Published by Little A ISBN 9781503933385
Trade paperback, $14.95, 223 pages
A few years back I read Matthew Norman's hilarious novel, Domestic Violets, which made my list of the Most Compelling Books of 2011. It tells the story of a man stuck in a soulless copywriting job, the son of a Norman Mailer-like father, married to a woman he fears will leave him, father to a young daughter.
He is writing a novel, but he will always be compared to his successful father, an alcoholic with a wandering eye who comes to stay with his son. It is a family story, a workplace comedy (ala The Office), and so much more.
Norman's newest novel is We're All Damaged about Andy, a young man who has fled to NYC from Omaha after his wife tells him she wants a divorce. He is living in a hovel, working as a bartender, with a cat his only friend.
When Andy's mom calls him to tell him he must come home to Omaha because his beloved grandfather is dying, Andy reluctantly goes. He hasn't been home since his divorce and doesn't want to face his ex-wife, whom he still loves.
Once again the cast of characters is terrific. Andy's mom is a right-wing radio host whose latest rants against legalizing gay marriage have caught the attention of Fox News and may result in a gig on the network. Dad is a retired accountant who spends his day working on his motorcycle and shooting pesky squirrels with a paintgun.
Andy's brother Jim is a stereotypical finance guy who thinks he's Master of the Universe and every interaction with Andy is fraught with macho sibling brutality. Neal was Andy's best friend and is the twin brother of his ex-wife. Andy's ex-wife already has moved in her hunky paramedic boyfriend and wants nothing to do with Andy.
All this depresses Andy, and when he goes to see his grandpa, he meets a mysterious woman named Daisy who is passing herself off as his sibling so she can visit his grandpa. What is her story?
Daisy makes it her mission to bring Andy out of his funk, and she succeeds to some extent. She refuses to let Andy hide in his old bedroom, and forces him to face reality.
We're All Damaged has its humorous moments, like the three gay men who "prank" Andy's mom by throwing hundreds of Ken dolls on her lawn and glitterbombing her car. The leader of the group has a hilarious scene with Andy, who describes his meeting with them by saying he wonders "if this is what Tupac felt like right before the bullets started whizzing."
Andy constantly watches a YouTube video of an epic best-man fail that when explained later in the story is sad and funny at the same time. It becomes a crucial element of the story.
Norman is a somewhat more poignant this time around, as when he says maybe "all marriages end in a box in the basement" as he goes through all of the detritus of his former married life. His characters (Daisy, his mom, Neal) are multi-dimensional, not easy to put in a box and I appreciate that in a novel.
I love novels that give me insight into the male psyche and We're All Damaged certainly fills that bill. Andy has quickly become one of my favorite fictional characters, one I root for to get it together. I was also happy to see the shout-out to Curtis Violet from Domestic Violets. It made me smile so!
I highly recommend We're All Damaged, for the terrific characters and engrossing storyline. I also liked the setting of Omaha, we get a real sense of place there in this novel. If you are a fan of Jonathan Tropper, you'll love Matthew Norman.
Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Matthew Norman's tour. The rest of the tour stops are here:
Matthew Norman’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS
Wednesday, June 1st: Book Chatter
Thursday, June 2nd: Bookchikdi
Friday, June 3rd: Books a la Mode – author guest post
Monday, June 6th: 5 Minutes for Books
Tuesday, June 7th: Bewitched Bookworms
Wednesday, June 8th: Lavish Bookshelf
Thursday, June 8th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Monday, June 13th: A Bookish Affair
Monday, June 13th: Kahakai Kitchen
Tuesday, June 14th: Thought on This ‘n That
Wednesday, June 15th: Write Meg
Thursday, June 16th: Good Girl Gone Redneck
Monday, June 20th: Worth Getting In Bed For
Wednesday, June 22nd: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers