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Outside the Ordinary World

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3.48  ·  Rating Details ·  609 Ratings  ·  122 Reviews
Sylvia Sandon is at a crossroads in her life. A wife and mother of two daughters, she and her city-planner husband grapple with the escalating renovation of their antique farmhouse--a situation that mirrors the disarray in Sylvia's life. Facing a failing marriage and a famished career as an art teacher, Sylvia finds herself suddenly powerless to the allure of Tai Rosen, th ...more
Paperback, 374 pages
Published July 27th 2010 by Mira (first published January 1st 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,602)
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Dix Mccomas
Jun 22, 2010 Dix Mccomas rated it it was amazing
I read Dori Ostermiller's novel in two sittings--and I am not a particularly fast reader. What made it so compelling for me has to do with the way in which Ostermiller has created a narrator whose own story, occurring in the new millenium, begins to mirror (rather against her will) that of her mother thirty years prior.

Yes, the pivotal moments in the lives of this mother and daughter do involve extramarital affairs. But as the title of the novel indicates, the real crucible for both women, as t
...more
India
May 19, 2010 India rated it it was amazing
Let me tell you why I love this book. Have you noticed the current trend in fiction these days – I have, I buy them for a living –many of the popular ones tell good stories, and more often than not they feature protagonists who are supernatural or canine or both. They are engrossing, for the length of time it takes to read them, but they lack an individual persona like a preteen who relinquishes her stunning uniqueness for the false safety of a peer identity.

“Outside the Ordinary World” is not
...more
Jill
Sep 06, 2010 Jill rated it it was amazing
Outside the Ordinary World is a gripping page-turner; a book that grabs you from the very first pages and doesn’t let go. It’s a book about the legacy of betrayal and there’s not a single false or sanctimonious note to be found. Have I mentioned it’s very, very good?

The book is divided into two narratives; the first takes place in the mid-70s when the protagonist, Sylvie, is only 12 years old. Her mother is “perfect”, the kind of mom who “wallpapered the insides of her silverware drawers” and he
...more
Wendy
Jan 01, 2011 Wendy rated it really liked it
My roommate and I were both psychology majors. She was working on a paper about infidelity and she asked me if I thought I could stay with a husband how had cheated on me. My answer was instantaneous. Of course not. No hesitation. The more we talked, however, the more I began to wonder. I still doubt I could stay in a relationship with someone who had broken my trust in that way, but I eventually came to see that it wasn't black and white. And you really never can know what you would do unless y ...more
Feral
Sep 25, 2010 Feral rated it it was amazing
My friend Meredith gave me this book, written by a friend of hers. I have been hungry for this kind of voice in books all my life. I'm out of my earlier phase of only reading women writers, and I read lots of books by men again, but somehow when a contemporary woman writes deeply and honestly w/o any hint of aspiring to the canonical standard - I don't really know how to say it - anyway I read it almost in one sitting. It touches gently but surely on all the tender places of families and relatio ...more
Heather Gudenkauf
Jun 04, 2010 Heather Gudenkauf rated it really liked it
Beautifully written and quietly spellbinding, OUTSIDE THE ORDINARY WORLD chronicles the heartbreaking deconstruction of an American family. Dori Ostermiller skillfully melds past and present through the eyes of young Sylvie who had to bear witness to her parents’ fallibility and adult Sylvia who has to come to terms with her own choices as a wife and mother. Ostermiller’s compelling debut novel is a story of love, regret, and forgiveness that will linger with readers well after the final page is ...more
Jessica (Jess Hearts Books)
Dori Ostermiller’s debut novel Outside the Ordinary World has already been received with high critical acclaim in the US, that, along with the beautiful cover and intriguing family drama described in the synopsis had me very excited to read this one and straight from the beginning I could see what all the fuss was about. Dori’s writing grips you from the start, the beautiful imagery wrapping itself around you like a blanket. Despite Outside the Ordinary World being a debut it’s clear that Osterm ...more
Ellen
May 31, 2010 Ellen rated it it was amazing
There are so many things I love about this novel. Like Sylvia's separate but echoing stories of her childhood and her adulthood, which are beautifully blended and woven together. And like Ostermiller's descriptions of intense moments caught in time - young Sylvie's mother curled in the patch of sunlight on the rug in the empty yellow room.

I think the real genius of this book is the way the author captures the complexity of family life - the parallel, non-intersecting domestic conversations, the
...more
Lauren
Apr 05, 2011 Lauren rated it liked it
This is turning out to be a good choice given I just grabbed it at the library based on a review. It follows a mother and daughter, first in the 1970s and then in present day. Both are unfaithful in their marriages but somehow the book manages to be un-judgmental enough that you end up able to focus on the women, their choices, lives and so on, without being entirely focused on 'the cheating'.

