The Biographies of Ordinary People, Vol 1: 1989-2000 by Nicole Dieker

Opening sentence: “The last night before they left was Rosemary Gruber’s thirty-fifth birthday.”

This book tells the story of the Gruber family, parents Rosemary and Jack and their three daughters, Meredith, Natalie and Jackie, over 11 years from 1989-2000. The chapters mix up the characters they focus on, so you get a blend of narratives for each year. I enjoyed this episodic format, although as it is billed as a modern version of Little Women, like Little Women, each chapter has a title to describe it and some of the titles didn’t ignite much excitement in me, such as, ‘Rosemary goes to the bank.’

Overall, I would describe this as a cosy read, every time I picked it up, it was a bit like tuning into an episode of a Sunday night drama series – safe, reliable, engaging, but nothing that’s going to be unsuitable for younger viewers.

Very well written, I did find myself caring about some of the characters, however, the Grubers lead particularly charmed lives, there’s no real tension or drama (the middle daughter gets a haircut without asking her parents, that’s about the most controversy), so you are waiting for something to happen, but it never does. In that sense, this book definitely does what it says on the tin, this is a biography of ordinary people, it’s just that most of the ordinary people I’ve encountered live far more interesting lives than the Grubers. You can be an ordinary person and still express your emotions, the Gruber kids come across as almost robotic in the way they all towed the line to be studious and polite at all times. Due to this, I didn’t relate to any of the characters and I felt that had they been allowed to show a few more emotions, we would have learned a lot more about each.

Also, given the Little Women source reference, there is an exchange in the book between Meredith and her friend Alex about Little Women, which I found puzzling:

‘Did you like the second half?’ she asked.

‘No,’ Alex said. ‘I skipped part of it, it was so boring.’

‘I skimmed a lot of chapters,’ Meredith confessed.

Not that I thought this was boring or skimmed chapters, but I found it a strange summary to include of the book that you are referencing. I do appreciate the segment is saying that Meredith and Alex are not yet old enough to appreciate all the nuances of Little Women, but still, it is the part that stuck in my mind. Overall, this is a quaint read, but personally I like a little more action, not necessarily a big plot twist or guns blazing, just characters with a little more edge to them.

I was sent this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3/5

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