A Different Kind of Normal (Paperback)

By Cathy Lamb

Kensington, 9780758259394, 416pp.

Publication Date: July 31, 2012

List Price: 15.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


From acclaimed author Cathy Lamb comes a warm and poignant story about mothers and sons, family and forgiveness--and loving someone enough to let them be true to themselves. . .

Jaden Bruxelle knows that life is precious. She sees it in her work as a hospice nurse, a job filled with compassion and humor even on the saddest days. And she sees it in Tate, the boy she has raised as her son ever since her sister gave him up at birth. Tate is seventeen, academically brilliant, funny, and loving. He's also a talented basketball player despite having been born with an abnormally large head--something Jaden's mother blames on a family curse. Jaden dismisses that as nonsense, just as she ignores the legends about witches and magic in the family.

Over the years, Jaden has focused all her energy on her job and on sheltering Tate from the world. Tate, for his part, just wants to be a regular kid. Through his blog, he's slowly reaching out, finding his voice. He wants to try out for the Varsity basketball team. He wants his mom to focus on her own life for a change, maybe even date again.

Jaden knows she needs to let go--of Tate, of her fears and anger, and of the responsibilities she uses as a shield. And through a series of unexpected events and revelations, she's about to learn how. Because as dear as life may be, its only real value comes when we are willing to live it fully, even if that means risking it all.

Beautifully written, tender and true, A Different Kind of Normal is a story about embracing love and adventure, and learning to look ahead for the first time. . .

About the Author

Cathy Lamb was born in Southern California and grew up in Oregon. The author of Julia’s Chocolates, Henry's Sisters, The First Day of the Rest of My Life, and If You Could See What I See, she writes full time and lives with her family in Beaverton, Oregon. Visit her at cathylamb.net.

Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

  1. Who was your favorite character? Why? If you couldspend the day with one character, who would it be, andwhat would you do?
  2. Jaden says, “I know that my years of free-flowing panichave shaped me into someone I was not before. I amoverly serious, and a bit controlling; okay, maybe morethan a bit controlling, and I overprotect too much, and Istruggle with pervasive worry over Tate, which comesout as anger and a mouth that won’t quit when I feelcornered.”Would you be friends with Jaden? How would youdescribe her to someone else? What do you have in common?How do you differ?
  3. Tate wrote in his blog, “I have been made fun of my entirelife. In preschool, the other kids wouldn’t play withme. Some of the kids in my class cried when they saw myface, I remember that. I was three. One kid said I wasugly; another kid said I was scary, like a sea monster. Agirl with braids told me I had a face like a person on oneside, and a face like pigskin on the other. I remembergoing to sit in a corner and crying almost every day.”What would it be like to be Tate? To be Tate’s parent?
  4. Jaden said, “Another reason I became a hospice nursewas because I crave raw, honest relationships and havezero patience for superficiality. When you are workingwith people who are dying, all pretenses are off. There isno shallowness, no silliness. I don’t have the patience forrelationships that float and skim across the top of humanexistence, relationships that have no depth or that arebased on shopping, manicures, gossip, men, clubbing,etc. I want real relationships.” Can you relate to this? Was Jaden a competent hospice nurse? Did it make sense for her to move on to an other career by the end of the book?
  5. What was your favorite scene in the book and why?
  6. Was Jaden right, as a mother, to allow Tate to playbasketball? What would you have done?
  7. Grandma Violet and Rowan concocted a mixture forGrandpa Pete to swallow so his terminal sufferingwould end and he would die. Jaden said, “Do I think mymother and Grandma Violet, at that time, with the medicinesthey didn’t have, did the right thing? Yes, I do. Absolutely.”Did they do the right thing? Was it consistent withtheir characters?
  8. Brooke said, “I destroyed a lot of lives to make money. Iam up nights wondering how many people I killed whotook the drugs I sold them. I am up nights wonderinghow many pregnant women took my drugs and whatthat did to their babies. I am up nights wondering howmany mothers’ sons are now addicted to my drugs, howmany fathers’ daughters are drugged out and doingscary things with terrible men because they’re addicts,like I did.”Do you like Brooke? Was her drug addiction portrayedcorrectly?Do you think she will stay clean? Why or why not?
  9. Here are a few of Damini’s Daminisms.“Every time you eat, be grateful you’re eating. Be niceto animals. In your next life you might come back as aslug, remember that. Read a lot of books, because theyare delicious and if you don’t read, how do you learnanything? Watch the seasons. I wear short skirts withruffles, sequins, and fluff because I love them. I’m notgonna hide my leg. Don’t hide anything about yourself. Iknow what it’s like to sit in a dark room in a crib aloneand feel as if no one loves you. Love a lot of people for ahappy life.” What are your Daminisms?
  10. What are the themes of A Different Kind of Normal?
  11. What did the seasons symbolize? What did the greenhousesymbolize? The herbs and spices? The Canterburybells, hollyhocks, lilies, irises, sweet peas, cosmos, redpoppies, peonies, and rows of roses, which all thewomen in the family grew?
  12. Jaden says, “I’m Earth Momma with an explosive tempermeets cowgirl. She’s [Rowan] firecracker meets perfume.”How was Rowan as a parent? A grandparent? Usingthe same type of phraseology, how would you describeyourself?
  13. Tate says, “Fitting in perfectly means that you neverhave to reach outside yourself. You don’t have to gothrough the same kinds of challenges, prejudice, judgment.Is it actually the best thing to fit in with everyoneelse? It’s easiest. But, man, how do you grow? How doyou learn to think on your own, or do you simply thinkwhat everyone around you thinks? How do you learn tobe more compassionate of others, more generous, ifyou’ve never had to feel like you’ve been lost and stuckon the outside with no one being compassionate or generousto you?”Is Tate right? Was his big head a blessing or a cursefor him? What did other people learn from Tate?
  14. Jaden says, “I don’t believe in witches, or curses, or spells. No, I don’t. I really don’t. It’s a legend. A story. A colorful history to laugh and chuckle about in our family line. It is a fanciful tale. I am sure of it. I am, at least, 90 percent sure. I think.”Does she believe in witches or doesn’t she? She smellsdeath in spices and herbs while in her greenhouse. Why?Do the women in her family have special abilities?
  15. How have the stories of Faith and Grace impactedJaden’s life? Why did the author include the family history,complete with spells, witches, and a velvet satchel?How did it work for you as a reader