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Songs in Ordinary Time
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Songs in Ordinary Time

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  20,439 ratings  ·  379 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)
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Oprah's Book Club Picks
64th out of 74 books — 1,151 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Laurel Wicke
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.
Nomanisan
Apr 18, 2008 Nomanisan rated it 2 of 5 stars
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
Dionne Nelson
Nov 28, 2010 Dionne Nelson rated it 2 of 5 stars
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
Lori
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...more
Susan Katz
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
Sharon
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
Hillery
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
Stephanie
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.
Blair
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
Jennifer Millspaugh
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.
Carol
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.
Stephanie
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...more
Susan
“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...more
Danice
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
Carrie Kellenberger
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...more
Debbie Mcafee
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
Sarah
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
Brittany
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
Jen
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
Debbie
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
Heather Lapinsky
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...more
Suzanne Auckerman
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...more
Milly
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!
Pat
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...more
Lietta
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
Marcia
really didn't get into this...it actually put me off Oprah picks for quite a while. It was well written, but depressing. It has been a while since I read it but I can remember wondering if anything good was ever going to happen.
Shannon
A slow and arduous read for me. I really had to force myself to keep going at points.
Becky
A very uninteresting story of a family in the 50s.
Jaci
As an Oprah selection, it proved true to being a tad grim (for all 740 p.) but the characters were well-drawn and I cared about them. Watching an entire cast of characters louse up their lives but move forward was not as grim as some of the reviews I've read of this book. The action takes place in 1960 during a summer in Vermont when the Fermoyle family, all of them vulnerable, are exposed to a dangerous con man. The action takes us full circle and there is some resolution and hope there. Great...more
cheryl
Again, I'm wanting a half star. 2.5 really fits better and I will probably keep waivering between 2 and 3.

Songs in Ordinary Time is written in a lovely prose and is focused on developing characters and place. These tend to be winning qualities for me. The tale explores many inhabitants of a small Vermont town with a focus on a single mom, her drunk ex, her three kids, and the con-man who takes up residence in her life with promises of riches and, perhaps more importantly to her, stability. I got...more
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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
More about Mary McGarry Morris...
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