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Book Report: Ordinary People by Judith Guest

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The title of the book is Ordinary People and was written by Judith Guest. There are a total of 245 pages in the book. It was published in July of 1976 by Viking Press. Viking Press is located in New York. Ordinary People is a psychological novel.

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Ordinary People takes place in the 1970s in Lake Forests, Illinois. The novel begins one year after the Jarrett family has lost their son Buck to an accident. Their other son, Conrad, is newly released from a mental hospital. We find out that Conrad tried to commit suicide after the death of his brother. After returning home he tries to live is old everyday life but seems to have some troubles. His parents, Beth and Calvin, are confused on how to help. With their oldest son passing away and Conrad’s suicide attempt, their marriage is failing. Beth is not willing to talk about anything that happened. Conrad decides to try harder at life while his parents argue. He quits the swim team and starts to play guitar again. He strays away from his old friends because they are a constant reminder of his brother. Conrad even begins to date the new girl in school named Jeannine. After being together, Jeannine tells Conrad about her past. A problem occurs at school when Conrad gets into a fight with the schools bully. Calvin and Conrad’s therapist think this is amazing because emotion is finally being shown from Conrad. After all this, Beth is still not willing to talk. With all the emotions she is feeling, she decides to leave. When she left Calvin and Conrad move to a more suitable house and become closer. The therapist helps Conrad understand his mother’s actions. Conrad decides that he is going to no longer hide from is past and becomes friends with Joe, his former best friend. The climax of the story is when Conrad’s mom leaves and it forces Conrad to see why she left and how to feel his emotions is a controlled way.

Conrad is a troubled kid who blames no one but himself for the death of his brother. The survivor’s guilt leads him to his attempt of suicide. After spending six months in a mental hospital his doctor believes that he is ready to resume where he left off in his life. He struggles but ends up understanding his emotions in a good way. Calvin is the father of Conrad. He is willing to put in the effort to help is son and will fight against Beth. Beth is the mother of Conrad. She will never talk about the events that went on. She leaves Conrad and Calvin to figure things out alone.

Ordinary People is written in first person. The story is mostly told through the thoughts of Conrad and Calvin. You can tell what the decisions that Conrad is going to make through his thoughts. Calvin mostly thinks about the emotions that Conrad is feeling and how to help him.

Judith was trying to portray family values, being alone, blame and guilt, not being satisfied with life, and the new beginnings of friendships. The story of Conrad going through life is also expressing his coming of age. Family values is a big part of the story. Conrad’s parents handled the situation in different ways and his father stuck by him during the rough patches.

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The element that I showed interest in the most was plot. The plot of Ordinary People is intriguing. You want to see how Conrad overcomes his issues and how his journey continues. With his father being supportive and his mother not caring, this story has its ups and downs. Conrad is a kid who lost his brother and is trying to overcome the damage it has done.

Works Cited

  1. Guest, Judith. Ordinary People. Viking Press , 1976.
  2. Shmoop Editorial Team. “Ordinary People.” Shmoop, Shmoop University, 11 Nov. 2008,

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