printed copy

A Different Kind Of Normal

Cathy Lamb

ISBN 9780758259394
Publish Date 7/31/2012
Format Trade Paperback
Categories Women's Fiction, Kensington, General

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…

Chapter One

My mother told me all about the witches in our family. She heard the stories from her mother, who heard them from her mother, and so on, all the way back to the mid-1800s, in London, where the twins, Henrietta and Elizabeth, started The Curse.

Henrietta and Elizabeth were inseparable from the time they reached across their mother’s bosom for the other’s hand. Their mother was considered to be the best witch of them all, whatever that silly statement means, and she taught the twins. They practiced their spells in the forest behind the fountains and statues on the manicured estate their mother’s wealthy, titled family owned.

The twins eventually, reluctantly, agreed to marry wealthy, titled men. They did not feel it necessary to tell their husbands of a few wild years, sins committed and sins omitted, handsome men here and there, and their mother agreed, she of a colorful past herself. “It’s our secret, dears,” she told her daughters, a pinky tilted up as she drank her tea. “Husbands don’t need to know much.”

The twins’ elegant estates, with lands adjacent to each other, soon held all the herbs they needed for their spells, plus Canterbury bells, hollyhocks, lilies, irises, sweet peas, cosmos, red poppies, peonies, and rows of roses, which is what their mother and grandmother grew, too.

Together Henrietta and Elizabeth had eight children who would later prove to be both saints and raucous sinners, especially the girls, as is often the case in witch families, or so I’m told.

Sadly, though, in their late thirties the twins’ friendship fell apart because of a fight over, of all things, a tea set. At least that’s what started it. Henrietta bought the delicate white teacups, pitcher, and creamer with the pink flowers, knowing Elizabeth loved it, coveted it, but Henrietta could not resist. They were elegant, from India, hand painted, and the flowers looked as if they could talk if let loose for but a moment. There was only that one set and when Elizabeth found out what Henrietta had done, so sneakily, she was overcome with anger.

Other rigid resentments and prickly problems, built over decades of twinship started to explode, as if the teapot had cracked in half and exposed the fine fissures between the two women. They stopped speaking to each other entirely, despite their children’s pleas that they reconcile, until one pleasant Sunday in front of the church.

It wasn’t hot that morning, which was fortunate, as the heat could spread such rancid diseases, like scarlet fever and tuberculosis, and it wasn’t cold, which could cause a plain cough to become pneumonia in no time. There was a bit of wind, which carried off the natural odors of raw sewage, animals, rot, refuge, defecation, moldy vegetables, decaying meat, dead bodies, vagrant children, and people who had rarely bathed in their lives.

It was a perfect sunny day with no warning of the generational damage to come.

Henrietta and Elizabeth wore their whalebone corsets, white petticoats, beribboned hats, and elaborate, heavy dresses. They reached out white gloved hands to their proper husbands as they debarked from their horse-drawn carriages. Both couples and well-polished children were ready to show off their devoutness to the Lord, though church bored Henrietta and Elizabeth into an almost comatose state, the vicar droning on and on endlessly until both women thought they were perched on a shelf in hell.

The twins caught a glimpse of each other on the cobblestone path, each with a hand in the crook of their husbands’ elbows. Their husbands had been chosen for their kindness, business success, and knuckleheadedness, which would allow the twins to carry on their usual witchery and spells with no interference from an observant male.

Henrietta thought Elizabeth made a face at her. Elizabeth thought Henrietta was haughty and, as if they’d been swept up by the devil’s tail and smashed together, it all began.

They left the clueless, cultured husbands, locked elbows with each other to pretend friendship and deflect attention, and a quiet, but intense fight broke out, their fake smiles plastered hard on their furious faces.

