Songs in Ordinary Time

Songs in Ordinary Time

3.2 23
by Mary McGarry Morris

View All Available Formats & Editions

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


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.

Editorial Reviews
Morris, author of A Dangerous Woman, explores the relationship between a trusting, needy divorcée and a shady con man. Raising her children without any support from her alcoholic ex-husband, Marie Fermoyle is lured into Omar Duvall's trap by the glint of promised riches. Marie and her children, troubled by their shabby existence, are no match for Omar's manipulations. Read by the author.
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.

Read More

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Sales rank:
File size:
901 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Mary McGarry Morris is the author of Vanished, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award; A Dangerous Woman, which was chosen by Time as of of the five best novels of 1991; Songs in Ordinary Time, an Oprah's Book Club Selection and national bestseller, and the critically acclaimed Fiona Range and A Hole in the Universe. She lives in Andover, Massachussetts.

On the web:

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Songs in Ordinary Time 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Delevia More than 1 year ago
Anything thing by Mary McGarry Morris is worth the read - her plots and characters are engrossing!!
Delilahv17 More than 1 year ago
I still think about this book and miss the characters. I recommend this book to anyone who likes a story about many different people and how their lives intertwine.
tchrreader More than 1 year ago
About a family- the dad is a drunk, mom works hard but keeps getting into messes, she falls for a con man. The kids get in trouble, dad can't get sober. This book is hard to follow, I just wanted to be finished with it. Not worth reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I rarely have trouble getting through a book - this one was a test - slow moving, undeveloped characters - no plot, just plod - not a single character in a book with far too many worth rooting for.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Couldn't wait to get my reading time in to find out what was going to happen. I really felt like I was part of this family, I wanted to help the Fermoyle's! I was hoping Omar Duvall would have come to a more devastating end. But I guess he got what he didn't want, having to be on the run again. Mary McGarry Morris has a great way of forming characters and getting you right into their lives.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was one of those books you keep waiting for something to happen and it never does. Although the characters were interesting, the book will leave you empty. I was very disappointed in the book, yes the story line will keep you turning the pages, but only because you know there's got to be something good between the cover, but sad to say there isn't. You will however become attached to the characters and the way their lives are going, but there is no ending to the story. It just leaves you hanging and wondering......what????
Guest More than 1 year ago
The characters from this novel have remained with me since reading it. The story is common enough, but the way I felt drawn into the lives of these ordinary people was captivating. I think of them often. Well written and enjoyable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I got about 160 pages into this book and I just had to stop. I thought it sounded fascinating, as I usually love books about small town life and the people who inhabit those small towns. But, I just couldn't get into this one. None of the characters are likable to me. The only one I liked even a little bit was the boy, Benjy. Maybe it just wasn't my cup of tea. Just couldn't waste any more time on it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it
MrsO More than 1 year ago
I really loved this book and was kind of exhausted after reading as many pages in a day as I could...took me less than a week to get through all 739 pages. The characters were all very quirky and odd, a community full of interesting people, most of them struggling with some type of weakness or unfulfilled dream or secret. I would have given this book 5 stars if it were not for the ending that really wasn't. If I had written this book I would have ended it very differently, but then this was an Oprah book afterall and rarely do these have happy endings all tied in a bow. But all in all it was entertaining and page turning and I found myself unable to put it down for very long at a time because I just couldn't wait to see what was going to happen next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I hated
SC23 More than 1 year ago
I did finish this book and it was beautifully written and the characters were well drawn, but.....they were the most dysfunctional, depressed, depressing group I have ever met. I honestly feel that my normal optimistic, happy personality was brought down. I have been sluggish and weary and I think it is the influence of these dark, distressed people. I wanted to know how it would end...and it didn't really end, but it seemed life was on an up tick for most of them. I do feel I have come to know the characters personally and my life looks glorious next to theirs, but I would think twice before picking up another of this author's books. I just don't want to feel that low again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
¿Songs in Ordinary Time¿ often seems to be a quite simple and ordinary story about simple, troubled people but the underlying originality of these characters and how easily they relate to the reader will pull you in. From the first paragraphs of this story, readers will be intrigued by the interesting lives and stories where mysteries are left unsaid and the reader¿s imagination is left to wonder. This is a story with multiple viewpoints of an entire community of people whose lives and decisions overlap each other¿s in interesting and surprising ways. Reader¿s will find themselves pulled into every aspect of these character¿s lives as they relate to them. All the characters in this book have the same underlying desires in life: the desire to make their way in the world the desire to do something great with their life the need to make a good living for themselves and their families and to find happiness and love. These simple qualities and desires every character hopes for in different, interesting, and beautiful ways. Once you start reading this book you can¿t stop without knowing whether or not these characters¿ will fulfill their hopes, dreams and desires. Every character is searching and is on such a different path in life that will keep the pages turning. Part of the enjoyment of reading this book is to watch and grow with the characters and to discover how to find enjoyment in a seemingly uninteresting period of their lives.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the characterizations of certain people in the book, and one thing I loved was how Morris changed the point of view constantly.. kept the story alive. However, I too felt as if something was supposed to happen and didn't. but one thing is certain, you feel like you are a part of this town, and you never ever want to leave it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
But somehow you get through it and you are a better person for it. I fell in love with Benny yet I kept waiting for him to learn right from wrong - what I didn't see until the end was that his right centers solely around his mother's happiness. I even found myself cheering for Sam Fermoyle - I must say - Mary M. Morris did quite a job filling out his character!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had a real hard time getting through the first part of the book. I don't think I would have if wasn't on Oprah's list. But once I got through the first part it was a really good book. Someone on here said they did'nt think that anyone changed in the book except Alice, but I don't think that is true. I think Marie did change at the end. Anyway, it was a pretty good book.