Ordinary People

Judith Guest's 1996 novel, Ordinary People, has been one of the most frequently challenged books nationwide.

It can often be found on high school reading lists. People who want to have the book banned from these lists believe it has no place there because it deals with suicide and sexuality. There are also complaints about the language, referring to it as "obscene".

The book begins with Conrad Jarrett's thoughts one morning in the fall of 1975. It's been exactly one month since his release from a psychiatric hospital. He had slashed his wrists in a suicide attempt, but his father had found him in time to save his life. He has recovered physically, but emotionally... not so much.

He's at home with his mother and father, and back in school with his friends, trying hard to act "normal".

His father recognizes that Conrad still needs help, and convinces him to see a local psychiatrist, Dr. Berger. At first Conrad resists, but eventually he begins to respond. However, his progress seems slow, if he is improving at all.

His home life is not helping the situation. His father hovers over him and worries about him far too much. At least that's how Conrad's mother sees it. She, on the other hand, seems to prefer to act as if nothing has happened.

What actually has happened, and what no one wants to talk about, is the death of Conrad's brother.

This is the story of how one family attempts to cope with the loss of a loved one.

In 1980, Ordinary People was made into a movie, starring Donald Southerland, Mary Tyler Moore, Judd Hirsch, and Timothy Hutton.

It won four Oscars, including the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Though not at the top of my list of best-loved books, it does have a lot to tell us about depression, guilt, and how different people go about handling tragedy.

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