Accusations were made about “stealing my precious tea set, I told you I wanted it . . .” But then things escalated viciously, as fights between sisters often will. “You’re always flirting with men like a peacock . . . you are way too prideful about your children . . . why you should get Maria married off immediately before she sleeps with another stable lad . . . what about your son, Michael? Is there any girl he hasn’t tumbled through the hay with? Your gowns are too low cut . . . you talk incessantly . . . always competing with me . . . you think your herb garden is better than mine, it never has been . . . you have to be joking, my herbs are always better than yours, stronger, that’s why we use them in the spells all the time. . . .”

And then, the source of true bitterness and jealousy, “I should have been married to Oliver, not you, he was interested in me before you wore your purple dress with almost your entire bosom hanging out. . . . My bosom was not out. . . . Oliver would never have been interested in you with that nose. . . . My nose? Dear, a big nose can be hidden with powder, but big buttocks, horse buttocks, balls and tarnation, that’s not hideable, is it?”

Oh dear.

Henrietta started to mutter and Elizabeth, knowing a spell was coming forth, slapped a hand over Henrietta’s mouth. Henrietta grabbed Elizabeth’s flowered hat and Elizabeth clutched a handful of Henrietta’s heavy skirt. Soon they toppled to the ground, rolling, whispered curses tossed through the air, uncaring about the lace petticoats flying up, the tearing silks and satins. They were quiet in their fury, because they had no desire to advertise their witchliness. Neither wanted to be burned alive at the stake or flogged or drowned or have their clitorises checked for being too pointy, one irrefutable indication of a true witch.

And they didn’t want it for the other, either, despite the delicate tea set with the pink painted flowers and their mutual love for Oliver.

The deadly dull vicar sprinted out of the church, black cassock flying. He was young and naïve, and hadn’t a clue how to handle two women locked in a combative fight whispering to each other. My heavens, and praise the Lord, this would not do! Especially on the Lord’s Day! He had an important sermon planned, too, about how women must submit to their husbands! Submit to your master!

Their husbands, chatting the pompous chat of self-satisfied, privileged men nearby, rushed over, shock pounding all the way around their lace collars and past their white underthings. What had happened to their demure, lovely wives? What on earth were they doing? This was church, and yes, it was tiresome to be told you were going straight to hell to burn as a sinner, but still! No fighting on the front lawn, surely they knew that?

Their children watched, surprised but highly amused, especially the teenage girls, who had already joyfully learned how to quietly rebel and not get caught. Look at their fighting mothers! Pulling hair and slapping, their dresses flipped over their knees!

The witches’ last, frantic roll together marked the beginning of decades of tragedy that affected someone in each generation of one of the witch’s families. In the ensuing struggle one witch hissed out a spiraling curse, and before the other witch could deflect it by shooting off a defensive spell, the husbands and vicar were forcibly separating them, their feet kicking, skirts whipped up.

“What has gotten into you, Elizabeth?” Philip Compton loved his family, but he was brought up around royalty and pompous, unearned titles, and this behavior was unseemly, improper! What was his wife doing on top of her twin sister? This was extraordinary!

“For God’s sake, Henrietta!” Oliver Platts was handsome, but dense like cheese, and he could hardly believe what he was seeing! He was running for political office, too. Didn’t Henrietta know they had appearances to keep up?

“Ladies, let’s take a moment to pray,” the vicar said, shaking, the women’s perky hats long gone, their thick, auburn hair curling wildly over heaving bosoms. He felt himself growing hot at the sight of the bosoms, and the hair, and the red cheeks! Oh, shame to him! Those bosoms were enough to make him forget his vows and certainly his chastity. He dropped his head, his pale white hands clasped together tight. Oh, deliver us, Lord! Save us from the devil and devilish thoughts about bosoms! “Lord, we ask for your forgiveness today . . .” His voice trembled as bosoms frolicked through his prayer. “We are all sinners, unworthy of you. . . .”

Henrietta and Elizabeth were having none of that droning, praying stuff. As everyone else bent their heads, they leaped at each other again with guttural cries, but their husbands, on alert, grabbed them midflight and shoved them back into their carriages, dresses askew, gloves gone.

