Ordinary People follows the story of two couples, Melissa and Michael, and Damian and Stephanie. Melissa and Michael are the seemingly “perfect” couple who live with their daughter and newborn son in Crystal Palace, and Damian and Stephanie live on the outskirts of London in Dorking. In the background woven into the story are songs each character enjoys. One in particular is Ordinary People by John Legend, which is referenced when they are driving through London.
Both couples are friends with one-another, and each couple is trying to overcome their own issues, both together and individually. It highlights how individual struggle can affect people around you, and how they react towards you. Damian is dealing with the death of his father which creates an emotional wedge between himself and Stephanie, Michael and Melissa’s relationship is starting to dim, and Michael is trying ever so hard to keep it alight.
At the beginning, the book sets the scene by describing mundane every day life, but layers it with the thoughts each character has towards the other. Disappointment at missing school plays manifests itself into disaffection. I found the beginning a bit hard going and slow to start, as it did seem to be narrating every day life.
What gripped me was each character’s arc. How Damian confronts the death of his father, Melissa’s obsession with her house being haunted and Michael’s frustration at lack of intimacy. We did not get to know much about Stephanie, she was a main character but her background was not explored as much. I also enjoyed how Evans described black, middle class cultural identity – even down to the smallest detail such as school events where the children put on a show to celebrate their heritage and Melissa’s interactions with her mum.
Ordinary People by Diana Evans is a story of modern love and life told through the lens of black, middle class couples. It tells of how relationships with family, lovers and friends are often complicated and messy – which is quite juxtaposed to its title of Ordinary People. It’s one of those slow burners that sucks you in at the end and accurately portrays the nuances of relationships.
Have you ever read Ordinary People by Diana Evans? What did you think of it?