5 May 2016

THE A TO Z OF NORMAL.


THE A TO Z OF NORMAL by HELEN BARBOUR.

BACK COVER BLURB: Clare Thorpe's need for order and symmetry governs everything she owns - from tins and toiletries, to cushions and clothes.

Yet she has always managed to hide the compulsions dominating her world. Until now.

When long-distance boyfriend Tom proposes, her secret life begins to unravel. How can she share a future with the man she loves, if she can't even share her space?

 And when the only way forward brings a threat greater than any compulsive behaviour, do they have a future together at all?

A poignant and humorous story of love, family, secrets...and military precision.

FIRST SENTENCE {Prologue}: We arrive home before our guests.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 40}: In the kitchen next door, I face my nemesis: the tulips. I don't know where to start in arranging them. There are different numbers of each colour, so a symmetrical pattern will be impossible. And tulips are wilful: their stems will twist overnight, destroying any pattern I do achieve.

SOURCE: Received for review from the author.

MY THOUGHTS: 'Contemporary fiction with a romantic element (though not in the traditional sense) all about a woman coming to terms with her Obsessive Compulsory Disorder (OCD)'? 

Hmm. Whilst a novel I felt I'd enjoy, this could go one of several ways ... and not all of them good. Supposing the author made overly light of the situation? Supposing she concentrated too much on the OCD aspect? Supposing I saw too much of myself in main character, Clare, and didn't like it? Supposing the romantic element was too much for me, someone who doesn't really do romances?

Phew! One of my favourite novels of the year so far as it turns out. I enjoyed The A To Z Of Normal immensely.

A great story, compassionate and yet not without a sense of humour. A read which offered a good insight into obsessive-compulsive behaviour without the intrusion that I somehow tend to feel when reading biographies from those with the condition.

Successful, independent and certainly no victim, Clare is a wonderful character. But then, main or secondary, aren't they all? Totally believable each and every one of them. Clare's relationship with boyfriend Tom is incredibly touching (without being at all mushy) as he too tries to come to terms with the condition. Then there's the family dynamics which are spot on. And as for the support group Clare finds herself attending? Characters, each with their own compulsions, brought to life. 

A novel with such a lot to offer. I'm not in the habit of recommending books (merely chronicling my thoughts of them) but if I were I'd have no hesitation in offering this up as a read you may well find yourself enjoying if you are looking for a read about relationships and the human condition.


19 comments:

Helen Barbour said...

Tracy, thank you so much for this amazing review - I'm delighted that you enjoyed my novel. Thank you also for taking a chance on something you wouldn't usually read!

Kelly said...

What a great review and you've convinced me to add it to my wish list. I've always been a bit fascinated with OCD and my "doctor brother" has said he believes many of us have mild forms. I know two of my kids and I do. Mine's certainly not so severe as to disrupt my life, but it does "intrude" a little at times.

Off now to look for this at Amazon...

Yvonne@fiction-books said...

Hi Tracy,

Oh Dear! I can see so much of myself in this post, that I'm not sure whether I should be reading it or not!

Hubbie has learned to live with my stock rotated cupboards, with the labels all facing the front.

Never allowing a toilet roll to run out completely before replacing it.

etc. etc. the list goes on and the memorable moment you quote from, only serves to re-inforce my beliefs.

I would probably have much the same reservations as yourself about reading this book, however unlike yourself, I can't see me giving in, not when I already have so many books in my TBR pile.

Another great review, which offers the reader all the salient and relevant points, clearly and concisely.

Sandra Cox said...

Sounds like a keeper, not to mention it would have fit in perfectly with the A-Z challenge:)

Mary (Bookfan) said...

This appeals to me - I like a novel that's a bit different.

ClaudineGueh@CarryUsOffBooks said...

Oh wow, sounds good then! I was initially concerned it might turn out making too light of OCD (because I know how it can cripple relationships). But sounds like it hasn't, and a dash of good humour is of course still necessary.

Barbara Fisher said...

My hubby and I both have what we assume to be a form of OCD. Terry can’t help but straighten everything – even in shops! Post Office counters drive him nuts because the staff put information sheets out for customers, but they are never in neat piles – or at least; they aren’t when we arrive!!!
With me, its cushions, books, mugs, anything that ‘should’ face one way or be in a neat line. My kitchen cupboards are a marvel to behold – but it drives me insane if anyone puts anything in with a handle pointing the ‘wrong’ way.
Anyway all that aside, I really enjoyed your review Tracy, and I’ve just clicked on your link and ordered a copy via Amazon (I hope you get a penny or two because I ordered via your blog?)
I would be interested to know if it’s worth linking to Amazon (from your point of view), I tried it on my family history blog, but to date I’ve received nothing from them – which I assume means nobody has ordered anything?

Melliane said...

It's great to see that you had a great time there and you recommend this book, it's even more intriguing

Brian Joseph said...

This really does sound good. The potential for this kind of story is enormous.

It is good to hear that it was handled with what sounds like balance and maturity.

Helen Barbour said...

Thank you for all the lovely comments on my novel - and for the book purchase, Barbara! You may be interested to know that I used my own experience of living with OCD to inform my protagonist, Clare's behaviour, and am glad that I seem to have managed to achieve my aim of informing and entertaining at the same time.

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

Oh nice. A strong recommendation and a great character. Sounds like a good one and one that I would also enjoy.

kimbacaffeinate said...

Lovely review and Clare and I would get along just find. I have OCD tendencies and laughed about the tulips

Gina R said...

Yay! So glad it worked out for you and made you favorite list. I had hopes for from the start as the cover and title had me pausing for pen and paper (get it? But true! '-') so as not to forget them. Adding to my own wish list now. Thanks for the rec!

Helen Barbour said...

Thank you for all the further comments and support - I do hope those of you who go on to buy my book enjoy it!

Karen Alderman said...

I was drawn to the cover so I'm happy to hear that you enjoyed it so much. This sounds like something I would enjoy.

Karen @For What It's Worth

Barbara Fisher said...

My copy just arrived today, can't wait to start reading.

Helen Barbour said...

Karen, I'm glad you like the cover. I was delighted with what the designers came up with.

Barbara, I hope you find it an enjoyable read - do let me know how you get on...all feedback is useful, good or bad!

Barbara Fisher said...

I've just finished it. Love, love, loved it but unfortunately I recognised myself rather a lot! Excellent book though and I will read it again, thanks for the recommendation. xx

Helen Barbour said...

Barbara, thank you so much for the lovely feedback - I'm absolutely delighted that you enjoyed my book so much! Helen