Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Book Review: "We're All Damaged" by Matthew Norman

Matthew Norman aims for full-on Jonathan Tropper territory with his newest book, We're All Damaged. He doesn't quite hit that target, but the effort is still both funny and bittersweet.

"I don't have a problem with Applebee's per se. But I think we can all agree, as a civilized society, that lives shouldn't change there. Significant things should begin or end at Applebee's. You shouldn't walk into Applebee's as one thing and then leave as something else entirely."

When Andy Carter's wife ends their five-year marriage (at Applebee's), he is completely shocked, although he probably should have noticed the signs along the way. Their breakup throws Andy into a tailspin which results in him losing his job, ruining his best friend's wedding reception, and utterly crashing and burning. (At least the crashing part.) He flees his Omaha home for New York City, where he's the third-best bartender at a bar, removes himself from the social media grid, and he shares an apartment (at least sometimes) with Jeter, a cat with a nasty disposition.

But when Andy learns that his grandfather is dying, he must head back to Omaha, no matter how painful it all will be. And a lot has changed—his ex has moved in with her new boyfriend (a muscular paramedic named Tyler), his retired father spends his leisure time shooting squirrels with paintballs and defying the neighborhood rent-a-cop, and his conservative radio host mother is being courted by Fox News. Then there's also Daisy, the quirky stranger who is determined to make rebuilding Andy her latest project.

How do you pick yourself up again when your life as you know it has come crashing down? How do you save face in the wake of near-total public humiliation? And how do you keep from dwelling on all that has gone wrong, so you can focus on what is going right?

I really enjoyed We're All Damaged, even when I felt it tried a little too hard to be funny and edgy. I like the way Norman writes and he really created a motley crew of characters with both positive and negative attributes that (for the most part) were fun to read about. I thought a subplot involving the "Glitter Mafia" and marriage equality was unnecessary, and threw the book off track for me every time it came up, although I understand why Norman included it.

This book read a little bit like a movie and it definitely made me laugh from time to time. I think many of us have had some of the same feelings Andy has, although hopefully we've not had to experience the kind of outrageous incidents he did! A fun one to pick up...

Kindle First and Little A provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

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