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Outside the Ordinary World
Outside the Ordinary World
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Paperback
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BOOK DETAILS

  • Paperback
  • Jul.27.2010
  • 9780778328896
  • Mira Books

Dori gives an overview of the book:

Sylvia Sandon always swore she wouldn't become her mother. But one August morning she finds herself walking the same path as the fervently religious yet faithless Elaine...into an affair she feels powerless to resist. Against the backdrop of California brush fires in the 1970s, twelve-year-old Sylvia had agreed to hold a secret that would devour her family's dream of happiness. Now struggling to create a better life in small-town New England, Sylvia nonetheless feels caught in the coils of history: she confronts the embers of her dying marriage, the all-consuming needs of her two daughters and her faltering artistic career. Then Tai Rosen--the father of a student--ignites an unexpected passion and a familiar betrayal that could illuminate the past, even as it jeopardizes everything dear. Outside the Ordinary World reveals what lies beneath the surface of infidelity...
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Sylvia Sandon always swore she wouldn't become her mother. But one August morning she finds herself walking the same path as the fervently religious yet faithless Elaine...into an affair she feels powerless to resist.

Against the backdrop of California brush fires in the 1970s, twelve-year-old Sylvia had agreed to hold a secret that would devour her family's dream of happiness. Now struggling to create a better life in small-town New England, Sylvia nonetheless feels caught in the coils of history: she confronts the embers of her dying marriage, the all-consuming needs of her two daughters and her faltering artistic career. Then Tai Rosen--the father of a student--ignites an unexpected passion and a familiar betrayal that could illuminate the past, even as it jeopardizes everything dear.

Outside the Ordinary World reveals what lies beneath the surface of infidelity.  But at its heart, it's the story of the powerful, sometimes disturbing bond between mothers and daughters, and the needle-fine boundary between self-destruction and self-revelation...  

Read an excerpt »

1968

We'd been riding west in the green-paneled station wagon for the better part of three days when our cargo trailer came unhinged. We saw it overtaking us in the right-hand lane.

"Look, that car's passing on the wrong side of the road," announced my big sister, Alison, who at eight was old enough to know. "And look—no one's driving, and it's going all wild!" We gawked, openmouthed, at the trailer shimmying beside us, swaying like a drunk. Fiery sparks kicked up where the metal hinge scraped hard over asphalt.

"Holy cow—our things!" my mother gasped. "Our whole life, Don. It's getting away!" Her hands fluttered to the half-open window, as if she might be able to reach out and stop the runaway trailer with her bare fingers.

We were driving on Interstate 80, well into Nebraska. A few miles back, my father had swerved left, to avoid three enormous hay bales bouncing off a truck. Apparently our trailer had come loose from the jolt, passed us on a decline.

Now it was a good bit ahead of us, threatening to rear-end a blue VW bus. My father veered into the right-hand lane behind the trailer and blared his horn until the bus jerked out of the way—-just in time, before the trailer would have smashed into it. After that, there was nothing to do but tail it and wait for the worst.

"Keep your distance, Don." My mother's voice was as taut as a telephone wire. "The darn thing's going to crash. It's going straight into that cornfield!"

"Cut the hysteria," muttered Dad. Mom fell silent then, clenching her eyes and knitting her fingers together while Ali and I, perched on the edge of the backseat, vied for the best view between our parents' headrests. We hadn't had this much fun since we'd left our apartment in Chicago. I slid my hot pink Calamity Jane hat back on my forehead and held tight to my sister's knee.

We jostled onto the shoulder of the road, about twenty feet behind the trailer. Dust swirled around us, obscuring our view, and our father suddenly threw back his head and let out a high-pitched cowboy whoop, so unlike him that Ali and I burst into giggles.

As we watched the highway bend ever so slightly to the left, the trailer broke free from the asphalt and bounded over the shoulder of the road. It smashed clean through the corner of an old wooden shed before careening into a cornfield, disappearing from sight.

"My new bike's in there," Ali wailed.

"The wedding china," whispered Mom, placing her hand on Dad's thigh.

"Yep—everything." He slowed to a stop, the cloud of dust rising around us and filtering through the windows. Some of it landed on the skin of my bare arm, coating the thin blond hairs. Midday sun glared through the windows and we were quiet, each of us staring at the gap in the cornfield that had just swallowed our possessions. There wasn't much: my wagon with the peeling red paint, our bulky winter clothes and photo albums, some treasures from Mom's wealthy parents, Dad's fishing gear and medical books. We'd left all the ratty, secondhand furniture behind, since it had come with the apartment. The idea was we'd buy all new stuff when we got West. We were starting over with a better house, better furniture, better climate, better schools. We were going back to California, where we came from—like the song said—in search of the good life, just as the pioneers and our grandparents before us had done. At least that's what Dad kept saying. But this didn't seem to comfort Alison any; she burst into tears at the thought of losing her new bike.

"It's all right." Dad draped his arms over the steering wheel, the wild cowboy spooked out of him. "If we're going to be pioneers, then we gotta be tough, right?"

I loved the idea of being a pioneer, or better yet, a cowgirl. I could imagine ditching the old trailer and the station wagon, donning a pair of chaps and riding a wild palomino filly across every wide-open acre between here and Los Angeles. I didn't remember much about California, being only two when we left, but I knew plenty about Annie Oakley and Dale Evans, and I figured a girl should be able to get her start in one of the westernmost states of the country.

"Well, we'd best get out and see what damage there is," said my father, opening the car door. And then we heard the sirens.

dori-ostermiller's picture

Check out this brilliant review in the Boston Globe by Caroline Leavitt: http://www.boston.com/ae/books/articles/2010/08/02/outside_the_ordinary_...

About Dori

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,...

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