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Outside the Ordinary World

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  709 ratings  ·  141 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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Average rating 3.48  · 
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Dix Mccomas
Jun 22, 2010 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
May 19, 2010 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
Sep 03, 2010 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
Jan 01, 2011 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
Sep 25, 2010 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 01, 2010 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
May 29, 2010 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
Mar 19, 2011 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
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Loved this, will come back to post a more in depth review.
Jul 10, 2011 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
Nov 12, 2010 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
Jul 27, 2010 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
Apr 20, 2011 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
Aug 16, 2012 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
Feb 22, 2013 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. ...more
Aug 15, 2010 rated it it was ok
Fine light reading for a vacation, though consuming an entire book about infidelity made me a little angry.
Nov 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Extremely well written, engaging story. I couldn't put it down. ...more
Apr 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Far and away the most beautifully written novel I've ever read! ...more
Sarah Obsesses over Books & Cookies
wow!! blown away with the writing. It's about family and an affair and the repetition of mistakes, history repeating itself. Lovely lovely book. Hope she is writing another!! ...more
Jun 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved the way this book was written..going back and forth from Sylvie's past to present. A beautifully written story that grabs you and holds on.
Jan 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: zeitgen-ssisch
I really liked the book. It is written really good and the emotions brought over well.

3,5 stars really.
Empress of Bookingham
Nov 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
A tale about how our past comes back to haunt us, how we never truly escape the choices we make, and how most of the time, the power to fulfill our dreams lies in our own hands, not in the hands of others. It’s about how easy relationships can fall apart and how hard it is to keep it together. It’s about how unresolved issues come back to bite us. And most of all, it’s about how we need to “let go” to truly find ourselves.⁣

This tale spans 3 generations (Elaine, Sylvia, Hannah) but told from the
Jul 04, 2017 rated it liked it
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, the father of her most difficult art student. As their passion ignites, Sylvia is forced to examine her past, and the seeds of ...more
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a rec from goodreads. I really liked it. Starts with mom having an affair and her kids know, but not her husband, the mom is less than ideal. The book flashes back and forth through time to childhood with cheating mom, to present where narr cheats too. Then her older daughter knows and says little, it is history repeating itself. The moms husband dies and she ends up with the affair guy. The father was abusive and at one point mom asked child what she should do. Affair guy has a farm wi ...more
Jan 18, 2021 rated it did not like it
1.5 stars

I have had a fantastic start to my reading year so far.....until I read this one 😬

In the 1970’s Sylvia is a young girl keeping her mother’s affair with another man a secret from her father. 30 years later, Sylvia is also having an affair herself.

And that’s about it. None of the storyline is very interesting and although everyone is feeling guilty about everything (who would have thought? 🤔), I don’t really feel that this story offers anything of value to the reader, unless you have a
TL;DR: This was an engaging read with some lovely turns of language. I was engrossed both times reading it. TW (for book): Quick but vivid depictions of physical abuse.
Why I picked it up: The back cover said that it was about the emotional struggles of a woman having an affair and I was interested. I'm always curious why people fall from fidelity, and so often when it happens in books it's purely smut.
What I liked: I loved the way the book flipped back and forth between the present day and the p
Michael Blaylock
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
A strong story that goes back and forth between the protagonist's childhood and present day with eerie similarities. The things that broke apart one family threaten to break apart another one in the exact same manner. I was surprised how well the book told a linear story while bouncing back and forth between times every chapter, but it laid down clues and necessary information in just such a way that the reader got all they needed and nothing more. A good read. ...more
Diana Reynolds
Oct 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: romance-eraotica
This story held my attention and I liked the flipping back from the 70s to the 2000s as a way of revealing the story. There are some insightful bits of writing with beautifully turned phrases, and the theme is relevant: we do look back and blame until we can come to terms with our past and until we learn to forgive, it continues to influence us in all sorts of ways.
May 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel
Although the topic of marital infidelity is not something that I would normally choose to read about, the book was well written, and the bigger issue of how our mother's lives affect their daughters was of great interest. Dori Ostermiller is a talented writer and the book was enjoyable. ...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

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