Songs in Ordinary Time

Songs in Ordinary Time

3.2 23
by Mary McGarry Morris
     
 

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It's the summer of 1960 in Atkinson, Vermont. Maria Fermoyle is a strong but vulnerable divorced woman whose loneliness and ambition for her children make her easy prey for dangerous con man Omar Duvall. Marie's children are Alice, seventeeninvolved with a young priest; Norm, sixteenhotheaded and idealistic; and Benny,See more details below

Overview

It's the summer of 1960 in Atkinson, Vermont. Maria Fermoyle is a strong but vulnerable divorced woman whose loneliness and ambition for her children make her easy prey for dangerous con man Omar Duvall. Marie's children are Alice, seventeeninvolved with a young priest; Norm, sixteenhotheaded and idealistic; and Benny, twelveisolated and misunderstood, and so desperate for his mother's happiness that he hides the deadly truth he knows about Duvall. We also meet Sam Fermoyle, the children's alcoholic father; Sam's brother-in-law, who makes anonymous "love" calls from the bathroom of his failing appliance store; and the Klubock family, whoin contrast to the Fermoyleslive an orderly life in the house next door.


Songs in Ordinary Time is a masterful epic of the everyday, illuminating the kaleidoscope of lives that tell the compelling story of this unforgettably family.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As she proved in her first novel, Vanished, and in the equally compelling A Dangerous Woman, Morris can depict society's outsiders-people with bleak presents and no futures-with rare understanding and compassion. Here, she portrays an entire community, a small town in Vermont during the summer of 1960, and then focuses on one family, the Fermoyles. With no support from her alcoholic ex-husband Sam, Marie Fermoyle has struggled for eight years to raise her three children. She is sharp-tongued, bitter, resentful and driven nearly to distraction by unending money worries and her own shame at being a poor divorce in a staunchly Catholic town. The arrival of mysterious Omar Duvall with his con man's spiel of sudden riches brings Marie hope that she can change her dead-end existence. Among the 30 or so characters, there are no happy people: in fact, at first, one thinks this will be just an unbroken litany of sour, wasted lives, people mired in frustration and desperation, hiding tawdry secrets. But, although the exposition is long and leisurely, one is soon caught in the web of Morris's narrative, particularly in Marie's manipulation by Duvall, who sponges off the family while appearing to offer Marie the love she desperately craves. Meanwhile, her children-teenaged Alice and Norm, and fearful 12-year-old Benjy-are out-matched by the oily Omar, and they undergo their own torments as adolescents shamed by their parents and miserably conscious of their poverty. Innocent Benjy holds a secret so terrible he doesn't even fathom it until it is almost too late to avert tragedy. Morris weaves the taut strands of her plot with remarkable skill, revealing how people with no financial security and few mental resources are controlled by others more feral and more dangerous. Throughout, she maintains the suspense triggered by a dead body in the woods, and she pries open a Pandora's box of secrets, including double lives and the hypocrisy that masks sin behind piety. This novel becomes more powerful as one reads, building to a heartstopping denouement, yet remaining strictly observant of the minutiae of daily life that give the book its honesty and pathos.
Library Journal
Morris has had critical success with novels like A Dangerous Woman (LJ 11/15/90), which was made into a movie starring Debra Winger. But according to her publicist, this new work-which features an Irish American woman vulnerable to the blandishments of a con man-has a "commercial edge."
Donna Seaman
Morris, author of "A Dangerous Woman" (1990), has written a novel large enough to live in, a sprawling piece about small-town life. The year is 1960, the season is summer, and the town is Atkinson, Vermont. At the core is the Fermoyle household, a ramshackle place ruled by overworked, vexed, and cantankerous Marie. The only contribution her alcoholic ex-husband makes is to terrify and embarrass their three children. Norm and Alice are teenagers with short tempers, raging hormones, and doubtful prospects; Benjy is a young boy beset with fears and anxious for his mother's happiness. He thinks he's found the key, an unctuous con man calling himself Omar Duvall, but Benjy knows Duvall's awful secret and it's eating him alive. Meanwhile, Duvall just makes himself at home, convincing Marie to invest in one of his scams. From this center that doesn't quite hold, Morris spins countless side plots involving illicit affairs, family scandals, and unrequited love. This is perfect for readers who like big, busy novels.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101199473
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/01/1996
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
768
Sales rank:
374,264
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

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