WHY BE HAPPY WHEN YOU COULD BE NORMAL? -- a tough-minded search for belonging—for love, identity, home, and a mother
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson (2013, Grove Press; 240 pages)
This is a vivid and courageous memoir and an autobiography of a woman who wasn’t well loved by her mother. The book starts like this: “When my mother was angry with me, which was often, she said, ‘The Devil led us to the wrong crib.'”
Jeanette Winterson, a British author perhaps not very well known in the USA (sadly so) has written some of the most acclaimed books of the last three decades, including her first novel Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, and my favorite, Lighthousekeeping. With this witty, acute, fierce, celebratory and moving book, the author continues sharing her search for belonging, for love, for a home, all wrapped up in a continuous question of what is the meaning of identity in a person’s life.
This memoir is the chronicle of a life’s work to find happiness, a book that stabs you in the heart with episodes like when the author explains how she was left all night on the doorstep by a mother who kicked her out of the house at sixteen because she was in love with a woman. "Why be happy when you could be normal?" is the real-life question for her of her adopted mother, who previously had attempted to exorcise her sexuality. The book is full of stories that cut your air and leave you cold until the author’s sense of humor allows you to breathe again, a bit uneasily, sharing the pain that this memoir exhales. It is a deeply moving experience to read it.
From The Guardian:
“Jeanette Winterson's memoir is written sparsely and hurriedly; it is sometimes so terse it's almost in note form. The impression this gives is not of sloppiness, but a desperate urgency to make the reader understand. This is certainly the most moving book of Winterson's I have ever read, and it also feels like the most turbulent and the least controlled. In the end, the emotional force of the second half makes me suspect that the apparent artlessness of the first half is a ruse; that, in a Lilliputian fashion, what appears to be a straight narrative of her early life is actually tying the reader down with a thousand imperceptible guy ropes, so that when she unleashes a terrible sorrow, there is no escaping it and no looking away."
Find this title in our catalog: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
Recommended by: Maite