Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Songs in Ordinary Time” as Want to Read:
Songs in Ordinary Time
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Songs in Ordinary Time

3.66  ·  Rating Details  ·  25,065 Ratings  ·  436 Reviews
Songs in Ordinary Time is set in the summer of 1960 - the last of quiet times and America's innocence. It centers on Marie Fermoyle, a strong but vulnerable woman whose loneliness and ambition for her children make her easy prey for the dangerous con man Omar Duvall. Marie's children are Alice, seventeen - involved with a troubled young priest; Norm, sixteen - hotheaded an ...more
Paperback, 740 pages
Published August 1st 1996 by Penguin Books (first published August 1995)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
She's Come Undone by Wally LambThe Poisonwood Bible by Barbara KingsolverI Know This Much Is True by Wally LambNight by Elie WieselMiddlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Oprah's Book Club Picks
66th out of 77 books — 1,341 voters
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeThe Help by Kathryn StockettThe Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini1984 by George OrwellPride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Best Page-Turners with Redeeming Social Value
246th out of 1,466 books — 3,661 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Laurel Wicke
Sep 28, 2011 Laurel Wicke rated it did not like it
Shelves: books-i-despise
This is about the time I quit reading Oprah's bookclub books. I want to slash my own wrists after reading most of them. I mean a steady diet of tragedy is just too much.
Apr 18, 2008 Nomanisan rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: NO ONE
Oh, my. I absolutely detested this book; I finished merely because I HAD to get finished with it so that I could put it away. Morris has created a world in which no one is free of some warping or embittering experience except the family next door to the protagonists, and they are presented in such cliched, matchstick form as to be beyond credibility--they exist merely as a balance to the pitiful main family and the characters who attach to them in an ever-widening series of cracks in the society ...more
Sep 16, 2007 Lori rated it liked it
Shelves: 2007september
Songs is well written.

The characters are interesting.

The plot is believable.

The town is realistic.

And all of it is incredibly, incredibly depressing.

Not *one* single person in the entire book has a good life. Or even a reasonably happy one -- or a shot at happiness, at that. And the fact that it's well written does nothing to help the fact that it's painful to read about these pitiful little lives in this pitiful little town.

Even though it's set a decade and a half before my birth, maybe it just
Dionne Nelson
Nov 28, 2010 Dionne Nelson rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Enemies
Oh, Oprah! Whatever did you see in this book? Only because of my hard-and-fast rule that I must finish reading every book I start, did I complete "Songs in Ordinary Time". Had the book been capped at, say, 300 pages it might have been, at least, moderately tolerable. At page 600, I was ready to physically hurt people . . . and there were still 152 pages to go! I'm truly at a loss for even one kind word to say about this book. The whole thing was fraught with far too many characters, many with wo ...more
Feb 22, 2008 Stephanie rated it did not like it
I learned nothing, and I have no idea what Oprah was thinking. For 740 pages I stuck with this book, thinking it has to get better, there has to be something more. There isn't. Everyone ends up in the same place they started.
Susan Katz
Mar 13, 2012 Susan Katz rated it did not like it
Shelves: adult-fiction
I don't usually give bad reviews; I just skip those books. And the fault here may lie in the reader, not in the book. But I found this novel simply unreadable. I only managed to get through 50 pages, but there was not one hint in those pages that the book had any message other than the world is an ugly place and people can be badly damaged. I don't need a book to tell me that. Perhaps I should have been interested in knowing what happened when the murderous con man moved in on the dysfunctional ...more
Carrie Kellenberger
Sep 15, 2012 Carrie Kellenberger rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
What a fantastic story! I am so surprised to read all of the negative reviews here. I thought the novel was beautifully written, and I enjoyed every last word of it. It took some time to get through, but Morris held my attention for two weeks with her wonderful, in depth characters and story telling. All of the characters are tragically despondent and intricately entwined with each another, all of them constantly moving away from one another only to come to a full circle in the end.