In bed that night, the husbands, to their immense relief, had their docile, fawning wives back again. The witches pretended they had been overtaken by the stifling heat; perhaps it was the tomatoes they had both eaten the day before? Maybe the porridge had been poisoned? Could the devil had crawled inside of them? It took a few well-placed caresses, some dewy eyes, long kisses, a lifting of the nightgown, and soon their husbands, who saw only what they wished to see, rolled off to their side of the bed, mollified.

But in the pitch, thick blackness of the night, one witch shook with shame and guilt, and the other shook in complete and absolute terror. Both clutched the necklaces they always wore, the same necklaces they had given to their daughters. There were three charms: a cross, a heart, and a star. A cross for Jesus, a heart for family, and a star to represent the power of witchcraft.

Henrietta and Elizabeth were never friends again. How could they be with spells like that flying around recklessly? But they missed each other desperately and cried harsh, lonely tears, in private, often.

The Curse began immediately, afflicting the baby the witch didn’t even know she was pregnant with yet. He was born with only one arm. Henrietta cried over him, cursing her twin.

Elizabeth cried, too. She had never meant for the spell to be so strong, so insidious, and within ten years, her guilt killed her. She toppled over in her summer garden, right between the thyme and mint.

Her sister witch cried for a year. Henrietta became an attentive second mother to Elizabeth’s children. When she died at seventy-six years old, right before her eyes went blank, she sat straight up in bed, stared into a corner, her wrinkled face transformed with an illuminating smile. She held up a hand, as if she was reaching out to hold another’s, and said, “Elizabeth, I have missed you, sister. . . .”

At least, that’s the story I was told by my mother.

Her mother told her.

Her mother told her, and so on, who heard it from the daughter of one of the witches, who stood close by and listened with increasing fright as her mother and her mother’s twin sister spewed out intricate, menacing spells. The daughter recognized the final spell and clasped a hand over her mouth. The other witch’s daughter did the same.

Their mothers had taught them all they needed to know.

And that spell, well, that one was a doozer. On that pleasant Sunday morning, in London, in front of a church and a vicar who was fascinated by heaving bosoms, the damage was done. In each generation, The Curse reappears.

But 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.

About Cathy Lamb:

Cathy Lamb, the author of Julia’s Chocolates, The Last Time I Was Me, and Henry’s Sisters, lives in Oregon. She is married with three children. She writes late at night when it's just her and the moon and a few shooting stars.


Average Customer Review

Based on 6 reviews


Customer Review

Does Cathy Lamb conjure up a wicked read? (Wednesday, October 31, 2012)
Reviewer: Wathira Nganga

Stories of witches are always common around Halloween, but Cathy Lamb’s A Different Kind of Normal is not a typical supernatural tale. In lieu of monsters and ghosts, high school bullies stalk the pages and the specter of drug addiction haunts the protagonists. The characters use wit and endurance rather than magic spells to overcome hardship.

Jaden Bruxelle is a tough, independent hospice nurse who is raising her younger sister’s son Tate. Tate is a cheerful, boisterous seventeen-year-old. He sees the bright side of every situation, despite abandonment by a mother who chose drugs over him, and a deformity in the back of his head.

Tate desperately wants to play basketball in the hope that he will finally gain social acceptance. The kids at his school physically and verbally bully him regularly. But Jaden is afraid that any physical impact in the game will displace the shunt that carries the extra cerebral fluid out of his head and keeps him alive.

Colorful characters in Tate’s and Jaden’s life pepper the pages with their own stories, some tragic, but also humorous.

Jaden’s mother Rowan is a soap opera star who alternates between Hollywood and the family home in Oregon. She firmly believes she is a witch from a long line of witches, and often tries to convince Jaden of her true heritage.

Jaden’s brother Caden is a former wrestler who is now a florist and single dad with a twelve-year-old daughter and three-year-old triplets. His muscular appearance masks his gentleness towards his children.

