Ordinary People by Judith Guest is an extremely serious, well-written novel that deals with the hardships of having a death in the family, and the difficulties that follow. I think that this book easily deserves a five star rating. My general reaction to this book was one of sorrow that we must cope with such affliction in today's society. I did, however, become somewhat enthralled in reading about a topic of a more serious nature compared to the trivial conflicts of everyday life. Ordinary People is somewhat like the novel The Body by Stephan King because both books illustrate the conflicts of having a death in the family, and of a child's great need for affection. My personal favorite aspects of this book are the characters, the theme, and Guest's style of writing. I enjoyed the complexity and intensity of each character, and each character's need for affection. I also enjoyed reading how each character would react differently with other characters.
Another thing I liked was the story's theme. I think the theme of Ordinary People would be not to try to repress one's feelings, even when it may be difficult to face them. Feeling occasional depression or anger may be what we must sacrifice for the happiness in life. Guest's style of writing is also very interesting to read. I enjoyed the way she would use the word "he" when describing a character rather than stating who the character was. I was still able to identify the characters simply through their reactions and feelings. The only possible negative aspect to this novel would be the constant mood of depression. I realize that the topic is not happiness, however, it is easy to get absorbed in the sadness and become quite depressed. I would recommend this book to anyone who appreciates the complexity of one's thoughts and feelings. I would also recommend this book to anyone who understands one's need for affection. I would not recommend this book to anyone who can not handle feeling depressed or angry for any length of time. I would undoubtedly read this book again for I am sure that other than the main them of the story, there are many insights on life yet to be discovered. By reading this book, I have discovered that no matter how down I may feel, at least I am feeling something, and that means that I can also feel happiness. I have also developed a new appreciation for those who must deal with the conflicts of death and depression. I think that anyone who can hang on to life throughout the difficult times is extremely strong and respectable. I have also come to appreciate the advantages that I have compared to those who must deal with depression and other misfortune. I think I will always remember Conrad's character simply because he eventually came to appreciate the good effects of feelings despite all he had been through. I have read many fiction books with contemporary settings but none have surpassed, Ordinary People. Ordinary People is a book that gives a wonderful example of real life and deals with many internal conflicts. This story about a boy's recovery after his brother's death is extremely engrossing and captivating. Throughout the entire book the reader is gradually and constantly exposed to aspects of each character's personality. I was impressed that a book with such a common situation could be both interesting and entertaining. The book as a whole was very well written, and I enjoyed reading it. I particularly enjoyed the characters and the conflicts. The characters were extremely well developed and very enthralling. They were constantly changing which helped hold my attention. Conrad was my favorite character because he was so complex. Guest did a wonderful job revealing that complexity clearly. I also enjoyed the various internal conflicts that were faced. Conrad was faced with many conflicts including; dealing with his parents and friends, forgiving himself as well as others for his brother's death, and allowing himself to express emotion. These conflicts made me look carefully at some of my own problems. This book is definitely made to make people think and not simply to entertain though it accomplishes both successfully. There were few aspects of the story that I disliked. At first I was not pleased with the ending because I felt that it had no resolution. Later, I realized that Ordinary People had quite a powerful ending. I do, however, think that Guest could have given a little more background on the family and written in a way that would make it easier to understand who was speaking. This book would not be liked and appreciated by all. Most people, however, would enjoy it because it is realistic and relative to most people's lives. This book was definitely written for a mature audience that enjoys reading about real-life circumstances. This novel makes a wonderful movie that is both powerful and sorrowful. Timothy Hutton won an Oscar for his portrayal of Conrad Jarrett. I would certainly read this book again. There are so many hidden meanings and themes that I think one would discover new insights each reading. Ordinary People is humorous, entertaining, well written and very moving. Conrad is an accurate depiction of a teenager of that time. This story makes the reader appreciate life and realize that no matter how much he wants to escape his problems and feelings, he can not run away from himself. Told with an omniscient point of view, Ordinary People by Judith Guest is an intensely human