The Vast Fields of Ordinary; book review


Tre'Von Brooks '19, Reporter

    Nick Burd’s novel The Vast Fields of Ordinary tells the story of Dade Hamilton during his last summer at home before leaving for college. Dade has a “boyfriend” who’s anything but loving, his mom is too busy popping pills, and his father is having an affair; as far as Dade is convinced things can’t get any worse.

    Dade lives in the middle of Suburbia where the refrigerator has its own TV and the modern housewife has her own private meditation room. The story focuses on Dade’s life during his last summer at home before going to Fairmont University in Michigan. We watch as Dade’s family life falls apart as his relationship with his parents falls apart. Burd does an excellent job displaying what happens when parents stay together for the benefit of their child and how that can ultimately destroy the family all together.  

    Dade’s family lives in the fictional town of Cedarville, Iowa. His father Ned is an automobile salesman and his mother Peggy is an art teacher at a Catholic school. Both of Dade’s parents have begun to alienate themselves from the family, his mother struggles with depressive episodes and has begun to heavily medicate. His father has begun an affair with a woman from his poetry class causing Dade to begin to distance himself from his father. Dade’s life at school doesn’t get much better than his home life since Dade has one friend, Pablo Soto quarterback of the football team. Dade and Pablo have had a purely sexual relationship since they were 16 though Pablo insists he is still heterosexual. While attending a party at Pablo’s girlfriend Jessica Montana’s house where he meets Alex Kincaid, a 20 year-old marijuana dealer, and it’s love at first sight for Dade who decides to figure out the older boys name and where he works so that he can meet him. Dade and Alex begin to grow closer after spending several nights together eventually sharing an intimate moment under the stars. After a drunken night with Alex and his new friend Lucy, his neighbor’s lesbian niece Dade comes out to his parents which makes his father appear uncomfortable though his mother fully accepts it.

     Burd’s novel was a critical success upon its publishing in 2009 being recognized by The New York Times, The Plain Dealer, and the School Library Journal. The Vast Field of Ordinary shows the struggles with coming-out to one’s family, adolescent relationships, and the difficult transition from youth to adult. It is my personal belief that this novel should be placed in school libraries in all high schools across the United States, with several relevant themes being presented in the novel such as adolescent drug and alcohol abuse, sexuality, depression, and living in a broken home.