The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel
Olivia Dunne’s dreams of becoming an archaeologist are irrevocably changed after a brief interlude with a solider shipping out overseas. Her father arranges a marriage with a reputable bachelor farmer and Livvy accepts this arrangement. Leaving her married sisters behind in Denver, Livvy arrives in rural Colorado to become the wife of a man she does not know.
The book explores many topics: grief, betrayal, loneliness, trust, forgiveness, acceptance, and love. Livvy shows the readers her situation and how she adjusts to it in a voice full of angst. She mourns the recent passing of her mother, as well as the changes her mother’s death has brought her father. She stoically accepts the arranged marriage, for her baby needs a name. Ray, her new husband, knows Livvy carries another man’s child, yet he does not judge or resent Livvy for it. He patiently waits for Livvy to love him as he has come to love her.
Within this main plot is Livvy’s friendship with two Japanese-American sisters, Rose and Lorelei, who are residents of a local interment camp. Readers see the affects of WWII on Americans through Livvy’s eyes and through Rose’s and Lorelei’s.
As a reader I relished Creel’s use of imagery. I could feel the isolation Livvy suffered: the expanse of the fields, the lack of neighbors and family to break up the monotony, the need of useful purpose. Found on page 41: A clay-colored tumbleweed wedged between rows of green leaves caught my eye. Thorny, trapped, and out of place, it let me know the insignificance of any one, distinctive thing caught in a place so mapped with sameness. Aunt Eloise and Aunt Pearl had once accused me of hiding out in school. Instead Father had sent me into hiding here, where the openness of land and sky made hiding out about as unlikely as finding clover among the sage.
As a writer I appreciated Creel’s ability to use the first person narrator in such a way that all the characters were given dimension. The narration flowed so effortlessly that I often forgot the story was told from Livvy’s point of view. Another aspect of Creel’s writing is her use of prologue. Not being much of a prologue fan, I find myself inadvertently cringing whenever a book begins with one. Why not just start the story? Why the compunction to have extra exposition? However, Creel’s prologue is perfect; it reads as a visual movie trailer. It sets up the plot, the initial conflicts, the intrigue. It hooked me as a reader.
The Magic of Ordinary Days is far from ordinary. A compliment to Creel is that her book became an inspiration for a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, which I had actually watched many years ago. As always, the book is better.
The Magic of Ordinary Days (Photo credit: Wikipedia)