Jaden is a matter-of-fact narrator who sees everything in black-and-white. At times, though, her narrative tends to veer uncharacteristically towards the overt sentimentality of a romance novel whenever she is around her crush, Ethan Robbins, Tate’s doctor.

Cool, calm Jaden disappears in raunchy daydreams during scenes with Robbins, and sometimes even when he’s not present. One moment in Jaden’s greenhouse when he comes over for lunch painfully reads:

“We waited in the awkward, steamin’ silence together. I reached for another clay pot, then withdrew my hand as I thought of straddling Ethan on my wicker chair with the red pillow. The pot toppled over and I caught it before it hit the floor. I put the pot back, then stared at a ceramic peacock I had on a shelf to distract my rampaging lust.”

Jaden’s attraction to Robbins does go to show the length of her devotion to Tate – she refuses to compromise Tate’s access to the best neurosurgeon in the region with a personal relationship. Of less importance is the constant hassle of Dirk Hassells. Yes, that is the character’s actual name.

Dirk Hassells is the son of one of Jaden’s clients who has liver cancer. He repeatedly makes sexual advances at her. When his father eventually dies, Hassells sues Jaden for negligence as payback for her rebuffs. His storyline only provides a nuisance to Jaden and doesn’t really contribute to the plot.

If Hassells and Robbins perhaps had fallout over Jaden, the tension might have moved the plot forward in that respect. However, the two men never meet and Hassells remains a grumpy and unnecessary secondary character throughout the book.

The multiple storylines are not difficult to follow, but the plot is not always linear. Jaden’s memories of her childhood, especially of her sister Brooke’s descent into drug addiction, do provide a decent amount of plot exposition. Moreover, tales of her witchy ancestors provide an important backdrop to the story.

The Bruxelles’ witch ancestors, in particular two cousins named Faith and Grace, are models of survival for Jaden and her family. Faith and Grace braved angry mobs, a treacherous ocean passage, the wild American west, and other perils over the course of their lives, yet always came out strong.

In the same way, their descendants in the novel face insurmountable obstacles – drugs, physical deformity, and the death of a loved one – and tackle them together. If you don’t mind lengthy family histories, a roundabout plotline, and some whacky characters including a few (possible) witches, A Different Kind of Normal is the book for you.

Amazing Tale of Family, Love, & Loyalty (Wednesday, August 8, 2012)
Reviewer: Nancy Narma

Jaden Bruxelle is a young, extremely serious and professional hospice nurse. She has helped patients and their families through their final moments with tender loving care, respect and understanding. But, her main concern is for the welfare of Tate, the gifted young man who she has loved and cared for since her drug-addicted Sister; Brooke gave birth to him seventeen years ago and walked out of their lives. Jaden became his Mother (later known as “Boss Mom”) at 19. Tate’s birth was a difficult one and due to lack of prenatal care, use of drugs, etc., he was born with an enlarged head and eye placement issues. Tate is not mentally challenged—on the contrary, Tate is one brilliant, intuitive, loving individual, who wants to be accepted for who he is and be a part of “the group” at school but his fondest wish is to play basketball. Jaden quakes at the notion, afraid he’ll get hurt—especially since he has a shunt which could lead to serious consequences if dislodged. I have to say that Tate captured my heart right from the start. His outlook on life, the way he handles the size of his head (naming it “General Noggin”--don’t forget Bert, Ernie, Billy, Bob, and his eyes; “Roadrunner” and “Mickey Mouse”), trying so hard to fit in while being bullied and mistreated—then turning the other cheek. We could all learn much from Tate. What an extraordinary fellow! His personality shines through even more on his blog. Through all of the trials and tribulations, family is the anchor in both of their lives. To truly understand the Bruxelle Family roots, we are first transported back in time and “across the pond” and are introduced to witchly twin ancestors; Henrietta and Elizabeth who are supposedly responsible for “The Curse”. They married wealthy gentlemen and each gave birth to a daughter—Iris and Rosemary, who carried on their Mothers’ powers, almost losing their lives to a lynch mob, then escaping to America where their names became Faith and Grace. Their knowledge of herbs, spices, flowers, (and spells) have been passed down for generations—landing at Jaden’s feet.
We meet Jaden’s soap opera queen, extremely outspoken but loving Mother; Rowan, who wants nothing more than the best for her children and grandchildren while dealing with the ever present feeling of loss for her beloved husband and missing daughter. Tate affectionately calls her “Nana Bird”. Ex-wrestler turned florist, muscled teddy bear, Jaden’s Brother, Caden, has his hands full being a single Dad to spitfire, adopted daughter; Dimini and perpetual motion, costumed triplets; Heloise, Harvey and Hazel. As strong as her love is for her family, Jaden has deep, romantic feelings for Tate’s talented neurosurgeon; Ethan Robbins hidden within, as she is aware there can’t be a romance due to his doctor/patient relationship with Tate. Or can it?? Ethan is the only one she trusts with her son’s care. The insight into Jaden’s hospice cases will tug at your heart—and you’re allowed (my opinion), to hiss and boo at slime-ball, Dirk. Will Tate get to play basketball on his High School’s team? Will Jaden and Ethan find love? You’ll chuckle, laugh out loud and, believe me, the tears will flow, within the pages of this Author’s latest masterpiece. You won’t be disappointed! All I can say is “Thank-you and more, more, more Cathy!” I’ll be waiting for more heartwarming tales and bet you will be too! Nancy Narma

