"A New Kind Of Normal"

A New Kind Of Normal by Carol Kent

This is the story of how a happy, successful couple's life was shattered when their only child, a son who had never been in trouble before, was sentenced to life imprisonment with no chance of parole, for murdering another man. I have a son. It tore my heart out. Tears stopped me several times; that's not something that happens to me very often when I read. The pain these people live with every day is beyond belief. The way they live, and even thrive, in the midst of never-ending grief is a powerful statement about them, their faith and their God.

The book is hard to read, but the time and effort are worth it. The author is refreshingly honest about her experience. She talks openly about the bad days and how hard it was, and still is, to get through them. She talks equally openly about how God gives her the strength to face what has to be faced. There is no pretending she's got it all together now or that she can always rise above the pain; she admits she has good and bad days and, sometimes, days that are worse than bad. But she has found a way to continue living in the midst of the mess, a way to keep moving forward and that, to me, is an amazing thing.

A New Kind Of Normal is a well written book, but I really didn't think too much about writing style as I read it. It was the content, the story that got to me; the good writing is just the icing on the cake.

When I first heard the title of the book it was a little like getting elbowed in the ribs. At this point in my life I don't seem to be adjusting to my "new normal" very well and I keep putting off facing up to that. There's too much truth in this book to ignore though; it was a not-so-subtle kick in the backside that I've been needing.

Kent says that she and her husband Gene "have to decide every day that we will choose life in the middle of devastating circumstances instead of giving in to emotional death, depression, discouragement and defeat". Not an easy thing to do. When she wakes up in the morning she has to face the fact that her only child is in prison, that he will always be in prison and that any hopes she had for a future with family gatherings or grandchildren are gone. She has to accept that her beloved child is living every day in a place where he can be beaten, raped or killed. She says she had to "learn a whole new way of living or fold up my cards" and she challenges readers to look at their own painful circumstances in a new way, to take a chance that your new normal might "offer benefits you never expected". That sounds harsh, even cruel, and everything in me wants to reject it. Why can't we experience those benefits without the pain and the loss and the grief?  With kindness and grace she convinces us of what we already knew but do not want to face: that we all have to decide every day to choose life, no matter what that life may look like now.

What will make this book effective in helping others deal with their own pain is the author's candor. She talks about the everyday things: "I couldn't imagine having to make small talk when the news of our son's arrest for murder was burning like acid through my brain and heart". Saying that in words gives other people freedom to feel the same way. When she tells you that the first step to regaining hope is to choose living over withdrawing with your grief and pain, you're willing to at least consider considering that she might be right. She's fought her way through horrible circumstances and that gives her words credibility.

I recommend this book. I can't see how anyone could read it and fail to be encouraged. It's a great choice for book clubs (each chapter ends with a list of questions for discussion) or for anyone who has to learn to live, and not just exist, in situations they never imagined possible.


Duchess of Tea said...
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Missy B. said...

This sounds very good...I will check it out. Nice review!

kimbofo said...

This book sounds interesting...is it fiction or non-fiction?

It reminds me a little of The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha, which I haven't read, although I do have a copy in my To Be Read pile.

Ordinary Reader said...

kimbofo - It's non-fiction. I should have mentioned that in the write-up. It's an amazing story. Thanks for dropping by.

StuckInABook said...

Wow, this sounds a very challenging book to read... but worth it. I haven't read many true-life books from a Christian point of view, and I think I should - it makes the theology more real.

Ordinary Reader said...

StuckInABook...the heck with theology. It makes God more real. Not that He needs to be more real. He is real. But when people read that God makes a real difference in real people's lives, in how they feel and how they live and how they treat other people, then faith becomes something that draws them instead of sending them screaming in the other direction. Ok I'm stopping now. I think you'd like the book. I love your blog by the way.

French Fancy... said...

Hello and thank you for popping by.

Out here in France without access to a good UK library I don't often get the chance to read new books. Of course there are some I order online but you know what it's like - they grow and grow and then you need new shelves and a new room.

A New Way of Living said...

Really a great book in reading..........

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