novel set in the suburbs of Illinois in the late 1970's. The story begins in early December and ends the following spring. I think the significance of the seasons is that December, representing a dreary lifeless mood, symbolizes death. During this time, Conrad experiences many confrontations with this matter. He has recently witnessed the death of his brother and is struggling to make his appearance seem "normal". When the weather begins to get warmer, setting a more renewed atmosphere, Conrad begins to understand his emotions and, therefore, deals with the circumstances of his brother's death better. Conrad Jarrett. the protagonist, is a seventeen year old student attending a public high school. Conrad represents more of a heroic figure in this story because he has begun to overcome the overwhelming obstacles of life. This complex individual realizes that love gives one the strength to endure life. However, Con must struggle to cope with the drastic changes occurring in his life. His struggle against these obstacles is the antagonist in the story. Other important characters include Con's mother, Beth; Con's father, Cal; Con's psychiatrist, Dr. Berger; his friend Karen, and his girlfriend Jeannine. Beth, a determined perfectionist, is constantly concerned with the way people view her and her family. She wishes for everyone to see them as "normal". She buried her love with Buck and, therefore, neglects Conrad because she no longer understands how to love. Beth feels that Con had intended to hurt her as much as himself when he had tried to commit suicide. She can only see things in terms of how they effect her. She thinks that everyone feels this way and that perhaps she is simply more honest about it. At one point, Beth states that she does not hate Conrad for what he has done, but that she can not forgive him for it. In a way she can not forgive him for surviving. On the other hand, Cal, having grown up an orphan and having no father figure himself, struggles to understand how he should react to his son's feeling s and actions. Cal feels as if Beth and Con are drifting away in opposite directions, and he does not know which direction he should follow. Cal senses that he is somewhat responsible for Con's failed attempt at suicide. Con's self-confident psychiatrist, Dr. Berger, helps Con to express his feelings and encourages him to do what he wants instead of what people expect him to do. Berger is unorganized and spontaneous which works to the benefit of Conrad. Con finds comfort in Berger's friendship and his willingness to listen. Karen is also a valued friend of Conrad. She was in the hospital at the same time he was, and they helped each other get through the hard times. When Con left the hospital, they lost contact until one day he called her and they met in a restaurant. When talking with Conrad, Karen displays a false sense of enthusiasm for the coming years. Conrad is later shocked to hear that Karen has committed suicide. This event causes him to release all his suppressed anguish and let down his shields to his emotions. Jeannine is Conrad's girlfriend who is there for him and allows him to feel needed. She is the only person who actually asks Con about what he had felt when he tried to commit suicide. The major conflict in the story is an internal one between Con and himself. Conrad struggles to cope with the drastic changes occurring in his life. He wants to please everyone. Con will not allow himself to feel or express emotion for fear of becoming vulnerable. There are many other minor conflicts that occur within the story. One example is an external conflict between Conrad and Beth. Con and his mother find it hard to communicate for the fact that both are too unwilling and stubborn to forgive each other. Also, Beth and Cal experience an external conflict because the circumstances have caused them to grow apart, and question their love for one another. Conrad also experiences problems with his friends. Conrad, in this external conflict, discovers that most of his friends are "pricks". They do not understand why Con's actions and reactions toward them have changed. These conflicts lead up to the turning point of the story in which Con discovers that he must forgive himself and his mother. During therapy, Con states," I think I just figured something out." "What's that?" Berger states." Who it is who can't forgive who." Conrad replies. After Con forgives himself, his days become better and better. He is now stronger and has more control over his emotions. Con allows himself to feel happiness, along with severe pain. At the same time, Cal and Beth grow further apart, and Beth eventually leaves the house. They are indecisive about the feelings they have for one another. The climax begins with Cal telling Conrad, " Well, don't admire people too much, they disappoint you sometimes." "I'm not disappointed," Con says. " I love you man." "I love you too." Cal returns. The book ends, and the conflict is resolved with the narrator stating the feelings of Conrad. "No need for anymore words. The sun is warm on his back. He could fall asleep here, maybe he will, waiting for what ever comes next." I think that the theme of Ordinary People can be said best in the words of Honi Werner, " Some things cannot be foreseen or understood or blamed on anyone- they can just be endured. Love, openly shared, is the only thing one can count on to give them strength for that endurance.