Reviews for the Normal Family Trilogy
“Every once in a while a book comes along that is so different from what you expected your reaction shocks you. That’s what happened to me when I finished Normal Family by Don Trowden: I burst into tears! Why on earth did that happen? It happened because the description and a few reviews I read on Amazon prepared me for a good laugh. And laugh I did…often. I mean, visualizing Granddad dropping his hearing aid in the toilet or bumping his noggin every time he exits the bathroom or crashing headfirst into the beautifully decorated Christmas tree when he’s had a little too much Christmas cheer before dinner is funny…especially when I can see my own husband doing exactly the same. And it’s hard not to laugh when the grandchildren discover the contents of Granddad’s secret bomb shelter and decide to share a joint down there, only to have Granddad ask to join in their fun. What? Yes, this is definitely not a Normal Family in some respects, and yet so very normal in others e.g. everyone keeping secrets, older siblings picking on younger siblings and a father who marries a bit of a witch after a divorce and hopes the kids will like her and vice versa. Yeah right!
Young Henry Pendergast, the 10-year-old narrator of Normal Family, watches, observes, eavesdrops and becomes increasingly puzzled by the behavior, not just of his gifted older brother and sister, but by all the adults around him…except for his beloved grandfather who imparts the wisdom of years to his attentive grandson. Oddly enough, it is young Henry who opens Granddad’s eyes to his own failings. If only all families could be so honest with each other. Normal Family will have you thinking about your own family, identifying with the various characters, and questioning, as young Henry does, why we do what we do and indeed wondering just what the heck is a normal family. Will it make you cry at the end? Perhaps not if you’re made of sterner stuff than I am. But I can promise that you won’t come away untouched by Don Trowden’s beautifully delivered and brilliant story. And if you love it as I did, you might find yourself keen to read the two books that follow this one. I certainly am.”
Normal Family, Volume One
Reviewed by author Viga Boland
"The second novel in what is going to be a trilogy moves on some years and is again a sometimes humorous yet even more moving account of the troubled Prendergast family some years on. This volume focuses more on the Asperger’s brother Albert and the father’s decline. If family life in the first volume is dysfunctional, here it is even more so and I found this a much darker book all round. Pain and tragedy are always present here, only slightly alleviated by Trowden’s sense of the absurd and his talent for dialogue. I enjoyed the book very much indeed and look forward to volume three. Highly recommended."
No One Ran to the Altar, Volume Two
"In this gripping finale to Don Trowden’s Normal Family trilogy, we get to share the later years of Henry Pendergast’s life. This time the family meets up on a remote island off the coast of Maine, with a hurricane brewing, as preparations get underway to celebrate Henry’s eightieth birthday. As regular readers will know, nothing goes quite to plan, and we’re in for a fascinating journey.
I loved the first two novels, and All the Lies We Live was equally hard to put down. Don Trowden’s writing is exceptional, possessing a rare honesty, and it’s refreshing to find a book which treats older characters as real people with hopes and dreams for the future, as well as regrets for the past.
As a UK reader, I was captivated by the island setting of Vinalhaven, with its beautiful scenery and lovable characters such as lobsterman Wilbur Warren. The author brings the island to life so vividly, I feel as though I’ve been there.
By turns funny and sad, the book brims with insight into life’s challenges, and it’s written with love and hope. I’m looking forward to more works from this talented author."
All the Lies We Live
Reviewed by author Teresa Stepping
Reviews for The Isles of Shoals Remembered by Caleb Mason
"Provides a fascinating look at an important time period in the American arts."
The New York Times
"This charming facsimile of an original daybook for the year 1901 reveals in an intimate way America's first arts' colony. The entries include original artwork from Childe Hassam, musical sketches from Edward MacDowell, and poetry from Celia Thaxter. The book is beautifully produced in red cloth with an applied black-and-white cover drawing and gold foil stamping.
Caleb Mason uses the original material as a springboard to reveal how nascent all the arts were in 19th-century America, augmenting the more significant original entries with photographs and his own text. As you journey across one year in time with these many gifted artists, you will be moved by their contributions to the daybook. The original daybook was presented to William Mason for his 80th birthday. William was the son of the musical educator and hymn composer Lowell Mason, and the brother of Henry Mason, who co-founded the Mason & Hamlin piano and organ company. William was Franz Liszt's only American pupil and went on to introduce many of the great Romantic-era piano works to American audiences. Mason was instrumental in helping the subsequent generation of America's young composers gain notoriety, and it was in this spirit of friendship that the original daybook was presented by his friends for his 80th birthday."
Author of Liszt, Green Thoughts, and More