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The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother's Memoir Paperback – Bargain Price, September 30, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 152 customer reviews

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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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


This eloquent book is ...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 )

"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 )

An honest, graceful book that every parent will appreciate. In the thick of challenging changes, emotional troughs, and tender realizations the reader will find comfort and guidance. Here is a fine writer, a dedicated mother, and a spiritual seeker speaking intimately to parents in search of wisdom." (author of Care of the Soul and Writing in the Sand Thomas Moore )

How I admire this mid-life mom, who writes with strong contemplative spirit and a heart wide open to change. Her memoir is a courageous and generous contribution to deepening American family life. (author of Body Eloquence Nancy Mellon )

"The Gift of an Ordinary Day is much more than a memoir of motherhood; it is an inspired and inspiring meditation on midlife. What Katrina Kenison gives mothers-her gift-is the promise of reinventing ourselves as our kids grow up and we grow older, and the assurance of an invitingly abundant landscape on the far side of parenthood." (author of Writing Motherhood Lisa Garrigues )

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition (September 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446409499
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446409490
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (152 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,894,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Susan W. Swartz on August 17, 2009
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 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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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book frustrated me greatly, due to the author's examining and re-examining her thoughts and feelings about things large and small. I guess I just don't have the patience required for this type of memoir, which felt quite self-involved and tautological.

The language in the book is painstakingly crafted, like poetry. I am struggling to describe my reaction to it. Ironically, in trying to parse so carefully here in this review, I notice myself falling into the author's writing style...feel the feeling, but then--this is important-- polish it, buff it up, and make it presentable, even pleasant.

Let's just say I prefer down-to-earth, honest, realism. I felt like the author's flowery, poetic, carefully selected language was like a six-foot electric fence between me, the reader, and her real feelings.

And as a down-to-earth mother of two teenage boys myself, my BS detector was going wild. It happened throughout, but here's an illustrative example: the part about the two teenage boys arguing about who gets the chaise lounge every day after lunch because it's the best place to read? Um...yeah.

At book's end, the author says, "Pondering my own life required solitude." I must admit that statement puts me off. A married woman, a mother, in solitude? While "pondering life?" For months and years? Yikes.
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