As suggested by the title, the narrative offers an intimate glimpse into ordinary lives that of course turn out to be extraordinary in their own ways. Foster is as inclusive as he is generous with this dramatization of family history. He takes pains to show the formative impact each had on his upbringing, highlighting not just their foibles but also their strengths. Especially in the book’s focused first half, every individual backstory is one piece of a larger puzzle, coming together to paint a comprehensive picture of the author, the family, and their century.
As The Roar of Ordinary goes on, Foster delves deep into the history and politics of the Vietnam War, often laying out Foster’s opinions and convictions about what went wrong, a worthy subject for a book though here it diminishes the focus and narrative flow that he had established, though emphasis on his siblings, and on his brother Steve in particular, remains consistent. Overall, Foster succeeds in evoking a genuine regard for this ‘ordinary’ family making the best of an extraordinary century. Lovers of grand family sagas will enjoy this memoir, whose epic and ambition are laudable.
Takeaway: A memoir for readers of family sagas and war novels that is as epic as it is intimate.
Great for fans of: David Laskin’s The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the Twentieth Century, John Egerton’s Generations: An American Family.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B+