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The Book of Ordinary People

For those readers who enjoy stories about other people’s lives, this is a gem not to be missed. The characters are real and understandable. For those who sometimes mull over the thoughts … What if I hadn’t done…., the story shows how often a simple action can change the course of a life dramatically. It also shows the struggle we all have to maintain life and keep a balance between all that we hold dear.

Using short pieces from thoughts, journals and emails from her characters, the author introduces these five people at the beginning of the story. We then follow their journey in a story that is set in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. Five people who are completely different, and sometimes whose lives come together.

Evangelina is a grieving daughter, who wishes to write a story about her mother, and to acknowledge the courage and sacrifice so many women of her day made for their families. DB is a lawyer with a wife and young son. He is on a treadmill, worrying about pleasing the boss, and mortgage repayments so large that family life is affected. Nell is a recently articled lawyer who dreamt of making a difference in the world. She has DB as her mentor, typing jargon and standard forms all day. Rick is a failed news hack who was seeking adventure and had an urge to aid Syrian refugees. A careless photo which was published in newspapers caused devastating consequences to those he wished to help. And lastly, Aida, a young Afghani woman who was also a journalist who tried to help her people, tells her story.

As the background to these people’s lives gradually unfolds, we gain greater understanding of what happened to them, and why they need to make a positive move to regain some control over their lives and loved ones. Some, such as the Afghani woman, can only wait, hoping for a temporary visa so she can work. Her child is the one at kindy who pinches other children. She is terrified of fences and is afraid of being out of sight. Detention has destroyed her childhood and left her with nightmares and fear.

There are no simple solutions to these stories. We follow the path of life for the characters as they unfold. As life is for all of us a challenge, so we watch these people, sometimes filled with fear, sometimes with courage and sometimes despair. Basic goodness in humans does mellow the story which is hard to put down. There is a sense of hope and understanding conveyed by the author, which gives a feeling of intimacy for the characters. A terrific read!


AuthorClaire Varley
PublisherPan Macmillan Australia
DistributorMacmillan Australia