Jeanette Winterson's novels have established her as a major figure in world literature. She has written some of the most admired books of the past few decades, including her internationally bestselling first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, the story of a young girl adopted by Pentecostal parents that is now often required reading in contemporary fiction.
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a memoir about a life's work to find happiness. It's a book full of stories: about a girl locked out of her home, sitting on the doorstep all night; about a religious zealot disguised as a mother who has two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the dresser, waiting for Armageddon; about growing up in an north England industrial town now changed beyond recognition; about the Universe as Cosmic Dustbin.
It is the story of how a painful past that Jeanette thought she'd written over and repainted rose to haunt her, sending her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her biological mother.
Witty, acute, fierce, and celebratory, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a tough-minded search for belonging, for love, identity, home, and a mother.
This book left me thinking... would we still be the same person if life had dealt us a different hand? If Jeanette had been raised by her birth mother, would she still be the same person? I enjoyed this book, seeing how much the author loved to read, I think anyone on this site can fully relate to that. Jeanette LOVES books and that made me feel close to her. I can also relate to her strict religious upbringing and know that wasn't easy at all. Though like her, I wouldn't change it because I happen to like how I turned out and if my life had been different, I wouldn't be the same.
I can't imagine being adopted and told all the time that you're not wanted. That's just vile and cruel... first given up and then not wanted by the other parents. It's heartbreaking but Jeanette shows how strong she is through the whole process even when she was forced to sleep outside.
Jeanette's life hasn't been easy but it's what we make of it that really matters. Our choices and the paths we take.