Today I am reviewing Outside the Ordinary World by Dori Ostermiller for TLC Book Tours. As always, I am provided with a copy of the book for my honest review.
From the Publisher:
Sylvia Sandon is at a crossroads in her life. A wife and mother of two daughters, she and her city-planner husband are grappling with the escalating renovation of their antique farmhouse—a situation that mirrors the disarray in Sylvia’s life. Facing a failing marriage and a stalled career as an art teacher, Sylvia finds herself suddenly powerless to the allure of Tai Rosen, the father of her most challenging art student. As their passion ignites, Sylvia is forced to examine her past, and the seeds of betrayal that were sown decades earlier by her mother’s secret life.
Eloquently written and deeply thought-provoking, Ostermiller’s OUTSIDE THE ORDINARY WORLD crosses many years and miles—from the California brushfires in the 1970s to New England during the first half of this decade. Raised Seventh Day Adventist, Sylvia must reconcile the conflicting values exhibited by her parents—a mother involved in an extramarital affair and a father who was emotionally distant and abusive—while coming to terms with her own troubling role in her family’s dissolution and father’s tragic death.
While infidelity is a subject often explored in fiction, Ostermiller shines a razor-sharp lens on the gray areas surrounding betrayal, the interplay of religion, and the legacy passed down from one generation to the next. At the same time, she reveals the redemptive power of the human spirit to love, grow, and change despite family history.
This is such a well-written book. Weaving together past and present, the author tells a tale of mistakes made by one generation and mistakes repeated by the next generation. Sylvia, the protagonist, is a married mother of two daughters who finds herself having an affair, despite the fact that her mother also had an affair while Sylvia was a child. In her mother’s case, the affair directly involved her daughters and Sylvia was cast in the role of secret-keeper – a role no child should have to play. The irony here is that Sylvia’s secret affair puts her daughter in much the same position. History repeats itself.
Her mother’s strong Seventh Day Adventist faith adds another layer to the story. How does she reconcile this religion with adultery? As Sylvia copes with her own affair and the threat it poses to her marriage and to her children, she must re-visit her past. This involves coming to terms with her father’s downward spiral and eventual death.
So many of us can relate to this story. I’m not speaking of having an affair, but of finding ourselves repeating the behavior of our parents. In many cases, we vow that we will never do something or other the way our parents did. But we do. We are only human. And in doing so, we must confront those choices and either accept them or opt for something different. It forces us to see our parents in a different light. As Sylvia repeats the same pattern of behavior as her mother, she is compelled to see her mother’s choices in a different way. She must also make a choice between her marriage and family and the man with whom she is involved.
Ostermiller writes beautifully. The world she has created and the characters we come to know are all fully realized and compelling. Without giving away the ending, I will say that the reader is left wondering how these characters will fare in the future, given what they’ve been through – much like real life.
About the Author:
Dori Ostermiller was born in Los Angeles, a fifth-generation Californian. In her early 20′s, she abandoned her path as a pre-med student to pursue an MFA in writing at the University of Massachusetts. Since then, her work has appeared in numerous literary journals, including The Bellingham Review, Roanoke Review, Alligator Juniper, Chautauqua Literary Journal and the Massachusetts Review. She is the recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist’s Grant and a Tobias Wolf Fiction award, and is the founder of Writers in Progress, a literary arts center in Western Massachusetts.
Her debut novel, Outside the Ordinary World, was released by MIRA in August, 2010. She lives in Northampton, with her husband and two daughters, and is at work on her second novel.
The publishers have offered a free copy of this book to one lucky commenter on this post. Leave a comment if you are interested and I will pick a winner on Friday evening.