If you’re in the mood for a heart-warming read with depth, then One Ordinary Day at a Time is a perfect choice. I loved Sarah J. Harris’ previous novel, The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder and found myself immediately falling for this story too. Although it is very different.
Opening sentence: ‘Memory boy, memory boy, memory boy!’
Championing the underdog
Yes, if I had to sum up the theme of One Ordinary Day at a Time it would be absolutely singing the praises of the underdog. By that I mean our lead characters Simon and Jodie both find themselves at a point in their life where they’re struggling.
Jodie grew up in foster homes, now in her early 20s, she’s supporting her son Zak and trying to earn a place to study English at Cambridge. (Jodie’s pluck and determination actually reminded me another single-mum character I’d warmed to recently, Dylan in Underbelly by Anna Whitehouse.) She is setting out to prove that her upbringing doesn’t have to hold her back or mean she can’t aim to go to Cambridge and achieve her dream of becoming a teacher.
I have a hunch we have something in common: I think he knows exactly what it feels like to be deliberately broken into tiny fragments by someone else.
Simon was a child genius – he is naturally academic but forced to push himself by his overbearing father. After appearing on Little Einsteins’ (a TV show to find Britain’s cleverest child) attending Cambridge at 15 and being expected to excel in life, he finds himself working in a fast-food chain, Prince Burger, which is where he meets Jodie.
Simon is a mathematical genius and is working to try and solve the (real) Riemann Hypothesis – a notoriously unsolved maths problem with a cash prize for the lucky person who can solve it. He uses his monotonous tasks at his day job as time to let his brain focus on the maths problem.
Now, I appreciate that Simon and Jodie sound like an unlikely set of friends but it’s the way their relationship develops, all they have in common (including hidden past and current traumatic situations) as much as all they don’t and the wonderfully tender way they’re written that really makes One Ordinary Day at a Time shine. It builds up their story and really makes you care about them.
For the love of Dickens
This might be the time to admit that I’ve never actually read any Charles Dickens. I know! Outrageous. The reason I bring up this shameful secret is that Jodie is a huge fan of Dickens – Great Expectations to be specific and this book spoke to her so much that I am actually making it my next read. I love it when you get a recommendation from a novel and here’s hoping I love it as much as Jodie!
I read One Ordinary Day at a Time after an accidental dystopian read, Leave the World Behind and it was the perfect palette cleanser. That’s not to say it doesn’t have raw moments, it was certainly difficult to read in places and the ending honestly broke my heart but in the best way.
This book is just the perfect blend of fragile, warming, emotional and so engrossingly written; it sings the praises of kindness and giving people a chance. A very good message to take away any time, but especially right now.
And I couldn’t end without a shout out to the wonderful cover. I just love it.
- Get your copy of One Ordinary Day at a Time here;
- Published by HarperCollins 2021;
- 419 pages;
- My rating: