How do you define normal in your life? Are you comparing yourself to others around you? Is it dependent upon your paycheck? How successful you, your spouse, or your kids are? How well-adjusted your family appears to those around you?
The title of Shawn Thornton’s memoir, All but Normal, gives you a sense right away that his childhood, his family were different. As I read this book and walked through many of the events of Shawn and his brother’s childhood, one think struck me over and over again throughout this book.
While their family was not at all like those around the Thorntons—whether it be a messy house in which the members cleaned dishes in order to eat and cleared a space amidst the piles of stuff on the table, the yelling and cursing, or trying to stop his mom from hurting them or herself—Shawn never seemed resentful.
Sure, he questioned why they lived the way they did, he cried out to God, he rebelled, but throughout it all, he loved his mother. A mother who, quite frankly, at times would be unlovable.
The true heart of this story is in unconditional love. You see it in the interactions between Shawn’s mother and those she meets who are hurting. You see it in how, even though he fights back with her, Shawn’s father is protective of his wife (and later when he makes a conscious decision to handle things with her differently). And you see it in the hope that Shawn finds during his struggles (it comes in many forms, a mutt who shows up at the door and won’t leave, an encouraging word spoken by someone when he needs it most, and a conversation with one of his dad’s co-workers).
In today’s world where everyone wants others to believe they have it all together, people hide their hurt. Perhaps the couple next door is on the verge of divorce, a parent struggles with a teenager’s addiction to drugs or alcohol, a mother’s struggle to care for a young one with a disability, or something else, people need love. People need others to come alongside them and show them Jesus. And despite her rages, her cursing, her attempts to injure her family, that the truth that Beverly Thornton taught her children (who, by the way, both went into ministry as adults).
A book that tugged at my heart, had my laughing in a few places and in tears in even more, All but Normal is anything but your usual memoir. If you need encouragement, hope, or love, this book offers all of those and more.
****Tyndale Blog Network provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. All opinions expressed are my own.