading this particular book but not what it's about. It came back reading your review.
Sorry Blogger ate your first review. How frustrating!

Nise' said...

Ugh, nothing more frustrating than having your review up and disappear! A couple of friends read this book and did not highly recommend it so I passed on it.

Paulita said...

It sounds like you had a lot of perseverance to make it through the book. I probably would have given up earlier.

gillyflower said...

Sounds like this was heavy weather at 700 pages, and maybe not worth the struggle, although one tends to be positive and think it will improve - but I think I'll take your word on this one and not bother to seek it out!