The story fo
Dec 05, 2012 Hillery rated it did not like it
First and foremost, this book was WAY too long. I am not against a long book, but 740 pages of the summer of 1960 in a small VT town where the action is either lacking, or repetitive, is excessive. What was the point? Morris could have left 200+ pages out of this book and no one would have known. The editor clearly did not do his/her job. Interesting, though universally depressing, characters, but again, why so many? It was not possible to keep up with them all, or care about them all. And a fat ...more
Jan 19, 2010 Sharon rated it it was ok
This books reminds me of why I stopped reading Oprah's book club selections. Thank goodness I don't live in Arlington, VT, where this book is set (nominally, via references to ski boots and neighboring NY and Quebec). The town is composed of the entire class list from "ACME book of Dopes and Losers." They are all here: the Con Man, the Drunk, the Bitter Divorcee, the Pervert, the Conflicted Priest, the Seemingly Normal Person with Hidden Secrets..not a likable character in the bunch. If I weren ...more
Aug 08, 2012 Debbie rated it it was amazing
This book was a bit difficult to get into at first, but the author has such a way with words that I found myself reading some of her lines over and over again just to savor the artistry. I read this book about a year ago, and I still think about it regularly. The characters were so well crafted that I feel like I know them and wish I could read more about them. They were not all likeable, but they were so real. I wish I could write like this! If you prefer character driven novels over plot drive ...more
Jennifer Millspaugh
Jun 08, 2010 Jennifer Millspaugh rated it did not like it
This book was the most depressing, disheartening book I have ever read. For over 800 pages you keep thinking "Things can't get worse, they've got to start getting better." Oh yes they can and oh no they don't. Unless your life is really crappy right now and you want to read the only book where people have it worse than you, don't waste your time.
Debbie Mcafee
Jul 25, 2009 Debbie Mcafee rated it really liked it
I actually ended up liking this book --- although it ended abruptly. It reminded me a lot of Carson McCullers or even a little Flannery O'Connor or Faulkner-like -- because it's a collection of these misfits --- the focus is on a family, but we also get glimpses of all the characters in this town. They're all so pitiful, lost, eccentric, etc. It took me a long time to read the book, however. I could only read about 25 pages a day, but I kept reading because I couldn't figure out how it would all ...more
Feb 24, 2012 Blair rated it did not like it
I started a book club once and this was the book that we started with. It was awful. We all struggled through it and I think only three of us finished it. There were threats not to come back and I was banned from picking any further reading material for the group. Nothing happy, nothing good, just a pathetic mess of characters making poor choices. I'm all about poor choices - I make my fair share of them. But I try to learn from them and move forward. No forward movement in this book. Everyone w ...more
Hope R
Nov 05, 2014 Hope R rated it really liked it
At first glance this appears to be a look at small town America, but it's better than that. "Songs in Ordinary Time" is more of a close study on how people justify their actions.

How does a swindler view taking other people's money as acceptable? How does a husband explain to himself why he hit his wife in a drunken argument? How does a businessman justify becoming a burglar? How does an alcoholic rationalize that "things will be different this time"?

Morris gives a perceptive look into the huma
Sep 27, 2009 Stephanie rated it really liked it
The characters in this novel are facing bleak prospects, their plights hard and long... no surprise; it is an Oprah pick after all.

I hesistantly picked it up - 740 pages of bleakness is what I first thought. What can I say, I've read enough of Oprah's picks to know that sometimes the journey she's recommended I embark on will leave me with feelings of hopelessness.

But altogether it was not a bad read... there is a bit of redemption in the end but the author is true enough to the characters to n
Dec 31, 2011 Susan rated it it was amazing
“Songs in Ordinary Time” was an Oprah Book Club pick in June 1997. Some might call it a 740-page tome. I loved every word.

In hundreds of mini-chapters, Morris takes readers to the summer of 1960 in small-town Atkinson, Vermont, where readers meet Marie Fermoyle, a divorced mother of three, along with her neighbors, her ex-in-laws, her boss, a variety of other townpeople – and, most significantly, Omar Duvall, a man without a shred of honesty.

Marie’s oldest child, daughter Alice, graduates from
Mar 15, 2009 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, historical
It’s an Oprah book club book, so of course it’s long, with a detailed plot, but also wonderfully written. Taken individually, our lives may seem routine and “ordinary”. Connected with those around us, however, life is anything but ordinary. This book highlights a period of time in one family’s life, and the community around them. Just as in real life, what the family views as “ordinary” is actually a story filled with emotion and unexpected surprises. The author does an excellent job creating we ...more
Feb 10, 2010 Carol rated it did not like it
An Oprah book! A depressing dysfunctional 700+ pages. I have finally arrived at the point that I can say this has nothing to give me that will improve me and walk away.
Nov 28, 2015 Danice rated it it was ok
I really enjoyed this book. Morris crafted the book in such a way as to not only write about the family at the center of the book, the Femoyles, but so artfully included so many other characters who inhabit the small town in 1960's Vermont. I was so pleased that as I started reading the book that Morris' web pulled me into the fictional universe of Songs in Ordinary Time. Some books I read have a character or two, if I am lucky, which is not only captivating but with each word I feel I am even m ...more
Oct 11, 2009 Brittany rated it liked it
Boy did I have trouble with this book. I had difficulty giving it a rating... sometimes I just wish there were 1/2 stars because in reality I would have given it 3 and 1/2 stars- but ended up giving it 4. I had a lot of problems with this book because I found it to be a completely difficult, yet gripping book to read. I didn't like any one character because in my eyes none of them were honorable and they all had their own problems that were as a result of their own stupid, careless mistakes. Thi ...more
Sep 03, 2008 Jen rated it really liked it
this is a long ass book. i traded a David Sedaris book that i had just finished for this one at a youth hostel while i was traveling. if i wasn't on an island in a foreign country, i probably would have held out for something better, but options (on everything) were limited. amazingly, i got through 'Songs' and didn't feel like it was a waste of my vacation time. there are over 2 dozen characters and many subplots to keep up on, so that got a bit confusing at times. some of the subplots probably ...more
Jan 18, 2015 Amy-Karen rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
What a waste of 740 pages... I now remember how depressing Oprah's book club books are. I kept reading and reading - sure that something redeeming would happen. Nothing. The story ends abruptly and nothing. What a waste of time.
Heather Lapinsky
Nov 08, 2010 Heather Lapinsky rated it it was ok
Not a favorite.

