The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman by Julietta Henderson is one of those delicious books you stumble on, not sure what to expect and end up loving. The Norman of the title is almost twelve and part of a future comedy duo with a five-year plan to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe. But when his comedic partner and best friend Jax dies, Norman has to think again. The catchy first paragraph drew me straight in although I admit to being slightly disappointed when I realised it was by Sadie, Norman’s mum, and not Norman himself. But this feeling disappeared as I settled immediately into the two voices – single mum Sadie and psoriasis sufferer Norman – distinctive, real and very funny as they tell the tale of their two-person family as they face their grief and the Jax-sized hole left in their lives.
The five-year plan – Get to the Edinburgh Fringe, baby! Get famous. Get rich – was meant for a comedy duo. Norman’s problem is that Jax was the funny one. Norman is more Ernie than Eric and Sadie fears he will fail and emulate her own father who was a not very good comedian. But when she reads Norman’s re-written plan – Look after Mum. Find Dad. Get to the Edinburgh Fringe – she is stunned. ‘Finding out Norman wanted to find his father was almost as much of a shock to me as finding out I was pregnant had been. In fact, it managed to evoke pretty much the same feelings, from what I can remember. Same order, even. Bewilderment, denial, terror, followed by how the hell did this happen.’
Aided by the never-say-die attitude of Leonard, octogenarian old soldier and part-time cleaner at the garage where Sadie works, the trio embark on a road trip to Edinburgh in Leonard’s 1971 teal Austin Maxi. The route has various detours to meet the men who may, according to Sadie’s rather hazy memory, be Norman’s father. Various adventures are had along the way, their setbacks and triumphs aided by Leonard’s widespread knowledge gained at assorted classes at Penzance Community Centre.
This is a funny, sad, emotional story about grief, love and what family really means, with lots of laugh out loud moments. It’s about how prejudices and first impressions can lead you to make judgements about people you haven’t yet met. How those old-fashioned notions of determination, plodding on, making the best of it and being brave enough to take a chance, can lead to unexpected conclusions. Ultimately, it’s about how family is less about blood and more about who you let into your life.
BUY THE BOOK
If you like this, try:-
‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce
‘The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy’ by Rachel Joyce
‘The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly’ by Sun-Mi Hwang
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE FUNNY THING ABOUT NORMAN FOREMAN by @JuliettaJulia #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5my via @SandraDanby