Entering Normal by Anne D. LeClaire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Bless me, Father, for I have procrastinated. As I have confessed before, sometimes a book will sit on my shelf long enough to start asking for the car keys before I get to it. This novel shows a publication date of 2001, but actually takes place in 1990, and so it has a rather antique feel to it, with people listening to cassettes and not having cell phones or caller ID, and fetching their dinner by hunting mastodons. Okay, I made that last bit up. That said, this is still a really enjoyable read.
The story concerns Rose, a woman in her late fifties and married to the very steady Ned, who asks her every morning "So what's on your agenda today?", as if one day differed very much from any other. The one day in Rose and Ned's life that was shockingly, horribly different was the day five years before, when their teenage son and only child died in a road accident. Ned is waiting for his Rosie to come back; Rose doesn't really see anything to come back to.
Enter Opal Gates, a twenty year old single mother of a five year old son, a believer in signs, a doll maker and a southerner, who moves in next door to Rose and Ned on their street in Normal, Massachusetts. Opal, whose name used to be Tammy Raylee Gates before she legally changed it, threw a die and when it landed on three, she decided to drive three tanks of gas away from her home of New Zion, North Carolina, and stop there. She was aiming to get away from her boring ex-jock boyfriend (the father of Zach, her son) and also from her overbearing, hyper-critical mother Melva, who apparently never made a mistake in her life. Step aside Jesus, here's a *really* perfect person, and she's not shy about hammering her very different daughter over the head with that fact. Oh I love it when I can identify!
At first, Rose thinks that Opal is basically trailer trash, and is horrified at Opal's casual attitude toward her son's little mishaps, saying, "Boys bounce." Rose knows that, sometimes, they don't. Circumstances, however, will bring these two women together (just like in a novel!) and they will find that they need each other's help and kindness to get through when trouble comes to both their doorsteps in the form of a heart attack suffered by Ned and a custody suit brought by Zach's father, backed by--you guessed it--Melva.
I found myself caring a lot for both of these very believable, flawed, likeable women, as well as Ned. I was amused by how well this woman author depicted auto mechanic Ned and the way he thinks. I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a good human story.
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