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The Vast Fields of Ordinary Hardcover – May 14, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 92 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Burd takes a familiar plot and makes it fresh...an author to watch."
--Publishers Weekly

"A fascinating and dreamy first novel.'"
--New York Times

"...a refreshingly honest, sometimes funny, and often tender novel."
--School Library Journal, starred review

"Burd breathes new life into the old coming-out formula...One of the best in a new generation of LGBTQ novels, it can stand alongside Peter Cameron's and Brian Sloan's."
--Kirkus, starred review

“Nick Burd's The Vast Fields of Ordinary is bold. Engaging. Heartbreaking. A book worthy of attention.”
--Ellen Hopkins

"The Vast Fields of Ordinary is a wonderfully engaging and satisfying book about all kinds of growing: growing up, growing together, growing apart. Dade Hamilton and his family and friends (and enemies) are all vividly and complexly imagined and realized, and I loved spending time with them. Nick Burd's extremely accomplished and beautifully detailed prose reanimates the usually moribund American suburban wasteland, like an alchemist, he finds the wonder in the ordinary."

"Nick Burd's debut novel unfolds like the summer vacation it chronicles: in the beginning the vista seems limitless, but as the pages turn and the days pass the plot thickens and the end comes way before you're ready to put it down. This is a mysterious, funny, wise, generous story, and its main character is someone you need to know, and you'll never forget."
--Dale Peck, author of MARTING & JOHN and SPROUT

"Who can resist a kid who survives his senior year of high school despite having been given the nickname Vagisil? Not I... Dade Hamilton's coming-of-age tale with a Midwest twist is devastatingly real, but it's also funny, touching, and ultimately quite hopeful."
--T Cooper, author of LIPSHITZ SIX, OR TWO ANGRY

"A brilliant account of alienation and angst in the heartland."
--Quest magazine

About the Author

Nick Burd attended the University of Iowa and received his MFA from The New School. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. The Vast Fields of Ordinary is his first novel.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Books (May 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803733402
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803733404
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #430,077 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is definitely one of the best books I've read in long time. I couldn't put it down! Through the author's mesmerizing writing I could feel the sheer loneliness that Dade felt growing up in a midwestern town feeling isolated and out of place as he laid in his bed night confessing to his ceiling fan he is gay. Don't get me wrong, Dade never comes across as helpless or pitiful (maybe a little unsure of himself) instead you can see he is biding his time believing that there has to be more out there for him. His first attempt at reaching out is Pablo a boy he loves but who is using him to express physical feelings he can't even admit to himself. Although Pablo treats Dade horribly and is pretty much a jerk, I couldn't help feeling sorry for him as he desperately tried to deny who he really is.
A bright for spot for Dade is when he meets the neighbors niece who is staying for the summer. She is the first person who really pushes Dade to be himself and shows him he is actually a pretty great guy. I would hate to see this book get tagged as only a gay "coming out" book. It's a great read and comes a cross as one point of view of the thousands of teens out there who are just trying to figure out who they are, dealing with what life throws at them and wondering what life has in store for them.
Moderately sexual explicit scenes a long with drinking and drug use make this book appropriate for high school and above.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I tried. I really really tried to identify with Dade Hamilton the young gay main character of this book. He's young, gay and feeling alienated in a small Iowa town. I've been there! I live in a small Iowa town! I was young, gay and feeling alienated once too. It's just that it was kind of hard for me to connect with Dade in this story for two major reasons.

Reason #1: Dade is such a hard character to understand. His mood swings wildly. He says something and then contradicts himself the very next chapter. He has such a hot and cold relationship with his parents that I feel more sorry for THEM than I do for him. His interactions with everyone, friend and enemy, leave me confused and wondering what Dade is so angsty about. He brings on most of his own problems and then the things he seems to care about more than anything in the world just get written off a few pages later. His relationships with Pablo and Alex are never fully fleshed out or made to feel "real". More like plot devices that are put in place so Dade can sabotage himself.

Reason #2: For an alienated young gay teen in Iowa he really doesn't have a lot to be writing bad poetry over or drinking his "problems" away. He has two parents who are trying to make their relationship work for him. He has not one but two guys (plus a girl) all pining for him throughout the book. He has a cool Lesbian friend who helps him ease his way into gayness, even taking him to a local gay bar which don't exist in small Iowa towns (not to nitpick... We also have very few below-ground pools). High School sucked but we don't hear hardly anything about high school.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Dade Hamilton is a typical teen. But gay. Alienated from his school, his parents, his whole life in suburban Iowa. His parents are alienated from each other and the life they've ended up with together.

It's much better than it sounds. It is very well written, evocative of time and place. I kept thinking of "Catcher in the Rye" (which I've never liked), but this book hasn't got that grim nihilism. This is a top flight book for a young adult audience, or for fans of that (me, an old adult, loves them). It is a simple story of Dade's last summer at home before college. It is the summer when his teen alienation peaks, crashes, and reassembles into something better, stronger, more hopeful. He learns to love and to forgive. But it's not a journey without pain and joy.

If I disliked anything about this book, it's that it feels too spot-on real. As the parent of teenagers I was appalled at the thought that my kids might feel like this about me. But as a one-time gay teenager, Dade's moods and emotions resonated through me like a thunder storm.

I never quite clicked emotionally with Dade, tho' I understood him and agreed with him. In the end, I shared his hope, and came away praying that I'm doing a better job as a parent than his did.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Nick Burd has written a terrific novel about a gay teenager from Iowa. "The Vast Fields of Ordinary" probes the depth of feelings of the main character, Dade Hamilton, and Burd comes up with a warm, troubling and accurate view of coming out.

While the book is timely for Dade's own generation it has ramifications for older generations as well. Being gay in America is still fraught with complications on many levels and those who think that recent easing of the public view of homosexuality makes life better, need to be reminded (as the author does for the reader) of the troubling internal and external aspects of leading a double life.

Although Dade comes out to his parents and friends without too much repercussion, Burd deftly explores Dade's relationship with Alex, his main love, and Pablo, his sometime companion. The Jenny Moore character serves as an unnecessary diversion to an otherwise brilliant narrative, but Dade's gay friendships are wonderfully presented and carry a good deal of literary weight. "The Vast Fields of Ordinary" is a compelling first novel by Nick Burd....I hope we read more from him.
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