Carrie's Reviews > Leaving Normal

Leaving Normal by Stef Ann Holm
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's review
Feb 21, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: contemporary, read-2012, firefighters, women-s-fiction
Read from February 20 to 21, 2012

2* first half
4* second half
C+/B- overall

*****Possible spoilers ahead!*****

The first half of Leaving Normal is women's fiction with a few hot fireman sightings. The second half of the book is a more typical hot-fireman-romance, although this fireman is a beta instead of an alpha. I have to admit to enjoying the second half of the book much more than the first. I wasn't really excited about Natalie's ups-and-downs with business or her botched date (the weird date added nothing to the story). Since I didn't find her a sympathetic character (see below), I wasn't as moved about the health scare as the author might have hoped.

The book starts off on the wrong foot for me when the main reason given for Natalie's divorce two years earlier was that her husband was unexciting. As the book progresses the author includes little snippets about how Natalie had "lived without love" in her marriage, but honestly, the fact that she got bored is the only real reason given. I was also disappointed that while the character of Natalie is careful to say it wasn't her husband's fault, the author continues to throw subtle and not so subtle barbs at the ex, such as he's balding and boring, and Natalie is so hot and exciting. Why do this? If you want to give Natalie a reason for a divorce, then make a good reason the readers can accept and get beyond, instead of something as nebulous as "vaguely dissatisfied." If the main character had been a woman whose husband had left her after 21 years of marriage because she wasn't exciting or pretty anymore, the readers would be full of sympathy and outrage, especially if the husband had gone on to marry a really hot swimsuit model or something. That one fact colored my opinion of Natalie for the whole book. My first impression is she's shallow and self-centered (breaking apart a marriage while her daughter is a junior in high school).

Tony's character was much more interesting to me. His loyalty and his compassion. I do wish the author hadn't made him so unbelievably handsome. Good looking is one thing, but drop-dead gorgeous seems unnecessary and less believable. I also thought the fact that Natalie didn't look her age and was so beautiful was also too bad, since it felt like the author was trying to rationalize Tony's attraction to Natalie (given their age difference). If Natalie had been a "normal" looking 43 yr old, would Tony have been attracted? Was it only because she didn't look her age? If you're going to do the December-May romance, then be brave and do it! Don't back-pedal with, "See, it's believable because she doesn't look 9 years older!"

But...while I had to suspend disbelief somewhat to accept Tony was attracted to Natalie, I will say the romance in the second half of the book was sweet and moving, and the love scenes very well written.
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Reading Progress

02/20/2012 page 150
39.0% "Is no none else bothered by a woman ending a 20+ year marriage because she's "bored?" She leaves a perfectly nice man man who was stable and a good dad because he was now "uninteresting." If this had been a man leaving a nice supporting wife we'd be up in arms."

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Lea's Audiobooks Hensley Somehow it worked well for me (I gave the audio 5 stars and the print version an A- at AAR). I agree that your question is valid and I recall it hitting me a little odd at the time but the last half was outstanding. If you make it that far, hope that proves to be true for you as well.

message 2: by Carrie (last edited Feb 20, 2012 07:00PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Carrie I'm enjoying the second half more, but the book feels like a not-too-successful mash of women's fiction and hot fireman romance. The author hasn't been 100% successful in getting me to believe Tony's attraction to Natalie.

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