Monday, August 15, 2011

Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman — 352 pgs

Domestic Violets: A Novel (P.S.)Tom Violet’s life isn’t what he had hoped it would be. Working for a soul-crushing company where his only jollies come from tormenting his overbearing and obnoxious coworker Gregory, Tom feels stuck and unfulfilled. He also may or may not have a crush on his pretty young assistant Katie, a woman who is as intelligent as she is beautiful. His father is one of the foremost American authors and has just won the Pulitzer, a fact which makes Tom proud and envious all at the same time. Topping it all off, Tom’s penis seems to be malfunctioning, a problem exacerbated by the fact that his wife, Anna, is trying to become pregnant again. Though Tom has been languishing as a desk jockey for several years, he’s just completed his first novel, a fact he’s keeping secret from just about everybody, hoping he’ll one day become an author of the same caliber as his father. When the economic crisis hits, Tom’s job situation suddenly becomes dubiously strange, and while his feelings for Katie begin to mount, Tom’s relationship with his wife is becoming more and more complicated. Soon Tom finds himself at a sticking point at work, at home, and with his novel. Will his self-deprecating wit and verve be enough to save him from sinking, or will Tom go under, desperately trying to cling to all he could possibly lose? In this hilariously funny and inventive debut, Matthew Norman gives us Tom Violet in all his goofball glory and takes us on a journey filled with laughter, absurdity and surprising poignancy.

This is another book I felt had a lot of appeal due to it’s effortless comedy. In Norman’s portrayal of sassy and witty Tom, there was hardly a page that didn’t have me snorting with laughter. It was obvious that Tom’s humor was an attempt to give himself a lot of the bravado that he felt had suddenly slipped away from his life, and that his hilarious asides were somewhat of a mask that he placed over his insecurities and self-doubt. It was a coping mechanism, and while it was intensely satisfying to read, smoothing out the narrative and giving the story its zest, it was also very humbling to witness the mental contortions that were basically keeping Tom afloat while his world began to slowly crash down around him.

And believe me, Tom had a lot going on. While at first it only seemed like one area of his life needed improvement (his job), soon all the other areas began to fray in a rapid and destructive way. I think that while the sections that focused on Tom’s job provided a lot of levity, there was a realness to what he was going through that many people will recognize. I particularly loved Tom’s interactions with Gregory because I think his unusual form of getting Gregory’s goat was something that office denizens all over would applaud. These scenes were comic gold in my eyes, and for me, the most exciting parts of the book. Tom is also conflicted by the feelings that he has for his coworker, Katie, and though he tries to be as altruistic as possible about the trajectory of their relationship, the reality is much more unmanageable. I believe that Katie represented to Tom his fleeting youth and his desire to once again be carefree and desired. I also believe that these scenes were intensely realistic and at times emotionally tense. Every flicker of attraction that passed between them felt illicit and dangerous, though it was thinly veiled with the ever-present humor and lightheartedness that was a constant fixture of this book.

Tom’s familial relationships were also areas that were filled with potential landmines. While his desire for his wife, Anna, is palpable, there was definitely something awry with their relationship, and Norman does a great job of making his readers really think about what’s going on (or not going on, as it were) with them. Tom loves Anna and she loves him, but there’s something just blow the surface that’s causing disrepair between them, and it’s not so easy for him to wish it away. Like Tom’s relationship with Anna, things between Tom and his father, Curtis, aren’t always easy to put the proverbial finger on either. Curtis is a arrogant and loud philanderer, and though father and son are very different, Curtis and Tom may share more traits than one might think. Add to this Curtis’ new and random presence in his son’s life, and Tom isn’t the only one asking questions. Curtis is who Tom wishes to be, his success and magnetism both a lure and a tool for deflection, and though there are things about his father that Tom dislikes, his admiration and wonder for the man leaves him puzzling over his own life and the motives he has for writing his novel.

This was a book that managed to be both surprisingly funny yet also very deep, and it was a read that I had no problem getting invested in. It was a lot of fun to get a chance to hang out with the ever effervescent and wacky Tom, and the plot was far from predictable. I think Matthew Norman has a great career ahead of him, and he’s an author whom I’ll be watching. As a side note, this book also contains an author interview in the postscript that had me tearing up with laughter, and it’s not to be missed. An all-star book, highly recommended!


