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Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?by Jeanette Winterson
You know you're in for an interesting ride when the memoirist calls her mother "Mrs. Winterson," but this wry, unflinching look at a wildly dysfunctional adoptive family is anything but a pity memoir. Winterson untangles the complexities of her upbringing with clarity, wit, and grace, bringing a redemptive adult voice to her story.
Synopses & Reviews
A memoir of family, love, healing, and the beautiful disorder that binds mothers and daughters together
Judy Batalion grew up in a house filled with endless piles of junk and layers of crumbs and dust; suffocated by tuna fish cans, old papers and magazines, swivel chairs, tea bags, clocks, cameras, printers, VHS tapes, ballpoint pens obsessively gathered and stored by her hoarder mother. The first chance she had, she escaped the clutter to create a new identity—one made of order, regimen, and clean white walls. Until, one day, she found herself enmeshed in lifes biggest chaos: motherhood.
Confronted with the daunting task of raising a daughter after her own dysfunctional childhood, Judy reflected on not only her own upbringing but the lives of her mother and grandmother, Jewish Polish immigrants who had escaped the Holocaust. What she discovered astonished her. The women in her family, despite their differences, were even more closely connected than she ever knew—from her grandmother Zelda to her daughter of the same name. And, despite the hardships of her own mother-daughter relationship, it was that bond that was slowly healing her old wounds.
Told with heartbreaking honesty and humor, this is Judys poignant account of her trials negotiating the messiness of motherhood and the indelible marks that mothers and daughters make on each others lives.
"Magnificent . . . A tour de force of literature and love."—Vogue
"Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is raucous. It hums with a dark refulgence from its first pages. . . . Singular and electric . . . [Winterson's] life with her adoptive parents was often appalling, but it made her the writer she is."—The New York Times
"[Winterson is] one of the most daring and inventive writers of our time—searingly honest yet effortlessly lithe as she slides between forms, exuberant and unerring, demanding emotional and intellectual expansion of herself and of us. . . . In Why Be Happy,, [Winterson's] emotional life is laid bare . . . [in] a bravely frank narrative of truly coming undone. For someone in love with disguises, Winterson's openness is all the more moving; there's nothing left to hide, and nothing left to hide behind."—Elle
Jeanette Wintersons bold and revelatory novels have earned her widespread acclaim, establishing her as a major figure in world literature. She has written some of the most admired books of the past few decades, including her internationally best-selling first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, the story of a young girl adopted by Pentecostal parents, that is now often required reading in contemporary fiction classes.
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a memoir about a lifes work to find happiness. It is a book full of stories: about a girl locked out of her home, sitting on the doorstep all night; about a religious zealot disguised as a mother who has two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the dresser, waiting for Armageddon; about growing up in a north England industrial town now changed beyond recognition; about the universe as a cosmic dustbin. It is the story of how a painful past, which Winterson thought she had written over and repainted, rose to haunt her later in life, sending her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her biological mother. It is also a book about other peoples literature, one that shows how fiction and poetry can form a string of guiding lights, a life raft that supports us when we are sinking.
Witty, acute, fierce, and celebratory, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a tough-minded search for belonging—for love, identity, home, and a mother.
About the Author
Born in Manchester in 1959 and adopted into a firmly religious family, Jeanette Winterson put herself through higher education and studied at Oxford University. She is the author of numerous novels, including Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Sexing the Cherry, and The Passion. Winterson lives in Gloucestershire, UK.
Visit her website at jeanettewinterson.com
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