Sunday, February 7, 2010
Book Review: Elisa Lorello's Ordinary World
In 2004, Elisa began her first novel, Faking It. “I never saw myself as a fiction writer,” she said, “but I had this idea that wouldn’t go away, so I decided to write it just for me. Everything snowballed from there.” Since then, Elisa has written the sequel, Ordinary World, and is currently co-writing a third novel with friend and former student, S. R. Paquette. At present, Elisa lives in North Carolina, where she teaches academic writing at NC State. She is a Facebook addict, an Aaron Sorkin fan, enjoys baking, and plays Duran Duran songs on a lefty acoustic guitar.
Fast forward six years to Ordinary World in which author Elisa Lorello reunites us with Andi in a story of love and loss, joy and sorrow, and heartbreak and hope, with loads of laughter and amusing quirks. Andi (now Vanzant) seems to have it all: a tenured professorship at Northampton University in Massachusetts, a published collection of essays, good friends, a cat named Donny Most, and a blissful relationship with her husband Sam. But tragedy strikes when a drunken college student plows into her husband’s car one night and the world as she knows it changes in an instant. Andi loses everything ... except the cat. Andi suddenly faces a terrifying world and the task of trying to transform it back into an ordinary world. At first, Andi is overwhelmed with grief and her life slowly grinds to a halt, and then falls apart. She hangs onto the threads of sanity and the shreds of her once-idyllic life, trying to keep it together, be in control, and be the professional she sets out to be.
Elisa Lorello is the kind of writer that grips you right from the start. I didn’t know what to expect from Ordinary World, but it’s certainly not an ordinary kind of book. Her characters are defined by their words, actions, and thoughts in such a way that the reader feels as if she or he is inside the characters’ heads. Their emotional processes, decisions, and ups and downs are so real as to make one believe totally and completely in them. From the moment Andi reads her eulogy of Sam at the funeral, the reader falls in love with him. We learn more about Sam as Andi’s tragedy unfolds, and with each snippet of knowledge, our appreciation of Andi’s loss deepens. There are gentle revelations of their love in anecdotes of them cooking, being, laughing, and loving together. The author wholly captures the experience of grief. The sense of loss and mourning is palpable … the emptiness in the home, inability to cope, the listlessness that accompanies deep, tragic pain. The ache of love lost resounds though Andi’s words: “We were glowing, full of love and hope and promise, death nonexistent.” Something that touched me as a reader is that Andi constantly rewrites her original eulogy to Sam throughout the book. This is symbolic of her efforts to resolve her feelings, finish grieving, and begin living again.
Part of Andi’s journey is not just dealing with the loss of her husband, but also to confront and slay the demons of unresolved issues with family, parents, siblings, and of course … herself. Before Andi can love again, she must learn to love herself again, as this different Andi. She has changed, life has dealt her a scarring blow … but life moves on. Andi clings to the memories: she wears Sam’s clothes, she keeps a voice mail, she hoards his notes and letters, not wanting to let go. Ironically, it is Sam himself who releases her. The air tickets to Rome set in motion a train of events that carry Andi forward (albeit kicking and screaming). Andi’s discovery of Sam’s unfinished novel and her journey to Peru to finish it on his behalf is an opportunity for her to close the chapter on that part of her life. Has Andi got the strength to finally let go? The author creates a nail-biting, emotional page-turner that has the reader captivated from page one.
Elisa Lorello has a wonderful gift for engaging the readers’ senses when describing places, people, and things. I loved her descriptions of Rome (having been there myself). The smell of baking bread, the car fumes, the play of light and shadow on the ancient buildings, the lyrical sense of pace in a Mediterranean city, with such a different lifestyle. I’m sure readers will relish the picture the author’s words paint and run to book tickets for an Italian trip! Peru is on my list of travel destinations and I loved the descriptions of colors—browns, sepias, and greens—and the lush array of food that tempts the reader already.
This is a love story with a difference. A love story of love, loss, and love again. Part of me wanted a third novel (would that be a threequel?) but at the end of Ordinary World I found myself perfectly satisfied. Buy it, borrow it, do what you have to do to read it.
Find out more about Elisa by visiting her websites:
Elisa's website: http://www.elisalorello.com/
Elisa's blog: I'll Have What She’s Having
Facebook: Faking It Fans
Lulu in paperback
In paperback at Amazon , Barnes & Noble, etc
Lulu in paperback
Kindle at Amazon