This novel by Cara Sue Achterberg raises the question around how much we are really hiding from the world—and ourselves. Welcome to the sweet Pine Estates suburban home of the Turners, a seemingly happy couple Kate and Everett and their two children, Jenna and JT. But as you walk through the door you soon realize this family is anything but normal. Rife with the obstacles many families contend with, the Turners try their best to maintain a stable family unit. Are they successful? I’ll leave that to you, the reader, to discover for yourself. But let me give you a peek into what is going on inside the Turner’s home.
And as you look around at all the homes in Pine Estates, it seems normal, idyllic even. But what’s frighteningly real is how far from the truth that is. In the vein of Desperate Housewives, here’s another suburban street plagued with its share of problems.
At the center of it all is stay-at-home mom Kate, who’d quit her job as a nurse to raise her two children, Jenna, her rebellious teenager, and younger son JT, a genius with Asperger’s Syndrome. Besides the challenges that these two pose at every turn, she’s working to move past her husband’s former infidelity and his ego as he struggles with the new security job he took after being dismissed from being a police officer. But Kate’s mom and sister are also adding fuel to the fire. Her mother is a bitter recluse, still holding a grudge against her ex-husband, and her sister, Evelyn, is a successful attorney too busy to help out but not busy enough to try to bring their estranged father back into the picture.
Each character in this book is very three-dimensional, well-developed and no doubt familiar.
We all know, or are, a someone in this book, whether it’s one of the Turners or the Braddingtons across the street. It’s also a challenge to see where this is heading. From the obvious obstacles to perplex family dynamics, you may think that this group of misfits could find a way to move past their hurts into balance. But each chapter introduces another threat to the normal they are trying so hard to portray.
It’s also surprisingly refreshing how the two children, in my opinion, are the most mature of all the characters. While this is not unheard of when it comes to dysfunctional families, in Practicing Normal, you don’t see it coming. Jenna and JT are constantly able to right the ship, in their polar and unconventional ways. And this book is a testament to the times we all live in, as each of the characters never fail to remind us. Practicing Normal is a reflection of all that we ever do, and this novel makes you think twice about the assumptions we make as we walk down the streets of our own neighborhoods.
Image Courtesy of The Story Plant