Thursday, January 12, 2012

Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel

9780143119951_MagicofOrdin_CVF.jpgDo you find magic in ordinary days?  Sometimes I do.  There are some days that the minutae of ordinary tasks like doing the laundry, cooking a simple meal, or working in my sewing room or garden are too beautiful for words.  Perhaps that is why the title of this book has always intrigued me.  When I first watched the Hallmark interpretation of this work a few years ago, I enjoyed it, but gave it no further thought.
But this holiday season it reran and I decided to watch it without realizing that I had already seen it.  Within minutes, I knew I had seen it before, but I was ready for an evening of television watching and decided to stick with ordinary days. As the story unfolded I began to think more about the concept of ordinary days; and when I caught that the movie was based on the novel, I decided to search out the book.

What I found out was that Ann Howard Creel is predominately a young adult and children's author.  The Magic of Ordinary Days,  first published in 2001, is her only adult novel.  Its popularity is so strong that a new release of the book took place in late 2011.  The setting is rural Colorado during World War II.
Olivia Dunne, who always believed her destiny was to study ancient civilizations and travel the world, finds herself no longer studying for her masters, but instead, banished to this lonely rural area to marry a man she has never met.  Her minister father has hastily made these arrangements to hide his daughter's pregnancy, and Olivia has no choice, but to follow his wishes.  Ray, the husband, is a soft-souled man whose exterior demeanor has been hardened by the loss of his parents and brother.  The simple routines of his farm provide the stable life he wants, but its dullness is inhibiting to Olivia.  All of this is apparent in the well done movie, but I knew that a good writer would have crafted descriptions that captured more of the essence of each person and their building relationship.  I was not disappointed.  The book builds a much more tenuous relationship between the two and focuses more on Livvie's desire to see the world and do great things
Listen as she tells Ray her feelings, "Ray, I wasn't supposed to come here. I had dreams far different form this.  I thought I had a destiny, but it wasn't this one.    There asre so many things I planned on doing, places I dreamed of going.  What you know of me is simply the outside shell.  You don't know what creature lives inside me yet."   Yet Olivia knows that Ray loves her and she cannot understand why.  In the same conversation, she asks,"Do you love me just because I came here?" to which Ray answers, "I love you because you came here to me."

Other characters play a vital role in this story which is so much more than a simple romance.  Ray's sister and nieces add depth and realism, as do the church congregation, but the most interesting and well developed secondary characters are Rose and Loreli, two young Japanese American who are interned near the farm and who work as day laborers in the fields.  As they teach Olivia to notice the many distinct butterfly species, a special friendship grows.  That they have left behind dreams, education, and a secure home because the government feels all Japanese Americans may be a threat, in a way, echoes Olivia's banishment from her previous life.  Olivia's grasp of "ordinary days" and their specialness comes in part from witnessing the life Rose, Loreli, and their parents have forged in the internment camp  But it will be the rash actions of those two young women that will force Olivia to see reality.

I would definitely like to see Creel write some more adult fiction.  On her website she has indicated that Hallmark has in the works a sequel for the movie.  That is great; I would like to see what happened to Olivia and Ray as their love grows, but I am more interested in delving into the rich details of another Creel story. 

By the way, I got my copy of this book from our library system.  With so many cuts around the country (and the world) to libraries, I want to keep shouting out to everyone, "Learn to use your library. Save yourself some money and use resources that are already there." 

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