Extraordinarily normal

House Mother Normal
Bloodaxe Books

What you're about to read isn't a normal book review. But then B S Johnson didn't write normal books. Just keep in mind that House Mother Normal is challenging, exciting, but above all readable, and all will be well.

Imagine a book where the same story is told from different viewpoints. Think David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, where each viewpoint is topped and tailed by another. But the narratives in House Mother Normal all come one after the other, for a very good reason.

Now imagine that the same number of pages is used for each viewpoint, , that each line advances the chronology by the same amount. It's like a film script, where each page is a few minutes and a gap in one's thoughts looks like this: "        ". Thus in House Mother Normal page 5 of Gloria Ridge's story matches page 5 of Ron Lamson's, and page 5 of the House Mother's, line by line.

Finally, imagine that each story describes the same few hours in a nursing home, from the point of view of one of the old folks, all with wildly varying degrees of mental competence. After the gradual deterioration of narrative from lucid Sarah Lamson to almost silent Rosetta Stanton, the story is finally explained, and cast in a whole new light, by the House Mother's own narration. In this way House Mother Normal makes barbed comments about our understanding of mental wellness and wholeness, and break the heart of every reader with its portrayal of silent, unacknowledged, misunderstood sickness.

  1. House Mother Normal is a book with no equal, no peer, no accompanying movement and no obvious influences.
  2. House Mother Normal is prose and play minced and ground and stirred up together.
  3. House Mother Normal is a three-dimensional novel.
  4. House Mother Normal is a witty, wise, sad, beautiful exploration of the human condition.
  5. House Mother Normal is a biting satire on mental-health culture and Foucauldian power struggles.
  6. House Mother Normal is smashing.