The Magic of Ordinary Days: A Novel

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Overview

The powerful story of one woman's passion in a world at war.

Olivia Dunne, a studious minister's daughter who dreams of becoming an archaeologist, never thought that the drama of World War II would affect her quiet life in Denver. But when an exhilarating flirtation reshapes her life, she finds herself in a rural Colorado outpost, married to a man she hardly knows. Overwhelmed by loneliness, Olivia tentatively tries to establish a new life, finding muchneeded friendship and ...

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The Magic of Ordinary Days

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Overview

The powerful story of one woman's passion in a world at war.

Olivia Dunne, a studious minister's daughter who dreams of becoming an archaeologist, never thought that the drama of World War II would affect her quiet life in Denver. But when an exhilarating flirtation reshapes her life, she finds herself in a rural Colorado outpost, married to a man she hardly knows. Overwhelmed by loneliness, Olivia tentatively tries to establish a new life, finding muchneeded friendship and solace in two Japanese American sisters who are living at a nearby internment camp. When Olivia unwittingly becomes an accomplice to a crime and is faced with betrayal, she finally confronts her own yearnings and comes to understand what she truly believes about the nature of trust and love.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143119951
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/30/2011
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 131,828
  • Product dimensions: 4.90 (w) x 7.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Ann Howard Creel is the author of two award-winning young adult novels, Water at the Blue Earth and A Ceiling of Stars.

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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

History has a way of bringing the past to life, conjuring up people and places that have long since disappeared. Living in the past is also a way to flee the present, to experience and perhaps live in a world that is not complicated by emotion and regret. Livvy could have never imagined that her life would take a course that was so distant from the dream she had for herself—her hopes to become an archeologist, to lead a cloistered yet fulfilling life. But she becomes pregnant and unexpectedly finds herself far from home and her family, married to a man she does not know, as the country is on the brink of war. As she explains it, "in one fleeting moment I stripped away the petals of my future, let them catch wind, and fly away."

At first, Livvy feels almost as though she is in exile as she struggles to come to terms with her feelings of loneliness. "Ever since I had been quite young," she admits, "I could resist those who went against me, had been able to deny their opinions. . . . My inner strength came from an ability to handle, then separate myself from adversity." But the strength and intellect that allowed her to break through the barriers faced by most American women in the 1940s are frustrated by life on a prairie farm where there is no one to talk to, few books to read, and nowhere to go.

Slowly she takes to exploring her new environment and immersing herself in the history of the Plains. She begins a friendship with Rose and Lorelei, two Japanese American women confined at a nearby internment camp, and begins to find stimulation and comfort in the companionship.

Meanwhile, through radio and newspaper reports and her friendship with Rose and Lorelei, Livvy becomes aware of the history being made in her own lifetime. Stories of Nazi concentration camps, reports of enormous American losses in the Pacific, and the realities of Rose and Lorelei's lives remind her daily that her own troubles seem small in comparison. But when Livvy plays an unwitting role in the escape of two German POWs, she finally realizes that she, too, has a role in the history being made around her.

A history buff, Livvy yearns to know more about the circumstances behind this mysterious event. Though she has forged a strong friendship, she suddenly realizes that she knows very little about Rose and Lorelei and the dangerous plot—a scandal to which she had suddenly become an accomplice. She observes, "Rose, Lorelei and I had started swimming together on the surface of the water. We had at times dipped below the surface as we went along. But we hadn't taken a deep dive, hadn't delved into those dark waters, the ones where we kept hidden the unseen frailties that lie in wait."

Through her relationship with Rose and Lorelei, Livvy slowly begins to accept her present life, finding a new appreciation for the kind of freedom she had always taken for granted and a growing love for her simple, yet kind husband who is devoted to her happiness. She realizes that the most valuable lesson in life is how each person creates her own history day by day.

ABOUT ANN HOWARD CREEL

Ann Howard Creel is the author of two award-winning young adult novels, Water at the Blue Earth and A Ceiling of Stars.

AN INTERVIEW WITH ANN HOWARD CREEL

Until this book you have been known as a writer of young-adult fiction. Is writing for an older audience different?

Whether it's a book for children or for adults, when I sit down at the keyboard, the writing process is essentially the same. The same story elements—character, plot, setting, style, voice, etc.—must all be present. The difference comes from finding the voice of a child versus that of an adult. Subject matter may differ, too, however children's books involve serious topics now more than ever before.

What could a young reader learn from Livvy's story?

A young reader might learn that mistakes don't always hinder, that growth may follow mistakes, and that happiness may be found in unexpected places and in the company of unexpected people. Livvy's outlook on her mistake began to change as the book progressed, as Ray's love began to touch her, and as she started to see the special qualities that shimmered beneath his surface.

Some readers might disagree with Livvy's decision to stay with Ray instead of returning to Denver. What would you say to them?

Livvy ended up staying because in Ray's presence she learned to love and trust again. I wanted the choice to be a difficult one without a clear or easy answer, and certainly for some women, leaving might have been a better choice. I enjoy the disagreement on this point, because in my experience, each person views it differently based on his or her past and inclinations. It makes for heated discussions, too.

