September 3, 2021
Genre/Categories/Setting: Contemporary Fiction, Humor, Mother/Son, Road Trip, England
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A memorable trip to find a father and honor a friend…
Twelve-year-old Norman Foreman and his best friend, Jax, have a five-year plan to become comedians and perform at the Endinburgh Fringe Festival. Jax is the wild one and is Norman’s first and only friend. They spend their time planning and practicing their comedy routine, with Jax as the funny one and Norman as the straight man. Sadly, Jax dies and Norman is bereft. Norman’s mom, Sadie, is a single mom and in her attempts to cheer up Norman, Sadie vows to get Norman to the Fringe (in honor of Jax) even though he would be a solo act and to finally track down Norman’s father (there are four possible candidates). Assisted by Leonard, a semi-retired janitor at work, Sadie plans the trip. The majority of the story follows this trio as they take a road trip to Edinburgh and make stops along the way to meet four different potential fathers and to give Norman practice opportunities at small venues. Will Norman find his father? Will he find the courage to perform at The Fringe without his best friend?
Humor: If you’re looking for a humorous read with generous sides of grief and adventure, you might appreciate this heartfelt story!
Structure: The Funny thing About Norman Foreman is told in straightforward chronological order (with a few flashbacks to fill in the past) and from two points of view, Sadie’s and Norman’s. I loved their voices and exploring grief from both perspectives. The road trip moves along at a quick pace with many twists and unexpected events. The only part of the story I wasn’t crazy about was the zany ending. For my personal preference, it was a little over the top and strained credibility….although it was certainly entertaining!
Themes: Even though there is a substantial amount of humor, there are some heavier themes here including grief (losing a best friend), mom guilt and regret, longings to find a father, mom insecurity, going to extraordinary lengths to make your child happy, found family, self doubt, and the determination to persevere even in the most difficult circumstances (never give up). One of the loveliest themes is the support that Norman had from most all the adults in his life. It made me wish that every child had that.
“When I started thinking about everyone I know, like Tony and Kathy and their baby that hasn’t shown up yet, and Adam and his rugby career that never got to happen, and Leonard with his wife who doesn’t remember him anymore, and Jax’s mum and stepdad who lost their boy, and Mum who finally told me what really happened to Grandad, I realized they’ve all got one thing in common. Which is that even though bad things happened to them, they all still kept on going.”
(paraphrased) So I reckon that’s my rule: Never give up.
Recommended: I enthusiastically recommend The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman for readers who are looking for a humorous and unique (quirky?) story, for those who appreciate stories with thoughtful themes (see above), for those who enjoy supporting debut authors, and for book clubs. Thanks to Joanne at Portobello Book Blog (her review) for the recommendation in our 20 blogger collaboration this summer!
Content Consideration: death of a child (of natural causes), suicide (childhood memory), grief, a painful and chronic health condition (psoriasis)
My Rating: 4 Stars
Meet the Author, Julietta Henderson
Now a full-time writer, Julietta divides her life between Melbourne, the UK and wherever else she can find winter. The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman is her debut novel.
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