Author Photo About the Author

Matthew Norman is an advertising copywriter. He lives with his wife and daughter in Baltimore. Domestic Violets is his first novel.

TLC Book Tours A warm thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing this book for me to read and review. Please continue to follow the tour by visiting these other blogs:

Tuesday, August 9:Rundpinne
Tuesday, August 9:Like Fire
Wednesday, August 10:Life In Review
Thursday, August 11:BookNAround
Friday, August 12: The House of the Seven Tails
Monday, August 15:Colloquium
Tuesday, August 16:Raging Bibliomania
Wednesday, August 17:Book Chatter
Thursday, August 18:Teresa’s Reading Corner
Monday, August 22:The Bodacious Pen
Tuesday, August 23:StephTheBookworm
Tuesday, August 23:Write Meg
Wednesday, August 24:I’m Booking It
Thursday, August 25:Sara’s Organized Chaos
Friday, August 26:Iwriteinbooks’s blog
Monday, August 29:A Bookish Way of Life
Tuesday, August 30:My Life in Not So Many Words
Thursday, September 1:That’s What She Read


This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

20 comments:

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) said...

Ah hah! I have this on my list for next week (for the same tour). I'm really glad you liked it. Makes me even more excited about reading it. :O)

Sandy Nawrot said...

It sounds like The Financial Lives of Poets or This is Where I Leave You. And if it is, then it has to be a winner. I love books like this!

bermudaonion said...

I think it takes a lot of talent to make a book both deep and funny. I'm really looking forward to this book and hope to read it soon.

Amy said...

Sounds really different and interesting zibilee. For some reason every time I see this title my brain first registers 'Domestic Violence' and I THINK it is going to be a book about domestic violence and then I am disappointed to see it is fiction (only I would be disappointed about that wouldn't I!). Hence I keep avoiding it. Silly I know!

Aths said...

I've been seeing this one around but never imagined that it was so good. I've read and enjoyed books like these so this one just might be for me. Thanks for your wonderful review!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Everyone is just raving about this book! I have to get a hold of a copy! I love books that make one snort!

Tracy said...

Definitely sounds like a good read - and one my partner would probably like, too.

Jenny said...

I'm so glad you liked this! I saw you were on the tour and was anticipating your review. (I agree with Sandy that even reading the synopsis reminds me of those two books which I loved both). Jason actually started reading this the other day and is literally laughing constantly and he wants me to start reading it soon too. I can't wait!

Suko said...

Wonderful review, Zibilee. This book sounds exceptionally good.

Geosi said...

I love books that can make me laugh so i am adding this to my tbr. Wonderful review as always.

Meghan said...

You've made this sound so fabulous I'm kicking myself for not requesting on Netgalley! Darn, I suppose I'll have to buy it instead. ;) I love books that manage to be both deep and funny. It's not easy to do.

Wall-to-wall books said...

Please let me know when you read "Forgotten" I would like to know what you think.

Steph said...

I know that comedy is subjective, but I've now read a handful of reviews about this book, all of which have talked about how effortlessly funny it was, which makes me think I'll probably get a few good laughs out of it too. I'm so glad TLC tours has brought this book to my attention, because I'm sure that I otherwise would have passed it by!

heathertlc said...

I'm a huge fan of "effortless comedy" and I love it when the author's note/interview is funny as well.

Glad you enjoyed this one. Thanks for being on the tour.

Darlene said...

Ah shoot, now I wish I had gone on this tour. This sounds like such a fantastic book! I'm glad you enjoyed it so much Heather. Books like that make reading worthwhile.

Jenners said...

I've been hearing good things about this book and I think I can get an ARC of it ... I'll have to check it out. Thanks for the great review.

Darlyn (Your Move, Dickens) said...

This sounds like my kind of book. The plot (and maybe even the comedic style?) actually reminds me of Jonathan Tropper's novels. I hope I can get a copy soon. :)

TheBookGirl said...

I skimmed your review on this one, as I have this at the near top of my TBR pile; I will come back and read it through when I finish the book. I'm glad to know that you enjoyed it tho, that's usually a good sign for me :)

Audra said...

The overwhelmingly positive response to this book prompted me to get it from the library -- I was quite eye-roll-y about the plight of a married guy but so many folks pointed out the bittersweet nature that I'm convinced. I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

nomadreader said...

I'm looking forward to this one! I seem to be a little late to the party, but I love books (and films) that are both moving and funny.

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