jbarr (Tuesday, July 31, 2012)
Reviewer: jbarr

A Different Kind of Normal by Cathy Lamb
Love reading about magical mystical powers and what regular herbs can do not only in spells but healing humans.
Centuries earlier the twin sisters had some fights: the powers that be set a spell on the sisters and it showed up down the family tree with one male child, Tate being deformed at birth: a huge head, eye not where it should be etc, making him appear to be a monster. His mother won't allow him to play sports as he's a teen now due to his medical conditions.
He starts a blog and tells of his life and he gets many followers and he enjoys getting to love their comments. It's his way of dealing with not being accepted into the public.
His real mother Brooke was into drugs also and had left him with her sister: Jaden who is raising him now and been more to a mother to him than anyone.
There are other deformities of other relatives as well as the years have gone by.
Tate and his mom do spend time with Ethan, Tates doctor. They've been to the beach. Also Tate can take care of himself, not only did he ace the PSAT's, he is big and when others make fun of him he beats them up til they are his friends.
She still won't let him play basketball and he keeps trying to convince her. She's a hospice nurse and tries to make others passing more peaceful and no pain.
Jade and Tate live with her mother, Nana Bird and she's a soap opera actress that does love scenes. They watch on the weekends together. He's made the team and Jade is excited for him and scared cuz of his medical conditions.
Tate's real mom is back on the scene, recovered and rehabbed.
Death smells, high school dances, college, lawsuits, and death and how they all cope makes this a super down deep read.
Wish it had the recipes they speak of in the book.

A Different Kind of Normal - A Heart Felt Story! (Sunday, July 22, 2012)
Reviewer: Judy Burgi

I loved this book. It really hit home. One of the main characters in this book was born with a big head. The medical term for this is called Hydrocephalus. I have a relative that was born with this same condition. This made the book come alive for me because of that fact.

Tate Bruxelle, was born with a big head. His real mother, Brooke, abandoned him after birth. She simply walked away from the hospital leaving Tate there. Jaden Bruxelle, the sister of Brooke, at nineteen years of age took Tate to raise as her own; giving him the care he would have never gotten if Brooke had stuck around. Tate called Jaden, Boss Mom. Jaden and Brooke’s mother Rowan Bruxelle, a Hollywood movie star, also played an important part in Tate’s life. Tate called Rowan, Nana Bird. Tate also had a name for his big head, General Noggin.

There are many other supporting characters in this book that are just as loveable as the main characters. You will come to love them as I did.

