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Not an ordinary book at all.
Posted by Betti Trapp on 5/30/2003
This book was by far the best book I have read in a long time. It's short in pages, but very long in thoughtful wisdom. The story is about a boy who's lost his brother in a boating accident, of which he was part of. When he tries to commit suicide, feeling guilty about his brother's death, this story takes a twist you could not have expected. His parents, himself, his grandparents turn into anything but Ordinary People, and I think the title is a play on words, almost sarcastic, because of all the things this family is, ordinary was NEVER one of them. The father is a caring, almost over-doting but well loved by the reader, the mother an absolute villain, and the boy, who can be nothing but himself, does not know that that is precisely who he is. A very strange but loveable psychiatrist helps to do the trick, but the inner strength of the boy is what shines through every page, the paradox being he is certain he has no inner strength. Infinitely treasurable, the story becomes as real to you as yourself. If only all books and stories could be written like this one, with page turning drama and straight from the heart, there would never be another book review. 10 stars to the author on this one, plus a Grammy and an Emmy and an all around standing ovation.
Posted by Alejandra Lopez on 5/26/2000
"Ordinary people" by Judith Guest we can encounter a great deal of vulnerability and artificiality in The Gerads , an upper -middle class American family. It tells the story of the devastating effects loss can have on what to all appearances is a "model" family. The family consists of Beth, the mother who is perfectly callous, cold and unfeeling, Cal,the father who is constantly manipulated by his wife, but is in a constant fight to keep his family together, Conrad, the emotionally unstable teenage son, and Buck, the "perfect" son who died in a boating accident. The story is set in Illinois, which adds to the trauma of the story line.
The atmosphere the family lives in before the tragic death of the perfect son, Buck is "great". Buck made the entire family proud. After his death in the boating accident the facade the family lived in started falling apart. Conrad felt he was responsible for the death of Buck and blamed himself. He even tried committing suicide and this just made his "perfect" mom mad. This family has trouble communicating and they just avoid talking about their problems. Whenever Cal and Conrad try speaking up Beth interrupts with her attitude and brings up supposedly "happier" memories. Berger, a psychiatrist that Conrad was seeing made him realize the truth about what really was going on in his family. He was of great help to Conrad and Cal, but Beth didn't want to see him because she thought family problems should be fixed within the family. Overall, I think this book is really good in making you realize that your own problems are so normal and many people go through the same thing. Even though they had more severe problems like depression, it helped me see my issues aren't that bad when compared to others. I recommend you watch the movie because it's easier to understand the meaning of their situation.
Maturation and Initiation
Posted by Riley Fike on 10/2/2000
"Ordinary People" by Judith Guest, is a wonderful novel about maturation and initiation into the "real world". After attempting suscide over the loss of his brother, Conrad Jarrett, is struggling to retain his life. Growing up, Conrad never really got in trouble. His older brother, Buck, was always being taught the "lessons of life". This made loosing a loved one, even harder for Conrad to deal with. After being released from the hospital for attempting suscide, Conrad has to struggle with being accepted back into the community. Conrad's parents are very diferent, Beth is very concentrated on the Jarret family looking "normal" to society. Calvin, was raised with out a father of his own, and is struggling with the indoctrination of how to be a happy person. Traditional characteristics in this society, for a family, is to look happy even when they are not. Beth is most focused on this and becomes very upset when Calvin brings Conrad's problems into public eye. Conrad has to return to school a year behind where he should be, due to missing finals. His friends have all moved on and he feels left behind and out of place. While he trys to put all the pieces of his life back in place, he must also deal with a family that has ben torn apart. Judith Guest used maturation, initiation, and indoctrination, to show the real problems of families and how they struggle to over come them. Finding true happiness on the inside and looking deeper to what lies beneath.
Posted by Gary F. Taylor on 7/23/2002
The Jarretts are the perfect family leading a perfect life in a perfect world: wealthy, respectable, an expensive house in an exclusive neighborhood, European vacations, Texas golf trips. But perfection comes at a price, and when older son Buck dies in a boating accident and surviving son Conrad attempts suicide the difference between the American dream and American reality becomes painfully apparent. The mask of perfection cracks, and those who hide behind it find themselves emotionally unable to rebuild their lives.
Judith Guest brings the reader into the story at the middle, shortly after son Conrad's release from the hospital--and with a somewhat sparse but remarkably eloquent style quickly develops the characters that people Conrad's world as he fights to find balance between his parents and himself, as he works desperately to find a way out of the expectation of perfection imposed upon him by both himself and the society in which he moves.
Guest's characters move with considerable reality and a touching humanity above the novel's unexpectedly complex underpinnings, and the author's prose is smooth, easy to read and understand, and completely faultless. Among the most astonishing elements of the work is the fact that Guest writes the entire novel in the present tense--a risky choice, but one which she brings off with amazing skill. A beautifully written novel and a powerful look at the downside of the American dream. Strongly recommended.
Posted by Orrin C. Judd on 10/6/2000
Ms Guest tells the story, which the movie faithfully followed, of an upper middle class family in suburban Chicago. Calvin Jarrett is a successful tax attorney and his wife Beth is the queen of the country club crowd, but their son Conrad has just returned home from a sanitarium after slashing his wrists following the death of his beloved older brother. As Conrad tries to readjust to school, friends, a new psychiatrist and most of all his parents, he plumbs deeper into the depths of his own soul and comes to some startling realizations about himself and his family. At the same time, his father begins to realize that there are terrifying depths lurking beneath the seemingly successful surface of his marriage.
The book continually prompts the shock of recognition as we discern character traits and even scenes out of our own lives and we come to see that the Jarretts are truly "Ordinary People". The extraordinary tragedy in their lives has merely revealed fault lines that lie beneath many of our own lives.