“Normal Family by Don Trowden is a novel that reads like a memoir. But this one — because it’s fiction — is funny, and made me laugh out loud.
“All I ever wanted was a normal family — whatever that might be — free from the constant insanity and fighting, to be raised in a supportive environment along the lines of what I saw in other respectable homes,” young Henry, our protagonist, tells us. “Why was my family so bizarre? Had I been secretly adopted? Was I being punished for the sins of some previous life?”
Henry’s grandfather had a bomb shelter next to his New England home, “a subterranean hideout where he frequently slipped away for solitude and gin.” His mother suffered from depression, but each person in the family had quirks. “My mother, brother and grandfather were similar in one significant way — each had little use for other people. Each had an investigative mind, the scientist’s mind. Input from others was always wrong; no one could possibly do anything as well as they could.”
The book has tender moments surrounded by hilarity, along with some wonderful one-liners: “Albert (his brother) had drolly remarked our mother was someone who preferred to burn her bridges before she got on them”; “Grandpa swerved up the lawn looking like Frankenstein in search of unsuspecting villagers.”
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Meet Henry Pendergast, the lovable ten-year-old boy doing his best to survive four consecutive holidays in this bittersweet coming-of-age novel.
This first volume in the Normal Family Trilogy introduces us to the crazy cast of characters, each one an obstacle to Henry's core desire to live a normal life. His life is anything but normal and slowly disintegrates with each passing holiday as he does his best to understand the chaos around him. Set against the turmoil of 1968 America, the novel is at turns funny and sad, written in an engaging tone that will pull you in from the first page.
This is the first book in the trilogy. Normal Family covers youth; No One Ran to the Altar covers adulthood, and All The Lies We Live covers old age. Across the sweep of the trilogy we are introduced to many memorable characters, including Henry's self-destructive mother, genius older brother, explorer/author grandfather, and sister Lucy, who perseveres in the end against great odds.
Featuring moments of tenderness surrounded by hilarity, Normal Family is the perfect read for the holidays or any other time when a good laugh is needed. No One Ran to the Altar, Volume Two INFO HERE
"Every once in a while a book comes along that is so different from what you expected your reaction shocks you. That’s what happened to me when I finished Normal Family by Don Trowden: I burst into tears! Why on earth did that happen? It happened because the description and a few reviews I read on Amazon prepared me for a good laugh. And laugh I did…often. I mean, visualizing Granddad dropping his hearing aid in the toilet or bumping his noggin every time he exits the bathroom or crashing headfirst into the beautifully decorated Christmas tree when he’s had a little too much Christmas cheer before dinner is funny…especially when I can see my own husband doing exactly the same. And it’s hard not to laugh when the grandchildren discover the contents of Granddad’s secret bomb shelter and decide to share a joint down there, only to have Granddad ask to join in their fun. What? Yes, this is definitely not a Normal Family in some respects, and yet so very normal in others e.g. everyone keeping secrets, older siblings picking on younger siblings and a father who marries a bit of a witch after a divorce and hopes the kids will like her and vice versa. Yeah right!
Young Henry Pendergast, the 10-year-old narrator of Normal Family, watches, observes, eavesdrops and becomes increasingly puzzled by the behavior, not just of his gifted older brother and sister, but by all the adults around him…except for his beloved grandfather who imparts the wisdom of years to his attentive grandson. Oddly enough, it is young Henry who opens Granddad’s eyes to his own failings. If only all families could be so honest with each other. Normal Family will have you thinking about your own family, identifying with the various characters, and questioning, as young Henry does, why we do what we do and indeed wondering just what the heck is a normal family. Will it make you cry at the end? Perhaps not if you’re made of sterner stuff than I am. But I can promise that you won’t come away untouched by Don Trowden’s beautifully delivered and brilliant story. And if you love it as I did, you might find yourself keen to read the two books that follow this one. I certainly am."
Reviewed by Viga Boland for Reader's Favorite
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"I loved Normal Family. It is tragi-comic at times which is not always easy to do. And whilst I was reading it those around me asked what book I was reading because of the range of emotions it incited in me.
Some of it rang so true, it left me wondering how much was (auto)biographical and/or observed. I liked the writing too and the author's voice definitely spoke to me: authenticity. So if none of it is authentic he is a damned good writer.... The book is still with me.
It manages to be really good fun, and deal with deeper, more serious issues almost simultaneously."