Customer Reviews: The Magic of Ordinary Days
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on July 19, 2001
Usually I don't read romance, but I crave a good love story now and then and this book surpassed my expectations. A great read about the development of a real love between an unlikely couple, it has characters that are so diverse, well developed and interesting that I came to see their faces and hear their voices as they each traveled their own remarkable journey. I recommend it to anyone that wants to feel good about the human heart.
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on January 28, 2003
Such a "human" story, and one that could very well be a true life experience. I'm not finished yet, so don't know how it will end. I'm hoping that Livvy and Ray will become truly wedded in spirit and learn to love one another. This book is reminiscent of "Morning Glory" by LaVyrle Spencer. Ms. Creel has a real talent for drawing out and portraying a wide range of emotions with a great deal of understanding. One thing I especially appreciate is that it is "clean" - no bad language, explicit sex scenes or any of the other baggage that passes for writing in this day and age. Plus, there is interesting factual information tucked in without being pedantic. I look forward to finding and reading more of her books.
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on October 1, 2001
My women's reading group picked this book to read, and we ended up in a heated discussion over the ending. We all found the book a well-written, descriptive, and fast read, but we had different ideas about how the main character should have decided to live her life. This is a great story to generate debate on the choices we make and how to live with them. A great lesson in history and a tender love story, too.
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on December 26, 2006
When given a choice between this book, and the Hallmark DVD, hands down, purchase the DVD. To the novel's credit, Ann Howard Creel is beautifully written, captures the loneliness of farm life, and accurately depicts the WWII era. But to feel the emotional impact of the story, purchase the DVD. It keeps the essential components of the story and dialogue, while fleshing out a more compelling love story - and more understandable reason for Livvy to stay with Ray.

I owe this primarily to Skeet Ulrich's sympathetic and finely nuanced performance as Ray Singleton, as well as a script that allows Ray to grow, and not just Livvy. In the DVD, Ray bends, and so does Livvy.

In comparison, Ann Howard Creel's Ray is little more than a cardboard cut-out stereotype of the backwards farmer. Be prepared for disappointment in Creel's Ray. In the novel, NO, Ray never accomodates Livvy's interest in history and archaelogy, and NO, he never talks about anything but the weather and farming, and he expresses NO interest in the baby whatsoever. Instead, Creel focuses on how LIVVY must change, Livvy must adapt, Livvy must give up all her hopes, dreams, friends, family, and desires for this man that frankly, isn't much of a catch. It's a surprisingly chauvanistic view from a female writer, and I'm surprised so many women readers do not see this.

She also dwells far too much on the friendship with Rose and Lorelei (Flori). After a while, I just skipped over these pages. It was too much. Creel should have cut that backstory in half, and dwelled more on Ray and Livvy's relationship.

So - bypass this book. Get the DVD. You'll get a more satisfying experience, and to me, a more real-life, compelling love story.
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on January 15, 2002
The beauty of this book really snuck up on me. After reading the dust jacket I thought it was going to be about Livvy's escape from an oppressive marriage and the bleakness of the landscape, like so many other women's novels. However, the author demonstrates the beauty in what seems plain - I guess that's where the title came from. Livvy makes friends with two Japanese girls living in an internment camp, with her sister-in-law and niece, and eventually with her husband.
Ray Singleton is one of the best male characters I have ever read. His quiet desire for affection reminds me a bit of my own husband. I think I would have loved him a lot sooner than Livvy did.
However, I agree with other readers that the ending was a bit abrupt. Another few chapters about the birth of Livvy's baby and the relationship between her and Ray would have been welcome.
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on March 6, 2005
I thought The Magic of Ordinary Days was one of the best books that I have ever read. In fact, I have read it twice. I first saw the Hallmark movie and loved it so much that I had to read the novel. I'm so glad that I did! I loved the characters of Ray and Livy. I thought it was so fascinating to see two totally different people with different backgrounds who have never met, marry each other and then fall in love. I thought the story was very original and heartwarming. And in my opinion, Ray is not cold in the book. He really does love Livy--and will do anything to please her. The Hallmark movie was great, and both Skeet Ulrich and Keri Russell were wonderful in their roles. My only complaint about the movie is that it could have dealt more in the love story like the book did. The movie didn't focus enough on how Livy fell in love with Ray, but the book does. I highly recommend The Magic of Ordinary Days to read. You won't be disappointed!
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on February 4, 2013
From my blog review:

During the Second World War, Livvy becomes pregnant by a soldier who seems to forget about her as he steals off to the front lines. Her minister father arranges for her to wed a shy farmer about an hour out of La Junta, Colorado. She can deliver the baby and be part of a respectable family.

Livvy recognizes Ray immediately for the kind and gentle man he is. But, also for the limitations of his experience. He is a beet farmer and while he receives special treatment for his integral work (gasoline unlimited during fuel rations, unlimited sugar to sweeten the beets), his life has been a secluded and lonely one---made more so by the passing of his brother Daniel at Pearl Harbour.

