A DIFFERENT KIND OF NORMAL

Cathy Lamb

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.

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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…

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  • Kensington Books
  • Paperback
  • July 2012
  • 480 Pages
  • 9780758259394

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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.

Discussion Questions

Who was your favorite character? Why? If you could

spend the day with one character, who would it be, and

what would you do?

Jaden says, “I know that my years of free-flowing panic

have shaped me into someone I was not before. I am

overly serious, and a bit controlling; okay, maybe more

than a bit controlling, and I overprotect too much, and I

struggle with pervasive worry over Tate, which comes

out as anger and a mouth that won’t quit when I feel

cornered.”

Would you be friends with Jaden? How would you

describe her to someone else? What do you have in common?

How do you differ?

Tate wrote in his blog, “I have been made fun of my entire

life. In preschool, the other kids wouldn’t play with

me. Some of the kids in my class cried when they saw my

face, I remember that. I was three. One kid said I was

ugly; another kid said I was scary, like a sea monster. A

girl with braids told me I had a face like a person on one

side, and a face like pigskin on the other. I remember

going to sit in a corner and crying almost every day.”

What would it be like to be Tate? To be Tate’s parent?

Jaden said, “Another reason I became a hospice nurse

was because I crave raw, honest relationships and have

zero patience for superficiality. When you are working

with people who are dying, all pretenses are off. There is

no shallowness, no silliness. I don’t have the patience for

relationships that float and skim across the top of human

existence, relationships that have no depth or that are

based on shopping, manicures, gossip, men, clubbing,

etc. I want real relationships.” Can you relate to this? Was Jaden a competent hospice nurse? Did it make sense for her to move on to an

other career by the end of the book?

What was your favorite scene in the book and why?

Was Jaden right, as a mother, to allow Tate to play

basketball? What would you have done?

Grandma Violet and Rowan concocted a mixture for

Grandpa Pete to swallow so his terminal suffering

would end and he would die. Jaden said, “Do I think my

mother and Grandma Violet, at that time, with the medicines

they didn’t have, did the right thing? Yes, I do. Absolutely.”

Did they do the right thing? Was it consistent with

their characters?

Brooke said, “I destroyed a lot of lives to make money. I

am up nights wondering how many people I killed who

took the drugs I sold them. I am up nights wondering

how many pregnant women took my drugs and what

that did to their babies. I am up nights wondering how

many mothers’ sons are now addicted to my drugs, how

many fathers’ daughters are drugged out and doing

scary things with terrible men because they’re addicts,

like I did.”

Do you like Brooke? Was her drug addiction portrayed

correctly?

Do you think she will stay clean? Why or why not?

Here are a few of Damini’s Daminisms.

“Every time you eat, be grateful you’re eating. Be nice

to animals. In your next life you might come back as a

slug, remember that. Read a lot of books, because they

are delicious and if you don’t read, how do you learn

anything? Watch the seasons. I wear short skirts with

ruffles, sequins, and fluff because I love them. I’m not

gonna hide my leg. Don’t hide anything about yourself. I

know what it’s like to sit in a dark room in a crib alone

and feel as if no one loves you. Love a lot of people for a

happy life.” What are your Daminisms?

What are the themes of A Different Kind of Normal?

What did the seasons symbolize? What did the greenhouse

symbolize? The herbs and spices? The Canterbury

bells, hollyhocks, lilies, irises, sweet peas, cosmos, red

poppies, peonies, and rows of roses, which all the

women in the family grew?

Jaden says, “I’m Earth Momma with an explosive temper

meets cowgirl. She’s [Rowan] firecracker meets perfume.”

How was Rowan as a parent? A grandparent? Using

the same type of phraseology, how would you describe

yourself?

Tate says, “Fitting in perfectly means that you never

have to reach outside yourself. You don’t have to go

through the same kinds of challenges, prejudice, judgment.

Is it actually the best thing to fit in with everyone

else? It’s easiest. But, man, how do you grow? How do

you learn to think on your own, or do you simply think

what everyone around you thinks? How do you learn to

be more compassionate of others, more generous, if

you’ve never had to feel like you’ve been lost and stuck

on the outside with no one being compassionate or generous

to you?”

Is Tate right? Was his big head a blessing or a curse

for him? What did other people learn from Tate?

Jaden says, “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.”

Does she believe in witches or doesn’t she? She smells

death in spices and herbs while in her greenhouse. Why?

Do the women in her family have special abilities?

How have the stories of Faith and Grace impacted

Jaden’s life? Why did the author include the family history,

complete with spells, witches, and a velvet satchel?

How did it work for you as a reader