Review Roundup: "The Ordinary Life"
The Ordinary Life had a good April and May. I was very humbled to learn that a teacher actually used this book as a tool in her class (See the 5/18/20 J review below.) I only wish that I knew how to contact her to thank her and offer to speak with her students whenever she chooses to use this book.
But enough of my maudlin self. Following is the latest Review Roundup of “The Ordinary Life”:
"The Ordinary Life is a thought provoking, fast paced memoir of a family. Kiefer combines historical notes with a family narrative in a way that brings the family’s stories, thrills and fears to life . . . the story will leave you thinking about the struggles of other people, about achieving success and perhaps even learning tolerance."
"Sometimes, the tales we tell are repeated with such frequency and fervor that we no longer know the difference between fact and fiction . . . Kiefer’s Ordinary Life [sic] is a gripping tale . . . that sheds light on the seemingly “ordinary” lives of a Texas family. I truly could not put this book down once I started reading. Kiefer’s work challenges the reader to confront their own generalizations and misconceptions of the world around them . . . forces the reader to consider the lives and perspectives outside of their own . . . Kiefer writes, perception is reality, readers are challenged with the question: how have their perceptions shaped their own realities? This piece of literary work was not only heartfelt and heartbreaking, but also incredibly thought-provoking."
"The Ordinary life is a great story of the pursuit of the [A]merican dream through a family lineage starting with one man’s immigration from Sicily in 1905 . . . The book takes an overall patriotic . . . view many times and it is an interesting look at many important American political events over the 20th century from this perspective . . . the book also would be interesting to those interested in [A]merica’s history and LGBT history in the southern U.S. and California . . . [it] is altogether an amazing journey spanning over generations, countries, and histories that I am glad I read!"
5/13/20 The Librarian
"This book is a part of a series. I read one of the follow-ups to this novel a while ago (The Ordinary Sin). I enjoyed that one so much I decided to give this one a go. I’m glad that I did . . . [it] is rich with detail and drama and has the intensity that can only be found in long-term, familial relationships. The characters are not just props in this story and feel fully-formed . . . The book gave me a lot to think about . . . about my own life and what I want to be doing versus what I’m actually doing right now. This isn’t a story that sets out to drive a point home but through the ups and downs of other people’s lives, this is a natural outcome of reading this book—a close self-examination of your own morals and goals . . . Overall, this was a moving novel with great, strong characters. I would highly recommend it."
5/15/2020 Amazon Customer
"The book opens with a man at an airport. The next scene is generations back in the 1800’s. The author beautifully intertwines each generation from father to son, mother to daughter. It poignantly tells the story of humanity in its joys and its evils. If you are not prepared to read about evil people, put the book down. There are stories of incredible strength. It made me think about my own ancestry and the stories that have both been passed on and the stories that have been lost in my family . . . The author takes care to place the stories in historical context to the point where I felt like I learned some facts. Each of the main characters in the ancestry line is a seemingly ordinary life.. . . Yet each ordinary life is made extraordinary."
"Kiefer tells the story of multiple generations of a single family living in the United States . . . this book took important events of American history . . . and shows their impact on the various members of the family in a really interesting way. Kiefer does a wonderful job of bringing history to life in the real lived experience of his characters . . . At times, the story is heartbreaking and infuriating - but reading about the resilience of those women and how they raised their children was really fascinating . . . an authentic portrayal of societal expectations in marriage and courtship throughout . . . The story goes from Texas to Louisiana all the way to Seattle - the expanse shows how the family . . . firmly planted its roots in a diverse America and grew to be an important part of American history in a small way, and that was my favorite part of the story. We can all see ourselves in some way in these characters, because they are fundamentally American."
“'The Ordinary Life' is an emotional read . . . It is a story of a family of immigrants in America . . . outlines through a few generations . . . The author really makes you feel what Lucia goes through. You feel her highs and mourn her lows . . . you admire her for her wisdom and success . . .The author . . . presents interpretations of situations from . . . three family members, showing how different people can perceive the same situation in totally different ways . . . This book reminds us the simple saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”. We never know why people are acting how they act and what they have been through. Every person has been through things in their past that makes them how they are today."
". . . It gave me chills when I read some of the book, just because it reminded me of my own life and how I could definitely relate to some of it . . .you start to feel bad for the characters and how they had a lot of struggles and strife in their lives . . . The book tells . . . everyday life and how hard dealing with those things can be, but can still be overcome . . . loved this book from start to finish and would definitely re-read it and I highly recommend it. I could not put this book down, and cannot wait to read more from this author."
"This is a thought provoking book based on true events following four generations of a Mexican family . . . This mother and her two sons are “ordinary people”. When we read about their lives and struggle’s we see exactly how complex a person’s life is . . The stories . . . can be heartbreaking as we see them from the perspective of different people. . . [it] pulls at your heartstrings as it captures the lives of these truly “extraordinary people”. It will lift your spirits and have you reflecting on your life and struggles. This is one book you’ll always remember."
"Ordinary Life . . . is an intriguing novel with lots of drama, family and relationship issues. It . . . grabs ones attention making it easy to get caught up in the story . . . Ordinary people can live extraordinary lives. People can overcome extraordinary circumstances. Ordinary Life is a really good novel. It is well written with really good details throughout the novel. I really enjoyed reading the novel."
". . . I could not believe that upon opening the book for the first time, I quickly read eight of the chapters in one sitting. It is that good! You just keep reading and reading to see what happens next and who the next chapter is about . . . I recommend it to anyone who is old enough to have an appreciation of hard-working people and their extraordinary, ordinary lives."
"I picked this book up in the summer, thinking it may serve me well as a high school senior English teacher who has been assigned two classes that are supposed to focus on Mexican American Studies (MAS). I am particularly interested in books that spark empathy among my conservative-leaning upper-middle-class white students, as many of our essential questions revolve around empathy.
"My school was finally able to order enough copies for me to teach it this past February. This book was successful because it has so many universal themes that my students can relate to. Multi-generational abuse, interracial marriage, angsty teenage feelings, loss, love, and conflicting thoughts about reality not living up to their expectations and previous stereotypes were parts of the story my students could relate to. Once they had ownership of the book and accepted the characters, they felt empathy towards them, despite the fact that most of them could not relate to the extreme poverty and labor the characters endured.
"Students were particularly moved with the strength they saw in Lucia. They were with her when she performed back-breaking labor in the fields, hopeful when she married a white man she assumed would not abuse her, shocked and disappointed when he ended up abusing her much like her mom and grandma were before her. When she finally left him, worked hard as a single mom, and then met a gentler older man, they sighed with relief. Unfortunately, systemic abuse hit her family hard, and she and her sons continue to have issues related to past trauma, especially Matteo.
"Overall, the book was well-written . . . There were a few stories within the novel that I had to tread lightly on, and remind students they could skip passages if they felt uncomfortable . . . It was believable without being overly political. It taught some history without feeling like a history book. Overall, it was a great choice for this class and age group and I will use it again."
"I really enjoyed everything about this book, and have already recommended to friends and family! Not only was the book very well written, the storyline engaging, and the characters well developed and relatable – but this book really kept me thinking about it long after I had finished reading it. I think everybody had interesting stories to tell, no matter how ordinary they may think they are – we just need an author like Mr. Kiefer to tell it in an interesting way! . . . This is a great book – you definitely won’t be disappointed!"