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The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother's Memoir Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 7, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 145 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, September 7, 2009
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In her second affecting memoir about motherhood and nurturing (after Mitten Strings for God), Kenison, here at middle age with two sons in their teens, pursues with graceful serenity a time of enormous upheaval and transformation in her family's life. As her sons grew out of babyhood and into the new, unknown territory of adolescence, she no longer felt clear about what her life's purpose was supposed to be; their comfortable suburban Boston house of 13 years grew restraining, and Kenison longed for a simpler, more nature-connected lifestyle. Since neither she nor her husband, a publishing executive, was tied to a workplace (indeed, she was suddenly let go as the series editor of The Best American Short Stories after 16 years), they were content to be rootless for over three years, living mostly with Kenison's parents until the building of their new home on bucolic hilltop land purchased in New Hampshire was completed. Meanwhile, Kenison's youngest, Jack, began a new high school, while the older boy, Henry, a musician, applied to colleges, and the family had to adjust both to the move and to the startling, delightful pleasures of country life. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Kenison writes so beautifully and clearly about what is most important in family life." (author of A Map of the World and Laura Rider's Masterpiece Jane Hamilton )

"With an honesty and intimacy rarely achieved in modern memoir, Katrina Kenison dissolves yearning into its complex, sensate parts. This is a book about mid-life want and loss. It is also a most knowing book about a most gracious love-about the gifts that are returned to those who find beauty where it falls." (author, House of Dance Beth Kephart )

This eloquent book is subtitled "A Mother's Memoir," but that's not giving Kenison's chronicle of her sons' increasing independence its full due. It's also about longing and fulfillment , taking stock of failures and achievements, a search for the elusive "something more" of one's existence-and a reminder that life's seemingly mundane moments are often where we find beauty, grace and transformation. (Family Circle magazine )

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; First Edition edition (September 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446409480
  • ASIN: B004Y6MY6E
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (145 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #945,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

KATRINA KENISON's work celebrates the simple gifts of everyday life, the beauty in the ordinary, the grace of the present moment. Her book Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry has become a classic for parents of young children. In The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother's Memoir, Katrina shares the bittersweet challenges of life with adolescents. Her memoir Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment is an intimate account of loss, change, and transformation in the year following a dear friend's death and a son's departure from home.

A former literary editor at Houghton Mifflin Company in New Haven, New York, and Boston, Katrina became the series editor for The Best American Short Stories in 1990, a post she held for sixteen years. She co-edited, with John Updike, The Best American Short Stories of the Century. With her yoga teacher, Rolf Gates, she wrote Meditations from the Mat: Reflections on the Path of Yoga.

Katrina has been a featured guest on Oprah and her essays have appeared in O The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, Family Circle, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Above all a wife and mother, Katrina is also a passionate reader whose idea of heaven is a hammock under a tree and a hardcover book in her hand. She lives in the New Hampshire countryside with her husband and sons and their border collie, Gracie. Her YouTube video of a reading from The Gift of an Ordinary Day, one of the most-watched book trailers of all time, has been viewed by nearly 2 million people: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olSyCLJU3O0

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If you are middle aged and dealing with children who are adolescents or pre- (or post-) adolescents and are wondering why your life is so complicated and longing for a life that is simpler and more meaningful, then this is definitely the book for you! Approaching her 50's, Katrina Kennison suddenly finds herself overcome with longing for a life where her family is more connected and not so overwhelmed by appointments and schedules and materialism and all those issues which make a family that was close when the children were young into a family of strangers when the children grow into adolescents. She decides to uproot her family from Boston back to her childhood home in New Hampshire and falls in love with a summer cabin on 80 acres of land with a view of mountains and a pond, stream and woodlands. The cabin proves unlivable and eventually needs to be torn down for a new dwelling but, during the summer her family lives there without the benefit of computers and other accepted city distractions, they learn how to become a family again. At first resistant, they eventually slow down, read books, play catch, explore the land, watch the stars, and generally have a wonderful time enjoying their new lives. Throughout the ensuing few years of dealing with the potential empty nest, Katrina comes to find herself, find a new occupation, new friends, a new life altogether. She finds the meaning in her existence--a meaning that had been missing in their former busy city lives.

Although the prose is beautiful, it could be edited...that is the only fault I could find with this book.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Those incredibly full to bursting days of young parents and young children, the days that some days you thought would never end eventually do. And then you are sad.

"It is of course, a universal drama- children grow up, they leave home, clocks tick in empty bedroom, and untouched gallons of milk turn sour in the fridge because no one's there to drink them..."

You miss the person you had been, the very busy mom full of schedules, carpools, school events and suddenly one day your children are grown and you are done. "I missed the person I had been for them too, the younger, more capable mother who read aloud for hours, stuck raisin eyes into bear-shaped pancakes, created knight's amour from cardboard and duct tape. Certainly my talents didn't seem quite so impressive anymore, my company not as desirable as it once had been."

Now what? And "in an almost heartbreaking sense of just how short life really is, and how incomprehensible," you try to get on with the new life, the life with grown children.

The sudden impulse to do something crazy just because you realize time is fleeting and soon you may not be able. So Katrina Kenison jettisons into a house purchase; "And we're here because my more sensible husband, in his desire to please me, is willing to go along with- if not embrace- a vision he most definitely doesn't share."

All the minutiae of Of Katrina Kenison's life will differ from yours but the angst, the joy, the fulfillment, and the yearning will ring true.

This book hit me at that point where I am the mother who is almost done raising my children and wondering, "Is there life after this?" Kenison encouragingly writes that there is, but don't forget who you were and who you will become. And rejoice in that.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's my turn to host our book club and a "lighter read" was requested. We're all mothers so I thought this would be good. There's a video on youtube of Kenison that will bring you to tears, so I was really expecting this book to be something special. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy this book and only finished it because I had to for the book club. Her writing is so laborious, so flowery, and too poetic. There are a lot of run on sentences. I don't really like stream of consciousness writing, and I wouldn't really classify it as that, but it's close. I did enjoy the descriptions of her interactions with her boys but there wasn't much of that. The first half of the book is about selling her house (without a PLAN) and buying a dilapidated old house that needs to be razed. I found myself wondering, "I thought this book would be about motherhood?" And it's in there, but it's hidden in between page after page of contemplation. Not the book for me.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I cannot wait for this book to be over. This is yet another memoir that is mostly a diary turned into a book without sufficient editing.

The book followed a tiresome and repetitive formula, something like:

My life isn't exactly what I thought it would be. My sons aren't what I thought they would be. My house isn't what I thought it would be. And then the message, which is repeated over and over, is to embrace life, to live in the moment, to appreciate what you have instead of what you hoped you would have.

That is a nice message. But it's as if the author has to learn it 40 times throughout the book, and we the reader are dragged along through every banal epiphany.

After reading the comments, it seems like this book does resonate with people who are going through the exact same thing as she is. I'm in a different place in my life, so perhaps that has something to do with my dislike for the book.

She also comes across as being pretty self-absorbed and selfish. She makes huge decisions despite her entire family's protest in the name of self-growth. It seems like a problem of "wherever you go, there you are" to me. As in, she can change locations and homes as often as she wants, but she's still going to be herself. Which as far as I can tell, would be exhausting. I would want a break from it, too.
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