Every single one of these characters continually made the worst possible decisions at every opportunity. It became increasingly absurd that no one seemed to ever learn from their mistakes or to even recognize that their own poor decisions were to blame for their misery.

The con-man was written very well- he came off as sleazy and slimy as he should have been. All of the characters were written really solidly, to be honest. It was just the constant, unfailing, pick-the-worst-choice
Apr 07, 2015 Tricia rated it did not like it
Shelves: my-reviews
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 06, 2015 MerryMeerkat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Star Rating Art: 4 Stars
Star Rating Story: 4 Stars

Self purchase for Kindle.

First Impression: Seems as good as the previous volumes.

Things open up normally but quickly take a strange turn. Anxiety rising. Love Ampersand and his name. Not a lot of forward progress. The angry women are getting old. Have to wonder if the writter has Mommy issues. That is not supposed to be a slam on Vaughn, I think hes a fantastic writer and love his stuff. I just wonder why the women are all angry bitches. But that
Suzanne Auckerman
Jun 16, 2014 Suzanne Auckerman rated it liked it
I liked the first two books of hers that I read (A Dangerous Woman and Fiona Range) very much, but this book not so much. The setting was a small town in Vermont and is not my perception of Vermont people. There was not a single decent person (well maybe one). It was like she wanted to include every type depravity in the book or maybe she wanted to show that we are all hypocrites.

This book reminded me of Jane Hamilton's novels, which I stopped reading her after Book of Ruth and A Map of the Wor
Nov 01, 2014 Kathi rated it did not like it
I'm giving up on page 58. Other readers seem to either love this book or hate it. There are too many sub-plots and characters here to keep them all straight. In the first 50 pages, there have to be 40 characters introduced and other than living in the same town, I can't see what relationship they have to the central family. And I can't identify with the two young boys who seem to be the main characters. Life is short - I'm moving on to another book.
Mar 15, 2013 Milly rated it really liked it
Many people and many stories that fit together to create a great tale. This could be a cautionary tale for desperate women and con men, putting men over your children and not paying attention to what they see. Such flawed characters but that was refreshing. We can all be naive, cruel, manipulative, everything that embarasses us in life is what makes us human. Lovely story and I'm glad I stuch through this thick sucker!
Feb 15, 2014 Pat rated it really liked it
I'm constantly amazed at how DARK Oprah's Book Club titles are. Like "This Much I Know Is True" and "A Fine Balance," this novel is full of violence, corruption, thefts, murders, suicides, utterly ruined families, adultery, verbal and physical abuse of children, fornication, alcoholism, all manner of crimes-- and lots and lots of "f" word throughout. "Songs" even has a psychotic priest seducing a teen girl!
This portrait of small-town, 1960s Vermont is like "Spoon River Anthology" before the char
Jul 18, 2014 Lietta rated it really liked it
As I grow older, I seem more likely to forget my own history, in seeing this book on library shelf, I checked it out, began reading, realizing I had read it before. Undaunted I continued to read and remembering the characters and plot from earlier reading, it was enjoyable to revisit the characters, the town, the story line again. Found myself involved in the setting, held my interest as to what would happen to the characters as she details life events happening to each of them embuing a feeling ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
ABBA FANS : FAVOURITE SONGS !! 10 9 May 05, 2014 06:18AM  
  • The Treasure Hunt: A Little Bill Book for Beginning Readers, Level 3
  • Mother of Pearl
  • River, Cross My Heart
  • A Virtuous Woman
  • Jewel
  • Vinegar Hill
  • Back Roads
  • The Rapture of Canaan
  • What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day (Idlewild, #1)
  • The Book of Ruth
  • The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography
  • Icy Sparks
  • Gap Creek
  • Breath, Eyes, Memory
  • While I Was Gone
  • Here on Earth
  • The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings: A Five-Generation History of the Ultimate Irish-Catholic Family
  • The Heart of a Woman
As the author of several novels, Mary McGarry Morris has received considerable attention from critics and readers, as well as from prestigious awards panels.
Her books are noted for their depictions of mentally and emotionally impaired individuals who have difficulty coping with an inhospitable world.
As New York Times Book Review contributor Alice McDermott put it, “Morris does not devise plots,
More about Mary McGarry Morris...

Share This Book