I experienced many emotions while reading this book. Laughter, oh my goodness there is so many laugh out loud moments in this book. There is anger, because some people are just plain mean. There are moments of great sadness and loss. Most importantly there is love and plenty of it.

The family in this book is a very supporting family. The love just flows. The caring is outstanding. This book shows how a true family lives and even though it is fictional, you get good goose bump moments from it. I really loved that about this book. A family sticking together through thick or thin is what it is all about.

I took away from this book that compassion is very important. Letting go of hurts is very important. Forgiveness is very important. Don’t spend your life hating what you can’t change but loving what you can.

The author Cathy Lamb is a new author to me. This is the first book I have read of hers. It won’t be the last. She has a way with words describing each and every scene as if you were right there in it. She knows how to bring out compassion, support, caring, forgiveness, and love in her main characters. To sum it up, I just can’t say enough about this book.

I wish to thank Kensington Publishers for providing me with an ARC copy of this book to read and review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.

A Different Kind of Normal (Tuesday, July 10, 2012)
Reviewer: jbarr

A Different Kind of Normal by Cathy Lamb
Love reading about magical mystical powers and what regular herbs can do not only in spells but healing humans.
Centuries earlier the twin sisters had some fights: the powers that be set a spell on the sisters and it showed up down the family tree with one male child, Tate being deformed at birth: a huge head, eye not where it should be etc, making him appear to be a monster. His mother won't allow him to play sports as he's a teen now due to his medical conditions.
He starts a blog and tells of his life and he gets many followers and he enjoys getting to love their comments. It's his way of dealing with not being accepted into the public.
His real mother Brooke was into drugs also and had left him with her sister: Jaden who is raising him now and been more to a mother to him than anyone.
There are other deformities of other relatives as well as the years have gone by.
Tate and his mom do spend time with Ethan, Tates doctor. They've been to the beach. Also Tate can take care of himself, not only did he ace the PSAT's, he is big and when others make fun of him he beats them up til they are his friends.
She still won't let him play basketball and he keeps trying to convince her. She's a hospice nurse and tries to make others passing more peaceful and no pain.
Jade and Tate live with her mother, Nana Bird and she's a soap opera actress that does love scenes. They watch on the weekends together. He's made the team and Jade is excited for him and scared cuz of his medical conditions.
Tate's real mom is back on the scene, recovered and rehabbed.
Death smells, high school dances, college, lawsuits, and death and how they all cope makes this a super down deep read.
Wish it had the recipes they speak of in the book.

a different kind of normal (Monday, July 9, 2012)
Reviewer: jbarr

A Different Kind of Normal by Cathy Lamb
Love reading about magical mystical powers and what regular herbs can do not only in spells but healing humans.
Centuries earlier the twin sisters had some fights: the powers that be set a spell on the sisters and it showed up down the family tree with one male child, Tate being deformed at birth: a huge head, eye not where it should be etc, making him appear to be a monster. His mother won't allow him to play sports as he's a teen now due to his medical conditions. <P>
He starts a blog and tells of his life and he gets many followers and he enjoys getting to love their comments. It's his way of dealing with not being accepted into the public. <P>
His real mother Brooke was into drugs also and had left him with her sister: Jaden who is raising him now and been more to a mother to him than anyone.
There are other deformities of other relatives as well as the years have gone by. <P>
Tate and his mom do spend time with Ethan, Tates doctor. They've been to the beach. Also Tate can take care of himself, not only did he ace the PSAT's, he is big and when others make fun of him he beats them up til they are his friends. <P>
She still won't let him play basketball and he keeps trying to convince her. She's a hospice nurse and tries to make others passing more peaceful and no pain. <P>
Jade and Tate live with her mother, Nana Bird and she's a soap opera actress that does love scenes. They watch on the weekends together. He's made the team and Jade is excited for him and scared cuz of his medical conditions.
Tate's real mom is back on the scene, recovered and rehabbed. <P>
Death smells, high school dances, college, lawsuits, and death and how they all cope makes this a super down deep read.


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