Ray is someone who will love completely anyone he has to love. This greatly put me in mind of that old John Knowles quote from A Separate Peace : "When you love something it has to love you back in whatever way it has to love." Livvy recognizes his peace and patience, yes, but she is still waiting for life around the corner.

She tells us: I had never run in my life in order to meet men or find romance, although I wasn't immune to those things, either. I'd always dreamed that someday love would come into my life in some spectacular fashion. Probably it would happen in another country, on board a ship, most likely it would unfold during one of my future treks to uncover a secret history. One side of me knew that these were the dreams of an inexperienced girl, and yes, I was inexperienced in love; but it didn't bother me.

Olivia's dream was to become an archaeologist and excavate the earth for the past. When her mother got sick and the marriage of her sisters dictated that she be the one to care for the ailing woman, Olivia saw her dreams shelved. Now they are interred in some hidden place as she is flung out into the middle of nowhere- Colorado, an hour from the nearest library, bound to a man she cannot hope to understand. All the while, she is aware of the life growing inside her and how the baby's presence will plot her securely to the land even more. In short, Livvy's life seems to be over.

What Magic of Ordinary Days works well at is creating a pyramid of several interlocking events ---some historical---some fictional that tier upon one another in layers seemingly simplified by the narrative conjecture of a well-spun story. The interception of Ray's familial history and the arrowheads and artefacts Livvy unearths around the farm gently nudge this taut symbolism onward.

Olivia is right to recognize that "just listening to the radio news is a study in history, Especially now" as the Second World War ravages around her. To bring the War more firmly to home soil, Creel presents us with two Japanese American women who work on Ray's farm: Lorelei and Rose. Their pride, their normalcy, their dedication to the land and to try and establish their right to live as Americans as they always have ( despite the immediate racism and prejudice incurred by Pearl Harbour) are a welcome way to bring the War Front to the idyllic farm life.

There are several lovely nuances to the story that exhume history in ordinary ways much as the title bespeaks ----the enchantment and surprise one can find during the seemingly redundant circumstances that silently stilt our lives along.

The most important aspect for me, was the burgeoning and well-trained love she began to experience for her husband. Can one teach love? Can one learn to love? Creel would have us believe that circumstance and time and the right re-jigging of our personal preferences to explore new horizons would prove so.

In the past, Livvy explains, I would've listed things such as common interests, mutual attraction, worldliness and higher education. My freedom above all else. If I had found love, it would have had to be the kind that overwhelmed and overpowered all else.

What she speaks above is direct to her personal experience for Ray loves her completely and it suffuses his every word and action since his arrival. At one point, as they start to explore physical intimacy, Livvy describes his touch over her curves as that lining the rim of a delicate china tea cup. He treats and explores her very much in the same way she delicately muses and delights over her priceless artefacts. Ray loves her because she is his. She came to him. He doesn't know how else to exist other than to immediately love his new wife and their new baby.

Livvy quite realistically rails against this consuming love, especially as housed in the vessel of a shy and awkward farmer, but the more she studies Ray and the more she learns to accept that she deserves something so wholly consuming and pure, the more she can fall into his passion for her. It takes time, though

I wanted to understand his love, to see it clearly before me, to put it into a form that I could roll around in my palm and examine like modelling clay. Or I wanted to write it with words of reason and illustrate it with romance. I wanted to study it as once I'd studied my books.

Livvy's lesson in accepting the grace-that-bowls-her-over of Ray's love is the same lesson she learns in forgiving herself for the momentary lapse of judgment that led her to sleep with an officer on furlough.

Yes, there is a trope--- a trope that sews everything from Sarah Plain and Tall to Love Comes Softly ---the story of the mail-order bride or the marriage of convenience. If you love these stories and if you want to read possibly the best and most thoughtful incarnation of a romance budding from circumstance and acceptance, then this is the book for you.
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on January 3, 2002
This was one of the best books I have read in a while--and I've read some good ones. Livvy is a very sympathetic character. You can almost feel her frustration and loneliness coming off the pages. As a reader, you are torn between the two extremes: you want Livvy to fall in love with Ray and settle in to life on the farm, but at the same time you want her to return to Denver and follow her dream of being an archaeologist. Her eventual decision is both heartwarming and heartbreaking, as is the tragic end to her friendship with the two Japanese girls confined to a nearby internment camp. My only complaint is that the end was somewhat hasty--I wanted to know more about Livvy's delivery and how her relationship with Ray grew. But otherwise, it was a wonderful book. I highly recommend it!
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VINE VOICEon November 29, 2006
I loved this simply told, complex story. I am reminded of Blaise Pascal who apologized for a long letter saying he didn't have time to make it shorter. In this case Creel took the time to polish this jewel of a story. It is effortless to read but packed with significance. I loved it even though it is much different from what I normally read. One of the best books I've read lately.
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on July 19, 2001
This book holds you from page one and takes you on a journey through the last days of World War II as it looked from a farm in Colorado. A wonderful story that includes a fascinating piece of American history, it has great characters and a family you'll wish you'd married into. Great for fans of summer love.
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