Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Book Review: Songs in Ordinary Time

Can I just say that when this book by Mary McGarry Morris was finished, I was so happy?

I know. The burning question is: why did I continue reading this 740 page novel if I didn't really like it? Well, it's like this: During the first 150 pages, I wasn't truly committed to finishing the book. But I read just enough to be intrigued by the characters, and I read just enough that I had to know how everything turned out.

So what's wrong with the book?
* It was confusing. The chapters jump between the minds of about 16 different characters, and I'm not even sure that I'm exaggerating at all.
* It was depressing. Nothing good happens. Really, nothing.
* The characters were, for the most part, unlikeable. All of them, except perhaps the three kids. (But nothing good happens to the three kids; I'm telling you right now.)
* The title is misleading. This is no book of an "ordinary time," and no one is singing a song.

So why did I keep reading?
* Morris is a good writer in that her use of language is excellent. She is descriptive, creating wonderful scenes. Well, not wonderful as in "nice," but wonderful as in memorable. In fact, she's so good at making the story tangible that I felt grimy, sweaty, and desperate while reading the book.
* Although I didn't like any of the characters much, they were compelling enough to, like I said, make me want to find out what happened.
* Because I hate to give up on books. I probably need to see a therapist about that.

My advice: unless you want to be in reading agony or unless you enjoy being mired in depressing lives, skip it.


Debbie said...

Thank you ....again! I read that book years ago, when Oprah first recommended it. It was confusing and depressing to me. You were right on all accounts.

Barbara said...

Ha! This is such an excellently written review. I have not read this book (although despite your warnings I am tempted now just to see if it is as bad as you say! I'm a glutton for punishment like that). I have, however, read others like it, where there is nothing within me that is enjoying it, save perhaps being impressed by the writer's ability to write. Painful, though. Kind of like plucking your eyebrows. It hurts, it's annoying, you don't want to do it, but once you are finished you'll be glad you persevered to the end. :-)