Practicing Normal

Practicing Normal

by Cara Achtenberg

Overview: The houses in Pine Estates are beautiful McMansions filled with high-achieving parents, children on the fast track to top colleges, all of the comforts of modern living, and the best security systems money can buy. Welcome to normal upper-middle-class suburbia.

The Turners know in their hearts that they’re anything but normal. Jenna is a high-schooler dressed in black who is fascinated with breaking into her neighbors’ homes, security systems be damned. Everett genuinely believes he loves his wife . . . he just loves having a continuing stream of mistresses more. JT is a genius kid with Asperger’s who moves from one obsession to the next. And Kate tries to manage her family, manage her mother (who lives down the street), and avoid wondering why her life is passing her by. And now everything is changing for them. Jenna suddenly finds herself in a boy-next-door romance she never could have predicted. Everett’s secrets are beginning to unravel on him. JT is getting his first taste of success at navigating the world. And Kate is facing truths about her husband, her mother, and her father that she might have preferred not to face. Life on Pine Road has never been more challenging for the Turners. That’s what happens when you’re practicing normal.

Combining her trademark combination of wit, insight, and tremendous empathy for her characters, Cara Sue Achterberg has written a novel that is at once familiar and startlingly fresh.

Dena T. (05/31/17): I received an advance copy for an honest review. Practicing Normal was a wonderful book filled with very realistic characters we meet in every day life. I love how it is written from different character’s view point instead of in chapters. It makes the story/stories flow and intertwine almost seamlessly. I loved how I felt the emotions and the change of tones based on which character I was reading. Each of them so very different, yet similar.

I did not want to put it down once I started, really wished I could have hung a do not disturb sign on my door!! The main character Kate and her husband Everett seem to have everything in the ‘perfect’ suburban life, but looks can be deceiving. It weaves a great story about understanding what love really is and the sacrifices we all make as well as what we are willing to do for the ones we love. A great reminder that things aren’t always as they seem. I think if each of us looks really hard at the people we know and love, near or far, we will find someone we know who is “practicing normal.”
Rating: *****

Carol Robbins (05/31/17): After reading this book, I plan to recommend it to my book group. It has many topics for good discussion - marriage, parenting, adolescence, aging parents, sibling interactions, family secrets, and Aspergers. And, what is normal?

The character development evolves throughout the book- each character speaking in their own voice. The format keeps the reader engaged, alternating from one to another. There is Kate, the mother, wife, daughter, sister, who tries to please everyone. Everett is the husband, father, philanderer who struggles to balance his life. Jenna, their teenage daughter, searches to find her place and surprises herself along the way. JT, their son, who has been diagnosed with Aspergers and is able to teach others some important lessons.

Each character has his/her own quirks that may or may not be seen as "normal". Don't we all have some traits, habits, or characteristics that may not be seen as "normal" to others? Cara Sue Achterberg's new novel could be your next book group selection or your summer beach read. It has interesting characters who make you want to continue reading. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it!
Rating: *****

Gina M. (05/31/17): For anyone who has thought they were the only misfits of the neighborhood. This story explores an everyday family with everyday problems. Great characters! Great story lines! I couldn't stop reading!
Rating: *****

Susan Davis (05/31/17): This is a story very relevant to all of us today considering our unique situations and the world as it is. Cara seamlessly went between the characters to form a story that grabs you from the beginning and strongly urges you to continue. She did her research, not only with teenage minds but adding the brother whose "normal" is very foreign to many, narrowing that gap & opening minds. The adults in the story struggle with true life adult problems, the cost that those decisions render (both good and bad) and the generational complexities that blend with our world. I loved it, am happy to recommend and look forward to more!
Rating: *****

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