Monday, October 8, 2018

Book Review: Relatively Normal

By Sara Steven

Successful New York City event planner, Catriona Masterton, has been on a mission to keep her new fiancé from meeting her family. This Thanksgiving, she's flat out of luck when orderly and regimented Ethan Crenshaw declares he will meet the Masterton Clan.

It's not that Cat's ashamed of her eccentric family, but how does one explain a mother with a kitchen gadget fetish, a father whose best friends are taxidermied field mice, and a super stoner man-child brother who lives in the basement? That doesn't even include the fiercely-proud Scottish grandmother with a proclivity for profanity.

Just when the visit couldn't get much worse, Cat is thrown a large curve ball when her ex-boyfriend and his family show up for Thanksgiving dinner. She's torn between the order and predictability Ethan and her life in New York City represent, while her family and the Midwest pull her in a different direction. Will Cat make it out of her hometown in one piece or is she willing to embrace the chaos? Mishaps, mayhem, and confusion ensue in this laugh-out-loud tale of familial pandemonium.
(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I always find a piece of myself within a Whitney Dineen novel. The characters, the eclectic and eccentric situations, they speak to me on a relative level. And speaking of relative. While reading through and becoming a part of Cat’s experiences in Relatively Normal, I couldn’t get over how much I could identify with her. I’ve been in those shoes before, having dealt with my own cautious, meticulous love interest and offbeat, peculiar family. Feeling as though I had to come up with a balance between the two polar opposites. It’s not easy.

Adding to this chaotic adventure is the ex-boyfriend, a man Cat swore she’d never see again. I really loved the emotional layers his presence brings about, a tug of war within her that only intensifies the feeling she has of not really knowing where she belongs. We get the impression that she’s done everything she can to try and distance herself from the type of life she led growing up, yet none of us can forget who we are, or where we come from.

Dineen has this special way of showcasing the emotion, while keeping her own unique comedic spin on things. Putting various characters in a room who are so completely different, giving them the leeway needed to do what they want to. From Grandma’s tell-it-like-it-is personality to Dad’s penchant for taxidermied mice and spitting pistachio shells (one of the best scenes, hands down), to the supposed normalcy of her fiancee’s family, it gives off a thrilling unpredictability to what might happen next at any given moment. And the undercurrent with all of it are lessons in tolerance. There were a lot of scenes in Normal that really showcase what it means to be a lot more accepting of others, even if they’re different or not your own idea of what’s “normal”, because, really. What is normal? It’s a refreshing take on better appreciating the people and past that has helped shape who we become in the present. Even if that means potentially dodging spittooned pistachio shells!

Thanks to Whitney Dineen for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Whitney Dineen:

1 comment:

Grandma Cootie said...

Agree completely with your review! I was lucky enough to read and review an ARC of Relatively Normal - it is fantastic, isn't it?