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Penguin

Paperback, $12.00 272 pages
ISBN: 0140065172

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Ordinary People
 

My first novel. I started writing it as a short story and just wasn’t ready to put the people down, so I thought I’d work on what happened before the story started, and then what happened after it, and before I knew it I was about 200 pages in. I wrote it because I wanted to explore the anatomy of depression—how it works and why it happens to people; how you can go from being down but able to handle it, to being so down that you don’t even want to handle it, and then taking a radical step with your life—trying to commit suicide—and failing at that, coming back to the world and having to ‘act normal’ when, in fact, you have been forever changed.

I sent it to The Viking Press, who accepted it for publication. Everything that ever happened with this book has been one lovely gift after another that I never expected. Robert Redford deciding to make it into a movie gave it exceptional shelf life, and it is still selling and is used as a text in a number of high schools across the country—something that continually keeps me humbled and amazed. A writer never knows if a topic is merely her own pet obsession or a subject whose time has finally come. In that same time period (1976), notable books about the war in Vietnam were coming out, but they went unread because people weren’t yet ready to read about Vietnam. For some reason they were ready to read about teen suicide.



Critical Acclaim

“It is difficult to realize that this is a first novel, because it is written with the simplicity of total authority…I am particularly grateful to Ms. Guest for emphasizing the human need for open grieving…(She) is one of the few writers who has dared depict this aspect of affluent suburbia…” Madeleine L’Engle

“It’s been quite a while since I was able to simply enjoy any book remotely related to mental illness. Ordinary People disarmed me completely. It was too good a story, too well told for me to keep my distance…Judith Guest’s handling of a failed suicide’s re-entry process is quite simply the best I’ve come across…”
Mark Vonnegut, author of The Eden Express

 

 

 

Copyright © 2005 Judith Guest