Jennifer's Reviews > Domestic Violets

Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman
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's review
May 05, 2012

really liked it


Tom Violet is having a midlife crisis. Besides suffering from erectile dysfunction, he thinks his wife Anna might be having an affair. His dog Hank suffers from anxiety. Although the manuscript he’s been secretly working on for years is finally finished, his father Curtis has just been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. (In addition, Curtis seems to have left his latest wife and moved in with Tom and his family.) His job at a soul-killing corporation writing copy filled with meaningless buzzwords bores him to tears. He makes work bearable by needling his arch-nemesis Gregory. The only good thing? His relationship with his cute young coworker Katie … who seems like she might reciprocate his inappropriate feelings towards her. What’s a sarcastic, frustrated writer with a larger-than-life father and a hot wife who doesn’t seem to need him anymore do to get his life back on track?


This book was a hoot! Although this is his debut novel, Norman writes with self-assurance and gives Tom a blackly comic voice that tickled my funny bone and had me wondering just how he was going to work through all his problems. The book reminded me a bit of Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You, in that both deal with wacky, dysfunctional families with major issues to tackle. I mean this as a very high compliment, as I adored Tropper’s book.

Although most of us probably couldn’t relate to having a father who is one of the greatest living American writers when our secret aspiration is to be a writer, most of us can relate to soul-killing jobs in offices that are full of backstabbing, empty buzzwords and nebulous goals. The sections where Tom is at work were my favorites. They brought back memories from my own office experiences.

I also thought that the marriage between Tom and Anna felt true and lived in. Although both of them are seeking attention and validation outside of the marriage, they still love each other and are trying to find a way back to each other. I think most long-term marriages might go through patches like this—where the person we love is almost too familiar and trapped with us in the drudgery of daily life to be exciting and appealing. In addition, the relationship that Tom has with his coworker Katie seemed believable. I’ve observed several situations in my own life when the coworker relationship crossed some kind of line without straying all the way to affair. It is a curious dynamic that I haven’t seen addressed too often in fiction, and it was interesting to see how it developed.

The book is a fun, fast read, and I look forward to finding out what Norman writes next. Recommended for readers who enjoy narrators with a sarcastic sense of humor, flaws and messed-up lives just like most of us!
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