Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Review: Songs in Ordinary Time

This novel tells the story of the down-and-out Fermoyle family. Living in Vermont in the 1960s, Marie Fermoyle and her three children live in poverty and desperation, for more money, more security, and more affection. Marie Fermoyle, a hardened cynic, is so desperate for all of the above that she falls victim to the wiles of a traveling con man who appears one day at her door. As a relationship between Marie and her visitor develops, the Fermoyle children are blatantly aware that their mother is being fleeced, but the emotional distance of all the family members makes it difficult for any of them to communicate or to trust one another. As Marie falls deeper under her now-boyfriend's spell it is the Fermoyle children who feel this lack of communication most acutely. The most difficult character in this book is Marie Fermoyle: cold, cynical, and emotionally abusive towards her children, Marie is clearly a woman who has been deeply wounded and is now striking back, albeit at the wrong people. In this book Morris has crafted a deeply complex narrative with fantastic character development. Truly, she has created a whole world in this Vermont town. The characters' lives are richly interwoven with one another, and actions by one reverberate to affect the whole. This is a deeply moving and engaging novel. It is a long book, but it never felt too long. I was deeply engaged in the story, and spent whole days reading this book to finish it.

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