You have said that the novel was inspired, in part, by an actual event that occurred in a Nazi POW camp. Can you tell us more about this incident, and why you found it so compelling? Is Livvy herself based on a real-life person?

Livvy is fictitious, however I based Rose and Lorelei on three Japanese American sisters who were interned at Camp Amache and who aided in a POW escape. They were later prosecuted for treason. I latched onto this story because the aid rendered by the women seemed to be motivated by love, the results were tragic, and the story, although widely sensationalized in the past, has largely been forgotten, even in the area of Colorado where it took place.

You have also said that you wanted to write a novel about an arranged marriage. Why?

I'm fascinated with relationships and marriage to begin with, and arranged marriages, which have been a common occurrence throughout history, are particularly compelling. I've always wondered how two strangers, thrown together most often by their parents, would manage to open up the doors to each other. Given the daunting task of maintaining a good marriage in any circumstances, I wondered how often love ripens between people who didn't know each other to begin with.

Although Livvy calls herself a "practice rug," she is determined to find her own way in the world and wants to put off marriage until after she has settled into a career. What kinds of role models were available to independent-minded women like Livvy?

During World War II, women entered college and the work force in numbers never seen before. Women did everything from assemble fighter planes to organize Red Cross disaster relief to serve in the military in several newly established women's corps. Role models ranged from First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to Rosie the Riveter.

Can you recommend any other books for readers who are interested in learning more about rural Colorado and its history, or about American life during World War II?

Although there are a host of excellent books available about America during the war, the following painted a vivid picture of life during that time period: V is for Victory: America's Homefront During World War II, by Stan Cohen , The Homefront: America During World War II, by Mark Jonathan Harris, Franklin Mitchell, and Steven Schechter, Prisoners without Trial: Japanese Americans During World War II, by Roger Daniels, and Nazi Prisoners of War in America, by Arnold Krammer

What are you working on now?

I continue to be fascinated by our country's history and enjoy weaving together fact and fiction. Unlike other authors who tell me they often begin with a character or a plot, my inspiration usually comes from history and from a particular place and time. My current endeavor takes place in the West and is an exploration of family ties, love and loyalty, and how they relate to human connectedness to the land.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • Was Livvy's father right to insist on her finding a husband before she gave birth? What other options were available to her? What would have been the repercussions of these options?
     
  • It takes Livvy awhile to warm up to Ray, let alone love him. Do you think she was too hard on him? Were you surprised that she could come to love him at all?
     
  • What are some of the qualities that make Livvy and Ray such well-developed characters? How does Creel make them human? How does each surprise you?
     
  • Creel reveals the story behind Livvy's pregnancy gradually; we don't find out what really happened until more than halfway through the novel. How does knowing she is pregnant change the opinions you had begun to form about her?
     
  • Why is it so easy for Livvy to make friends with Rose and Lorelei? How are their situations similar?
     
  • How did you feel about Rose and Lorelei after they used Livvy to help the POWs escape? Did they betray Livvy's friendship? Did you, like Livvy, feel any sympathy toward them because of their feelings for these soldiers?
     
  • Do you think the girls befriended Livvy because they knew she could help them with their plan? Why or why not?
     
  • What is the significance of Rose and Lorelei's fascination with butterflies?
     
  • What did you learn from this book about World War II and its effects on the home front?
     
  • Did Livvy make the right choice in remaining with Ray? What was she giving up by not returning to Denver? What do you think you would have done in her situation?
     
  • Would you attribute her whirlwind romance and pregnancy to grief over her mother's death? Why would a sensible, self-assured, independent woman "strip away the petals of her future to let them catch wind, and fly away?" Why is this metaphor so suitable to the book?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 46 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(37)

4 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 50 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 2, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    heart wrenching

    Olivia is so relatable. Her life in this brief time reminds us all of that time in our own lives, when we just wanted something 'else'. This is one of my favorite books of all time. Take the time to enjoy the magic if ordinary days!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2010

    Beautifully written, the title of this book captures its essence

    Beautifully written, the title of this book, <u>The Magic of Ordinary Days </u>, encompasses the essence of this story. Set in rural Colorado during World War II, Livvy is an independent, modern, city girl of the 1940s who, "in one fleeting moment . . . stripped away the petals of [her] future, let them catch wind, and fly away."

    After nursing her mother through a long-suffering death, Livvy's grief stricken vulnerability leads her to fall in love with a handsome soldier who is being shipped out to Europe. In her need to feel loved, she becomes pregnant by a soldier she never hears from again. Her stern father, a prominent minister who keeps his family and his grief at arms length, banishes Livvy to the country through an arranged marriage. At first, the isolation of the prairie, not to mention the lack of amenities such as a telephone, are a punishment that Livvy endures as a part of the penance she owes for her lapse in judgement. As she struggles with what her life has become as a farmer's wife, she grieves the loss of her dreams of becoming an archeologist and college professor. The monotonous days lead her to explore the area and befriend two Japanese Americans who are confined at an internment camp nearby. As their friendship blooms, Livvy sees the effects of the war in way she never had before.

