Release Date: July 2001
Pages: 274 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Paperback
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Summary from Goodreads
Olivia Dunne, a studious minister's daughter who dreams of being an archaeologist, never thought that the drama of World War II would affect her quiet life in Denver. An exhilarating flirtation reshapes her life, though, and she finds herself banished to a rural Colorado outpost, married to a man she hardly knows. Overwhelmed by loneliness, Olivia tentatively tries to establish a new life, finding much-needed friendship and solace in two Japanese American sisters who are living at a nearby internment camp. When Olivia unwittingly becomes an accomplice to a crime and is faced with betrayal, she finally confronts her own desires. Beautifully written and filled with memorable characters, Creel's novel is a powerful exploration of the nature of trust and love.
Thoughts on The Magic of Ordinary Days
I watched the Hallmark movie The Magic of Ordinary Days long before I ever knew it was based on a book. It came out in 2005, and I somehow stumbled upon it. I wasn't a big Hallmark movie fan, but I absolutely loved Keri Russell. I recently decided to re-watch it, which is when I finally realized that there was a book by the same name. Since I already knew I loved the story, I couldn't wait to see if the book was even better. After all, that's usually the case! So, was that true with The Magic of Ordinary Days?
It's the last year of World War II, and Olivia Dunne is a minister's daughter who dreams of being an archaeologist. But a moment of passion changes of her life forever. Suddenly, she's leaving Denver for a rural Colorado outpost... and about to marry a man she's never met before. Overwhelmed by loneliness, Olivia becomes friends with two Japanese American sisters who are living a a nearby internment camp. She's stumbling through the awkwardness of her marriage and battling loneliness until she unwittingly becomes an accomplice to a crime. Now, she's finally forced to decide what she wants out of her life - and her marriage.
I love marriage of convenience stories, so that was already a point in this book's favor when I started. As soon as I started, I could already tell that I liked Creel's writing style. I highlighted a number of passages while I was reading! Olivia, who goes by Livvy, narrates the book. There were things I loved about her character, such as her love of history. But she was also difficult to connect to because of her grief. She's put up a wall around herself, and she really only thinks about herself for a long time. While that's not a flaw of the book, it is something I found frustrating at times. Furthermore, her love of history occasionally turned into info dumps that felt largely unnecessary - though I believe they were meant more as a character quirk.
Because of the first person point of view, you only see the other characters through Livvy's eyes. This is particularly important when it comes to Ray, the man Livvy marries. As the reader, you can tell that Livvy is wary of Ray. He does numerous kind things for her to make her feel welcome and to ease her into life on his farm. But for all his outreach to Livvy, she remains distant and closed off.
My biggest issue with the book was the development of their relationship. It felt so realistic and understandable to me for so long - until there's a change. In the movie, you get to see them interact and watch the progression of their feelings. In the book, you're only seeing through Livvy. So, you don't really understand why Ray cares for her as much as he does, or why she finally makes the decisions she does regarding their relationship. Because of that, I never loved the book as much as I'd hoped. I was rooting for the Ray and Livvy of the movie much more than I was for the couple in this book.
What about what I did love about this book? I think my favorite aspect was the inclusion of Rose and Lorelei - the two Japanese American sisters living in an internment camp. The Japanese internment camps are such a sad part of our nation's history, and I feel like it's something I never see depicted or discussed in books. I enjoyed seeing Livvy's friendship with them blossom, and my heart broke for what they were experiencing. The biggest difference between the movie and the book is the way their storyline ends. I did not expect it to end where it did and that broke my heart even more.
The Magic of Ordinary Days was an enjoyable read. I lost myself in the story, and I loved what I learned about history. There are so many stories from the past - layers and layers of people who experienced so many unimaginable things. I'm so glad this book made me think more about the stories of Japanese Americans in internment camps. As for the main story of the book - Livvy and Ray's marriage - I enjoyed watching it grow. While I ultimately loved the movie more, the book was still worth reading!
"As we grew up, my sisters played with dollhouses and dreamed of futures beside successful husbands, whereas I became gripped by the past. The stories and struggles of olden days worked their way from the crepe paper pages of old books and under the seal of my skin."