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Songs in Ordinary Time

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  30,125 ratings  ·  581 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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Dawn Did you press on? I would love to hear your thoughts once you finished. I was like you & pondered throughout, "what is the point of this novel?"…moreDid you press on? I would love to hear your thoughts once you finished. I was like you & pondered throughout, "what is the point of this novel?" Sadly, I finished & still do not know! I continue to ponder...(less)

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3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  30,125 ratings  ·  581 reviews

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Laurel Wicke
Feb 23, 2008 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 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 06, 2007 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
Feb 20, 2010 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
Carrie Kellenberger
Aug 31, 2012 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
Jan 11, 2010 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
Susan Katz
Mar 13, 2012 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
Aug 08, 2012 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
Feb 22, 2008 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.
Hope R
Nov 05, 2014 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
Jennifer Millspaugh Gray
Jun 08, 2010 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.
Dec 05, 2012 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
R.W. Patterson
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is another of my all-time favorite books. I've recommended this one to friends over the years--so heartbreakingly beautiful and well written. Leaves a memory on the heart that isn't easily forgotten.
Dec 29, 2011 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
Feb 24, 2012 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
Sep 27, 2009 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
Debbie Mcafee
Jul 25, 2009 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 08, 2009 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
Heather Lapinsky
Nov 07, 2010 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 03, 2011 rated it did not like it
I'm cheating by putting this in my read shelf. I read...half of it...which was brutal. I've never been so bored and unmotivated to read anything for "pleasure" in my life. I'd prefer a root least at the end of the torture there's a constructive ending.
Jenny Boyce
Jul 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Really well written but super depressing. Took me a long time to finish but it was like watching a train wreck and I couldn't stop.
Feb 10, 2010 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.
Ali Lafferty
Sep 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Yikes, what a sad book. Sometimes the prose didn't really hold my attention, but this was one of those books where you have very strong emotions about all of the characters (of which there are many) and that emotion is predominantly pity. After banging my head into a wall for 740 pages, I can now move onto something lighter--both weight-wise and theme-wise.
Harriett Milnes
Mar 06, 2018 rated it did not like it
For some reason, when I started this book, I checked out what other readers thought on Goodreads. I don't usually do that, hoping to make my own decision about the book. But this book had a somewhat low rating 3.69.
It seemed as if every review said: it is an incredibly depressing novel and it is an Oprah's Book Club book and she only picks incredibly depressing books.
I said to myself, well that's silly. Let's give it a try. I'm now on page 165 and reluctant to pick it up. I forgot to mention it
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. After reading the reviews I was not expecting much...just goes to show, everyone has different reading preferences. As you can see from my rating, I found this story very compelling and the characters very well developed.
Dec 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
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
May 16, 2008 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
Oct 03, 2009 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
Dec 11, 2012 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!
Oct 26, 2014 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.
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ABBA FANS : FAVOURITE SONGS !! 12 16 Nov 22, 2017 01:37PM  

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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,