Book Review: NORMAL FAMILY by Don Trowden

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 grand-dad dropping his hearing aid in the toilet or bumping his noggin every time he exits the bathroom or crashing head first 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 Grand-dad’s secret bomb shelter and decide to share a joint down there, only to have Grand-dad 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 behaviour, 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 Grand-dad’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 assure you you won’t come away untouched by Don Trowden’s beautifully delivered story. And if you love it, as I did, you might find yourself keen to read the two books that followed this one. I certainly am. 

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