If I didn’t have a life, I would’ve read Guest’s debut novel in one sitting. She drags you underneath the skin of each character to feel their pain—even if you can’t understand it. But that’s the magic of drama. We don’t necessarily have to know all the whys or hows, we just need to believe that they exist. And the reader never doubts that Conrad, Calvin and Beth Jarret are driven in the present from what happened in their past.

We don’t know all the details, in fact, we only learn about one specific instance, yet there is a wealth of history behind each character. We feel it. This emotional connection is what propels us to turn the page. The other driving force is that none of the characters wish to wallow in their pain. They often sink, but they fight to remain buoyant—even when they recognize happiness may not arrive. Then, this inner conflict rubs up against external conflict and the characters ricochet off one another as if they lived in a pinball machine. No “woe is me”—A good lesson for every writer.

The Detroit Free Press said Ordinary People is, “A writer’s novel. A reader’s novel. A critic’s novel. A very important novel.” Read it. Feel the inspiration.