Home | Reviews | Blog | Daily | Glossary | Orrin's Stuff | Email

Ordinary People ()

Mr. Doggett's Suggested Summer Reading for Students

It came as no surprise to find this fine novel on Mr. Doggett's List.  What was disconcerting was to realize that the book is nearly 25 years old now and that we saw Robert Redford's Oscar winning movie adaptation nearly twenty years ago (1980).  It was one of the most deeply affecting pictures I've ever seen; I graphically recall sitting in a local tavern with Joe & Wingnut afterwards and discussing our own families and the issues that the movies made us confront.

Ms Guest tells the story, which the movie faithfully followed, of an upper middle class family in suburban Chicago.  Calvin Jarrett is a successful tax attorney and his wife Beth is the queen of the country club crowd, but their son Conrad has just returned home from a sanitarium after slashing his wrists following the death of his beloved older brother.  As Conrad tries to readjust to school, friends, a new psychiatrist and most of all his parents, he plumbs deeper into the depths of his own soul and comes to some startling realizations about himself and his family.  At the same time, his father begins to realize that there are terrifying depths lurking beneath the seemingly successful surface of his marriage.

The book continually prompts the shock of recognition as we discern character traits and even scenes out of our own lives and we come to see that the Jarretts are truly "Ordinary People".  The extraordinary tragedy in their lives has merely revealed fault lines that lie beneath many of our own lives.


Grade: (A+)


Judith Guest Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Judith Guest
    -INTERVIEW: Judith Guest: Ordinary Person (Jeannine Ouellette, Oct. 19, 2004, THE RAKE: MAGAZINE)
    -PODCAST: ‘Ordinary People’ With Bill Simmons, Sean Fennessey, and Mallory Rubin: Bill, Sean, and Mallory dive into this 1980 Best Picture Academy Award–winning drama in the debut of F’ed Up Family February, a new series about dysfunctional family movies that are all rewatchable in their own unique way (Bill Simmons, Sean Fennessey, and Mallory Rubin Feb 1, 2022, The Ringer)

Book-related and General Links:
    -Review: Crying for Attention (NY Review of Books, Michael Wood)