Monday 15 August 2011

Review for Outside the Ordinary World by Dori Ostermiller

"A wife. A husband. A lover. A chance to leave her ordinary life? There had been no rain for weeks; the air crackled, the brushfires burned, her childhood ended. The summer of 1970 – a whisper from her mother’s lips told a secret that would destroy her family – a burden too heavy for a young girl to carry. Sylvia Sandon swore then and there she would never become her mother. Now Sylvia is walking the same illicit path towards temptation – into an affair she feels powerless to resist. The man she married, the father of her children, lies next to her in bed. The breathing that once lulled her to sleep now grating on her nerves. Sylvia has a chance to leave this ordinary life. Behind her are the ravaged remains of her childhood, in front the bittersweet safety of family life…or the exquisite torment of infidelity. One woman. Two paths. A forbidden moment of happiness or a lifetime of quiet regret."

Dori Ostermiller’s debut novel Outside the Ordinary World has already been received with high critical acclaim in the US, that, along with the beautiful cover and intriguing family drama described in the synopsis had me very excited to read this one and straight from the beginning I could see what all the fuss was about. Dori’s writing grips you from the start, the beautiful imagery wrapping itself around you like a blanket. Despite Outside the Ordinary World being a debut it’s clear that Ostermiller is already a fine storyteller.

The book is told in alternate chapters flitting from present to past. Both time periods are told from our main character Sylvia’s perspective in 1970 as a child and 2004 as an adult. The alternate chapters each tell their own separate story of adultery. In the summer of 1970 Sylvia is a witness and accomplice in her own mother’s affair, carrying the burden of a secret that could destroy her family. And in present day 2004 Sylvia has grown into a troubled adult haunted by her mother’s mistakes and her own guilt for her part in them, now Sylvia is heading down the same illicit path of destruction despite swearing that she would never make her mother’s mistakes. The alternate chapters are essential to understanding Sylvia as a person and why she makes the choices she does and whilst both Sylvia and her mother’s stories mirror one another both women have very different reasons behind their adultery. Outside the Ordinary World explores the different reasons why somebody might be tempted into the arms of another and the what ifs and maybe the grass really is greener that comes along with stepping out of your day to day life.

Outside the Ordinary World is a very honest, moving account on secrets, family, marriage and the ultimate question can one ever truly escape their past? Many of the characters –especially Sylvia- are very raw and not always the easiest characters to like. But in a strange way I could respect that and thought that it fleshed them out and made them even more believable. Although I didn’t necessarily agree with Sylvia’s actions I could understand her reasoning behind them and ultimately I believe that that’s what Ostermiller wanted to get across in the first place, she wasn’t trying to excuse adultery but explain it.

This book gives the reader plenty of food for thought and delves into the torment and destruction of infidelity holding nothing back. If you’ve ever wondered how someone could so easily risk everything Outside the Ordinary World is a book that will take you through the motions. A stunning debut that I would recommend to anybody who’s ever wondered, what if?
My Rating 4/5 stars

Thanks go to Mira for sending me this book to review


  1. Thanks for the review, I've got this on my to be read pile and looking forward to it.

  2. Wow that is one pretty book! Great review :D


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