Just finished--def. worth reading. The female characters are flawed and vacilate between being likeable
...more
Merry
Nov 17, 2010 Merry rated it it was amazing
I liked this book a lot. Dori Ostermiller has done an exceptional job creating a lattice work of relationships past and present, west coast and east coast, durable and ephemeral . The writing style is arresting, poetic, and so specific in its use of imagery and metaphor that I felt at times like I was reading a painting, a painting that Sylvia Sandon had meticulously created to illustrate and to make sense of the shifting narratives of her life.
Another exceptional element of Ostermiller's nove
...more
Sally
Sep 03, 2010 Sally rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I won this book through First Reads.

I dont normally read books in this genre but something made me want to read it. I think it was the cover that drew me to wanting it sooo badly, I was intreaged to find out more about it.
I am glad that I read this book, but wouldn't say it was one of my favourite reads of the year. I did though found myself unable to put it down once I was reading it but not really thinking about it when I wasnt.

Dori Ostermiller created characters with depth and life. I like
...more
Jane
Jul 17, 2011 Jane rated it really liked it
I was recently in Lassen Volcanic Park. Had to hike in through a snow filled road. Hilly drifts of 3 to 6 feet. Slippery and occasionally unstable (falling through a foot or two of snow-unstable). It was hard hiking for me...given the up and down, probably four miles of this. Slow, painful going. My son and husband carried the packs after the first half mile. And they both also hauled the food on a sled. All this to say, I sacrificed clothes for books. My husband had ten times more articles of c ...more
Shari
Apr 20, 2011 Shari rated it really liked it
The year is 2005, and Sylvia is married with two daughters. For the last 7 years, Sylvia and her husband Nathan along with the girls have spent their weekends working on their "dream home", an old farmhouse, which that they bought at auction and hoped to have totally renovated within a year. The excitement of their marriage is gone, the renovations are not going well, the money is running out and to make matters worse, Sylvia's carreer as an artist is at a standstill.

Flash back 30 years, twelve
...more
Pat
Aug 16, 2012 Pat rated it really liked it
Told in chapters that alternate between Sylvia the adult and Sylvia the child, Ostermiller has crafted a novel that twice demonstrates the impact of infidelity. Sylvia and her older sister, Ali, live with a father who is often distant and cruel, and a weak mother with a long-term "boyfriend" who is part of the fabric of their lives. As an adult, Sylvia repeats what she learned as a child and pursues an intimate relationship at the expense of her own marriage and children. While Sylvia's mother c ...more
Michelle
Feb 22, 2013 Michelle rated it really liked it
I bought this one a few years ago as I strolled through B & N. I let it sit on my bookshelf for too long. I loved this story told in alternating generations but always from Sylvia's point-of-view. She shares her current family struggles interspersed with her childhood. Through the back and forth we see how childhood lessons become adult behavior. Very well done.
Brandee
Nov 16, 2014 Brandee rated it really liked it
I wanted to dislike this book, but then I realized it was the infidelity I detested. The story was rock solid, the writing nearly impeccable with lots of unusual little bits that kept me hooked, even in my loathing of the adult Sylvia and especially Tai (ugh). His whole trippy, Zen, "wise" (while seducing someone's wife), gorgeous, trail-hiking, art-loving, labyrinth-building, tea- brewing, and oh yeah, homewrecking persona was beyond irritating and that made me not like Sylvia. I loved the chil ...more
Carrie
Aug 15, 2010 Carrie rated it it was ok
Fine light reading for a vacation, though consuming an entire book about infidelity made me a little angry.
Lori
Nov 06, 2010 Lori rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Extremely well written, engaging story. I couldn't put it down.
Nancy
Apr 26, 2012 Nancy rated it it was amazing
Far and away the most beautifully written novel I've ever read!
Kirsta
Dec 14, 2010 Kirsta rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010
I have taken a few days since finishing this to try to come up with the words to describe this and I can't. I found the writing to be stunning, but within the excellent writing, I found myself stopping and thinking "what a great sentence". I was easily able to see the individual parts that made the whole. Is this good or bad? I don't know.

This is a story of adultery and genetics and searching. It tells the tale of Sylvia as an adolescent in the 70's and then as a married working mother of two i
...more
Susan Bright
Jul 24, 2010 Susan Bright rated it really liked it
I just finished reading Dori Ostermiller’s debut novel Outside The Ordinary World. This gripping novel is a story of love, lies, betrayal and regret. It is a story about relationships between mothers and daughters, husbands and wives.

