Book Review: Ordinary Beauty by Laura Wiess

3 Jun

Genre: General fiction

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster (Gallery Books)

Pub date: 14 June 2011

Source: S&S Galley Grab


Sayre Bellavia always knew that she was unplanned and a mistake. She can’t help but know it since her mother never stops telling her. She’s almost 18 and has lived all her life feeling unloved and neglected. Her mother, Diane had Sayre when she was 15 and since then has been on a collision course with disaster. An alcoholic, meth addict and self loather, Diane has only been cruel to her daughter. Now as Diane lies dying in a hospital, Sayre is frightened to ask her the question that she’s always wanted an answer to: Did you ever love me?


Sayre has lived so much of a life in her 18 years that most people will not see (or want to see) in their lifetimes. Born to a mother when she was a teenager in high school, Sayre life loveless, filled with many betrayals by the one person that she is supposed to be able to count on the most.

Ordinary Beauty is a hard hitting, highly emotional story. Weiss’ storytelling is so realistic that it was difficult to read at times. Teenage mothers with unwanted pregnancies have choices – they can choose to turn their lives around and struggle to protect and raise their child. Or they can decide that they are just not ready and give the child up for adoption in the hope that it will have a better life. Diane makes the most destructive choice instead. She lets her daughter know that she was unwanted, unloved and didn’t even let her live in an environment that was conducive to a child. This woman is despicable, no matter how she ended up. Diane had everything – a supportive family, money and love at home. I seethed with anger at her stupidity and hurtful nature, not just towards her child but also towards her mother.

Sayre is a spunky survivor and you can’t help but be in awe of this young girl’s resilience. My heart broke for the little girl and the many young children who no doubt live in similar conditions. Tossed in a shipwreck, I could only see one way for her to get to safe harbour – by getting as far away from her mother as she could.

This is the first book I’ve read by Laura Weiss, but from what I see she tackles difficult subjects with realism and sensitivity. She holds nothing back, but does not resort to tear-jerking tactics.

Sayre does manage to find her footing and grab onto happiness. But the journey so far has marked her forever and as I finished the book, I found myself letting out a long sigh of relief and wishing her the best.


Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys realistic, albeit difficult stories. I’m going to get my hands all of Laura Weiss’ books.

Rating: 4*

*See my Rating policy

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