Thursday, November 4, 2010

Outside The Ordinary World by Dori Ostermiller

Outside The Ordinary World by Dori Ostermiller
400 pages
Published by Mira July 2010
Source: the publisher and TLC Book Tours

Sylvia Sandon: mother, wife, artist, teacher, home renovator.  Adultress?  Sylvia grew up in a family where her parents' marriage was rocky, to say the least.  Her father spent long days away from home and was drunk and volatile much of the time when he was home.  Her mother carried on a years long affair with a married man, an affair she dragged her daughters into.  Sylvia saw what happened between her parents, saw how is made she and her sister take sides, saw how her mother's affair destroyed her father.

But Sylvia now finds herself in a place in life that isn't working for her. The house she and her husband, Nathan, bought ten years earlier is still in the process of being renovated.  It has sapped all of their money and all of Nathan's time.  Sylvia has become certain that the house could have been done years earlier if Nathan had just let them hire others to do the work instead of insisting on doing everything himself.  Her daughter, Hannah, is a terrific kid, as far as teenagers go but she is, after all, a teenager with all that that implies.  Daughter Emmie is only four and a whirlwind of energy that Sylvia often finds exhausting.  Perhaps most frustrating for Sylvia is the fact that her artistic talent has come down to teaching lessons and painting portraits; her ability to paint the beautiful landscapes she used to be so good at has left her.

So when Emmie literally runs into Tai Rosen, father of one of Sylvia's students, a relationship sparks between Tai and Sylvia.  The relationship forces Sylvia to examine her past and finally discover the truth about what happened between her parents and how it is still affecting her.
"All through dinner and homework, bedtime stories and algebra problems, my desire sits breathing beside me, impatient and warm as a living man.  All through teeth brushing and dinner dishes, laundry sorting and good-night kisses, I am as frantic in my skin as a dog on a humid night - I can't stand myself.  I can't help it."
While the exploration of infidelity in marriage is by no means a new subject, I felt that Ostermiller did a good job of looking at it in an interesting way, particularly in exploring Sylvia's mother's infidelity.  The book moves back and forth between Sylvia's present life and her past in mid-1970's California.

Elaine is, on the outside at least, a devout Seventh-Day Adventist who raises her daughters in the church.  Elaine seems to, as so many in so many religions do, take only what works for her from her religion and only when it suits her. She really is an interesting character; I couldn't decide how to feel about her for most of the book.  In the end, I think I just felt sorry for her.Ostermiller did a terrific job of really fleshing out Elaine, as well as the other adults in Sylvia's youth.

"I often wonder if her restlessness took root there, shut into three rooms during those Midwestern inters, caring for us by day, typing medical reports by night.  She was new to the city and didn't have a car.  She loved Dad, but how lonely it must have been in that apartment when we were tiny and whiny and underfoot, clinging to her knees.  How relentless it must have seemed, one baby crying on her hip, the other running wild, tossing Tupperware into the toilet and trying to cut her bangs with the nail scissors, no husband in sight."
The End of Days teachings that young Sylvia is so drawn to are very much reflected in the wildfires raging through the area and the upheavals in her life.   I don't think I've ever read a book with Adventists so prominent and it really made for an interesting backdrop for the story.  I frequently found myself getting frustrated with Sylvia, as I often do when I read stories of infidelity, but I found I could understand her.

Dori Ostermiller

The book was slow to pull me in, and my favorite parts were the parts in the past, but I kept thinking as I read that this would be a terrific book club choice.  So much to discuss!  Imagine how excited I was, then, to discover that I had won ten copies of the book from TLC Book Tours, for my book club.  Can't wait to get their thoughts.  If you're interested in winning books for your book club, TLC Book Tours sponsors a monthly give away for book clubs. 

For a full listing of the sites on the tour, visit TLC Book Tours.  Thanks to Lisa and TLC Book Tours for including me in this tour!  For more information on Ostermiller, be sure to check out her website.


  1. It sounds as though this is a really emotionally complex book and one that deals with it's issues sensitively. I have never read anything about Seventh-Day Adventists before, so that angle also intrigues me. I think that this is a book I want to check out. I really liked the quotes you posted and also the synopsis, and think it might make a really interesting read for me. Thanks for the intelligent and thoughtful review!

  2. Fantastic review! The quotes you chose were so good and the second one was really relatable to me.. my children are 13 months apart and my husband traveled for weeks at a time when they were small- it was very lonely and exhausting. Thanks for mentioning the monthly book club contest! I'm glad your group one. Send me a pic of everyone with the book and I'll put it on our website!! Thanks so much for being on the tour.

  3. Those passages you picked are compelling. Adultery is a tricky subject to manuever, in that how can you portray an adulterer realistically and sympathetically without condoning his/her actions?

  4. Very cool win!! Can't wait to see what your book club will think of this one.

  5. I'll be starting this one soon for the TLC tour. I like that the author makes it possible to understand the main character without agreeing with her poor choices. Sounds like a good one.

  6. Way to go on winnning the giveaway!! It sounds as if there will be plenty to discuss. I find that book club discussions that center around adultery are typically very interesting.