The year is 2005, and Sylvia is married with two daughters. For the last 7 years, Sylvia and her husband Nathan along with the girls have spent their weekends working on their “dream home”, an old farmhouse, which that they bought at auction and hoped to have total
...more
Zoë
Dec 12, 2010 Zoë rated it liked it
Shelves: review-copy
"Maybe, then, life is a series of reenactments- chasing down new frames for the stories that stalk us."

Sylvia swore she'd never be like her mother, but as Outside the Ordinary World by Dori Ostermiller shows, some ghosts are too strong to hide from forever. The novel alternates between Sylvia's childhood, taking place in in the late sixties to mid seventies, to her life as a mother of two and her affair with the father of one of her students from 2004-2005.

I did find Sylvia's lover, Tai, to lac
...more
Tonya
Feb 03, 2011 Tonya rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011-reads
Is the grass really greener on the other side? You see this situation every day, someone isn't happy in their marriage; whether they are justified or not. So they find someone whom they don't have to live with, and of course things are going to be grand!

This book was well written, I loved going back forth between present and past, all tied together very nice between the mother's choices and Sylvia's choices. When you become an adult and then a parent you seem to understand more of the choices an
...more
Patrice Sartor
3.5 stars.

A preface: I hate that awkward feeling, shortly after you start a book, when you realize that you've read it before. In my case, for this book, I could tell I'd read it before (curse me for not reviewing it then!!), but I couldn't remember what was going to happen, which is what kept me going. After something happened I would often get an "oh yeah, I remember that now" kind of flash. It was annoying, and dampened some of my feelings for this title, I am sure. It's not something I wante
...more
Laura de Leon
Nov 08, 2010 Laura de Leon rated it really liked it
I was intrigued by the description of this book, but was also worried-- I often react badly to books about infidelity.

In this case, I really could identify with where Sylvia is in her life. I even started reading the book on my 42nd birthday, and the modern day sections start on Sylvia's 42nd birthday. Sure, the details are different-- I'm not an artist, and there isn't any other guy to even potentially bring this sort of temptation into my life.

Sylvia is having a lot of trouble figuring out who
...more
Lydia Presley
Aug 28, 2010 Lydia Presley rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, family, 2010
Outside the Ordinary World is a story of a mother and daughter, of marriage and marital issues and of, ultimately, mistakes made and the attempts made to right them.

Sylvia's mother is a religious woman. She's heavily involved in the Seventh-Day Adventist and, despite that religious leaning, she makes the mistake of looking outside of her marriage and involving her daughters in the decisions that will shape their lives.

The book switches back and forth from the early 70's to the mid-2000's. We mov
...more
Florinda
Mar 31, 2012 Florinda rated it liked it
Dori Ostermillers debut novel, Outside the Ordinary World, covers a lot of ground. It's the engrossing history of a complex family, an examination of marriage and its challenges, and a reflection on how women may find themselves becoming their own mothers, despite every effort not to.

Moving back and forth, in alternating chapters, over the 30 years between the mid-1970s and the present day and from California to Massachusetts, Ostermiller follows the parallels and differences between the disinte
...more
Mandy
Nov 18, 2011 Mandy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I loved this book. It was like wading through a water-colour landscape of the main character's life.

From my review: "Outside the Ordinary World is the type of book that you can truly immerse yourself in and I longed for the scenery of the novel for some time after I finished reading it. I enjoyed the glimpse into the world of the Seventh Day Adventists but was pleased to find that this was not a religious novel, but rather a compelling commentary on religion, faith, betrayal and legacy."

Read th
...more
J. Benjamin
Mar 11, 2016 J. Benjamin rated it it was amazing
This book grabs you. It's deeper than you think and has a satisfying ending, though, as I read it, I wondered where it was going and what it would look like when it got there. This is the type of novel written from the heart of true experience (in some form or another.) Feels more autobiographical than fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Couldn't put it down. Read it in a day.
Meredith
May 26, 2011 Meredith rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: women in their 40's
I liked this book because I felt that it captured the woman-in-her-40's perspective and predicament. Or perhaps it just resonated with me. It's a time of life that your kids are getting bigger and not needing you in the way they once did. Your career is floundering and you question your career path. The main character in this book is in this place. She has been married for around 15 years and she and husband are stuck in a predictable array of unresolved marital issues. The way she deals with he ...more
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Read with Me, Outside the Ordinary World 6 19 Sep 03, 2010 06:51PM  
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Dori Ostermiller was born in Los Angeles, a fifth-generation Californian. In her early 20's, she abandoned her path as a pre-med student to pursue an MFA in writing at the University of Massachusetts.

Since then, her work has appeared in numerous literary journals, including The Bellingham Review, Roanoke Review, Alligator Juniper, Chautauqua Literary Journal and the Massachusetts Review. She is t
...more
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