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Ordinary People Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (October 28, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140065172
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140065176
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (172 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

If we are going to find meaning in life, we will need to answer these questions.
Eric M. Hendey
The transitions in these relationships throughout the novel make for a more complex and dynamic story.
"jsoccerman"
The book is a brilliant look at ordinary people living and coping with life's complexities.
"kingsransom"

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

95 of 98 people found the following review helpful By JLind555 on March 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
Judith Guest wrote a remarkable book about an ordinary family's response to an extraordinary tragedy; it was so popular in its time precisely because the Jarretts could be any American family and what happened in their family could happen in anyone's family. Well, maybe not in anyone's family; most Americans aren't wealthy enough to live in a McMansion in an upper-middle-class bedroom community nor do most families own a boat; but income aside, the Jarretts are like most people one knows: a hardworking father, a mother who wants the best for her family, and two teenage sons, one outgoing and confident, the other quiet and retiring, living in his older brother's shadow. A freak boating accident leaves the older brother dead by drowning, and the family devastated. The parents, Cal and Beth, and their younger son Conrad, are left to cope with the aftermath. "Ordinary People" is the story of how they cope - or fail to.

When the story opens, Conrad has been referred to a psychotherapist following hospitalization for a suicide attempt, after his depression over his brother's death becomes more than he can deal with. Conrad is suspicious, withholding, resentful; he's out of the hospital and no longer deemed a threat to himself, so why should he talk to this guy? But the shrink seems okay, he doesn't push or pry; he'll let Conrad open up when he's ready. And gradually, Conrad opens up.

But the more Conrad opens up, the more his mother, Beth, retreats into the wall of denial she has built up around herself.
Read more ›
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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Gary F. Taylor HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
The Jarretts are the perfect family leading a perfect life in a perfect world: wealthy, respectable, an expensive house in an exclusive neighborhood, European vacations, Texas golf trips. But perfection comes at a price, and when older son Buck dies in a boating accident and surviving son Conrad attempts suicide the difference between the American dream and American reality becomes painfully apparent. The mask of perfection cracks, and those who hide behind it find themselves emotionally unable to rebuild their lives.
Judith Guest brings the reader into the story at the middle, shortly after son Conrad's release from the hospital--and with a somewhat sparse but remarkably eloquent style quickly develops the characters that people Conrad's world as he fights to find balance between his parents and himself, as he works desperately to find a way out of the expectation of perfection imposed upon him by both himself and the society in which he moves.
Guest's characters move with considerable reality and a touching humanity above the novel's unexpectedly complex underpinnings, and the author's prose is smooth, easy to read and understand, and completely faultless. Among the most astonishing elements of the work is the fact that Guest writes the entire novel in the present tense--a risky choice, but one which she brings off with amazing skill. A beautifully written novel and a powerful look at the downside of the American dream. Strongly recommended.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Lance Waidzunas on December 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
The characters in Ordinary People are faced with common, everyday problems. The lives of the Jarret family were turned inside-out after the death of Jordan, also known as Buck Jarret. Each character dealt with the pain and loneliness of losing Buck in a different way. However the one thing they all had in common was that the death of Buck completely destroyed everything they knew to be true, and influenced every aspect of their lives. Their grief and despair made it difficult for them to form new relationships or maintain ones they already had. Once Buck died, the family fell apart, and the complex relationships they each had with one another began to become corrupt and transformed them into less of a family and more of enemies. It seemed as if Buck was the joining force of the family and when he was gone the family lost cohesion. Cal, whose life revolved around making sure his family was content and satisfied found that he felt incompetent and lacking when he couldn't provide them with what they really needed: closure, happiness, a sense of complacency that no longer existed once Buck was gone. He spent most of his time wondering who he was, how he could define himself, and what he could possibly do to make everyone sane again. His constant obsession drove his wife crazy. A perfectionist, she had to have everything go smoothly. Buck's death not only put a wrinkle in her concept of the perfect family, it put a glitch in her social life. After Conrad is admitted to the mental institution for trying to commit suicide, she deals with it by taking trips and she falls into a spiral of denial. Conrad, of course, is hurt and offended by his mother's apparent apathy towards him. He finally realizes that he can't change his mother, and with this realization comes a sense of acceptance.Read more ›
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on October 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
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+
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