    Seeing the history of this time period lived through the eyes of Livvy gave me an insight into life during World War II that was fascinating. Events in history, such as World War II, I tend to think of as far removed from life as I know it. Perhaps because this book is set in Colorado, I experienced it in a personal way when the author, Ann Howard Creel, details the places and terrain I live in. Seeing the subtleties of how lives were effected by those left behind makes that part of history seem more real to me, and makes me and the people who lived through it more alike than I ever considered. Thinking of history in terms of people rather than events allows me to feel pieces of history, rather than just recite the events. This book will become one of the classics on my shelf.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 4, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    One of my all time favorite reads. Something about arranged mar

    One of my all time favorite reads. Something about arranged marriages fascinates me. This was so cleverly written. I fell in love with Ray, and his ongoing ways of trying to make Livy happy. Such a gentleman. The movie is exceptionally great too!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 17, 2011

    BEAUTIFUL STORY

    I HAD THIS BOOK ON MY "TO READ" LIST FOR THE LONGEST TIME, THIS YEAR I FINALLY RETIRED SO BOUGHT THE BOOK SAT DOWN AND READ IT, I LOVED IT. I PLAN ON READING MORE FROM THIS AUTHOR.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2011

    LOVE this book!

    A perfect love story with the heart of nicholas sparks but richer with world war 2 history. Filled with anticipation for the central characters Livvy and Ray"s relationship I could not set it down. A feel good ending, middle and start!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2010

    Love is not always a bang, sometimes it's a whisper

    I wanted to read this book after seeing the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie. The book is slightly different, but no less interesting. Livvy and Ray are very full rich characters, and today's morals might find their arranged marriage hard to believe. It is a beautiful love story, one slow in developing, but mostly it is about grief, loneliness, and loss and the way it affects the decisions we make. The ending is more realistic than the movie version, and although I think the "lost in the snowstorm" scene a bit over used, it is a well written novel. The beauty of nature is very evident, and only embellishes the story. Well worth your time. If after reading you feel this couldn't happen today, then you are much too jaded my friend.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2005

    A must read book

    I watched the movie on Hallmark and loved it, so i decided to read the book. I'm one of these people who hates to read but i absolutly loved the book and couldn't put it down. I definitly recommend it for someone who enjoys a love story.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2005

    Creel needs to write more, more, more

    I watched the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie and just had to get the book. I couldn't believe how hard it was to find. I now have purchased 14 books and am giving them to my friends. They all love it also. We are going to have a booktalk in September and use the discussion questions.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2005

    good story line, but disappointed

    This story had a lot of potential but just didn't seem to hit the mark right away. Very vague beginning. Did not develop the characters as much as I had hoped. What could have been a great story turned out to be rather mediocre. Glad I read it, but it was a book that could have had more meat to it.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2013

    A Beautiful Love Story

    I loved this book. The characters were sincere and vivid. A beautiful story that had a love interest, drama, history etc. Would highly recommend to a book club or anyone who wants to read a love story that captures you from the very start.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2013

    This is a beautiful love story and so very well written. I saw

    This is a beautiful love story and so very well written. I saw the Hallmark movie and enjoyed the movie so much that I decided to purchase the book. Was not disappointed. The book had a somewhat different story line. However the book still held my interest with the concept of love and integrity. Would recommend the book and the movie. Was extremely moved by the book and also the movie. Neither disappointed me. A good book club because of the issues of the Japaneese interement and WW II. Would generate great discussions.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 15, 2013

    Great love story!

    I loved this book even more than I love the movie; finished it in less than 24 hours. Definitely worth a read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2012

    Love it

    Love it

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2012

    I liked the movie better.

    I liked the book, I really did but the movie had a happier ending.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2005

    Excellent Book!

    I absolutley loved this book. I could not put it down. This book follows the journey of a young woman named Olivia Dunne, whose life turns out much differently that she ever expected. A powerful and moving story about the nature friendship and about finding love in places that you never expect to.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2014

    Wonderfully woven story

    I had seen the film first by Hallmark, then found the book. I love this story: romantic but not cheesy or vulgar but also real. Love is not always a movie production- its not sparkly. Those who love a good historical fiction will be pleased as well.

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  • Posted December 17, 2013

    I've had this book for several years and have read it more than

    I've had this book for several years and have read it more than once. I find it a very heart warming story. I also learned a bit about that time period. If you like historical fiction I think you'll really like this book.

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  • Posted March 7, 2012

    Great book - Less emotional than I like

    I loved the story. It was emotionally complex, but left me wondering what those emotions were, especially for the lead male character (Ray). Highly recommend.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2012

    Great romantic read

    Great romance

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2012

    Amazing!

    This book is beautifully written and seems historically accurate. Read this after seeing the hallmark movie. The book is so mucch better than the movie, though the movie was very good!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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