All but Normal: Life on Victory Road   -     By: Shawn Thornton, Joel Kilpatrick
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All but Normal: Life on Victory Road

Tyndale House / 2016 / Paperback

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Product Description

Growing up, Thornton's life was anything but ordinary. After sustaining a brain injury, his once-gentle mother suffered wild mood swings---from engaging in profanity-laced tirades to quietly befriending the poor, elderly, and marginalized. She frequently embarrassed him---until one day he discovered something about her condition that changed his life forever! A candid, heartwarming memoir. 304 pages, softcover from Tyndale.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 304
Vendor: Tyndale House
Publication Date: 2016
Dimensions: 8.25 X 5.50 (inches)
ISBN: 1496411722
ISBN-13: 9781496411723

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Publisher's Description

Growing up, Shawn Thornton’s life was anything but normal—but then, so was his mother.

After waking from a coma following a car crash, Beverly Thornton’s once sweet and gentle disposition had been replaced by violent mood swings, profanity-laced tirades, and uncontrollable fits of rage. Inside the Thornton house, floors and countertops were piled high with dirty laundry and garbage because Bev was unable to move well enough to clean. Dinners were a Russian roulette of half-cooked meat, spoiled milk, and foods well past their expiration dates. A moment of frustration might prompt her to hurl a knife at Shawn, his brother, Troy, or their dad or to vehemently cuss them out, only to shower them with love and affection moments later as though nothing had happened. And God help the family cat!

On several occasions, Bev even tried to jump out of the car on the highway while Shawn and his brother struggled to keep her inside. Yet this same woman was also a devoted Bible reader, Sunday school teacher, and friend to the elderly, poor, and marginalized wherever she went. How the same woman could be a saint one minute and a nightmare the next was a constant source of frustration for the family. Then one day, after decades of embarrassing outbursts, a surprise discovery finally helps the Thornton family come to grips with Bev’s mysterious condition and brings Shawn to a startling realization that changes the course of his life forever.

A heartwarming coming-of-age story, All But Normal is a powerful reminder that sometimes the “broken” people in our lives are the ones who need fixing the least.

Editorial Reviews

A pastor examines his childhood living with a disabled parent. The author’s mother, Beverly “Bev” Mae Thornton, grew up in a modest family in Indiana. Warm, charismatic, and smart, she began, at age 16, to go out with John Thornton, a wealthier boy with a new Corvair. One night, they were in a terrible traffic accident, which would mark the rest of their lives with unanswered questions. Thornton, with co-author Kilpatrick, re-creates this time as if Thornton was actually there for his future mother’s painstaking recovery. She was left with limited motor skills and had violent mood swings that left her “groveling painfully on the floor” before her sisters. Racked with guilt, John slowly pushed his way back into her life and toward a shared future that perhaps they never really wanted, Thornton writes. All this carefully lays the groundwork for the story of his own experiences with his mother, primarily during his middle school years. He had a loving home life, but his mother’s disabilities also made it tumultuous, and he renders it all with the complexity it deserves. There are no easy answers to the difficulties surrounding disabilities, and Thornton and Kilpatrick reinforce that idea with each new story of embarrassment or, sometimes, terror. Well-balanced narration shows how the young Thornton slowly came to understand just how disheveled and odd their house was, particularly as his mother’s rage and erratic behavior intensified, he says, to include flying plates and threats with scissors. These moments are matched with equal instances of support, tenderness, and humor that help make Thornton’s home feel relatable; it also plays well into the narrative’s overall goal as a Christian testimony of faith. Although the author says that living with his mother brought constant surprises, he also writes, “It never struck me as strange that the woman holding scissors over us...was also my greatest example of what it means to live and love like Jesus.” A religious debut memoir that carefully brings an engaging, complex family to life.
Told against the background of his mother’s mental illness, Shawn Thornton shares his coming-of-age story in All But Normal.
A window into the masked realities of mental illness—a rare, untold perspective on the tempestuous nature of family life from behind closed doors—where a mother’s psychological and physical debilitations wreaked havoc throughout the dysfunctional childhood home in which her son grew up. This memoir also looks at how he came to embrace the underrated value of brokenness—and what led him to the profound life lesson that, when it comes to family, normal is a relative term. A heartwarming coming-of-age story, All But Normal is a powerful reminder that sometimes the “broken” people in our lives are the ones who need fixing the least.

Product Reviews

4.9 Stars Out Of 5
4.9 out of 5
4.3 out Of 5
(4.3 out of 5)
4.1 out Of 5
(4.1 out of 5)
Meets Expectations:
4.1 out Of 5
(4.1 out of 5)
of customers would recommend this product to a friend.
Displaying items 1-5 of 7
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  1. 4 Stars Out Of 5
    Astonishing but true
    September 14, 2016
    Diane Busch
    Quality: 0
    Value: 0
    Meets Expectations: 0
    This biography takes you on the wild ride of Shawn's life growing up with a mother who had a traumatic brain injury and a father who had a strange way of dealing with things. Both of his parents were Christians and they always went to church, but this in no way meant their life was "normal", nor even acceptable.

    Be prepared to be astonished, appalled, and amazed.

    It was such a bizarre way of life and yet Shawn and his younger brother miraculously came to faith in Christ and both became ministes of the gospel as adults.

    Through the limitations, hardships, and darkness of his mothers problems, you will gain more understanding of how God can use the disabled and broken hearted to reach others for Christ.
  2. 5 Stars Out Of 5
    A few thoughts on All But Normal
    September 13, 2016
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    When I saw the subtitle for this book - Life on victory road I expected something different than what I discovered on the pages of this book. The subtitle refers to a physical location in Shawns life. Shawns story is intriguing and once I began reading I did not want to put the book down. The book reads easily, the reader is brought into Shawns life story and experiences the highs and the lows. Weaved through out his story is Gods grace, love and redemption. You are brought into the family life and the dynamics associated with the struggle of a disability.

    The entire book was powerful, one of the most powerful moments for me though was at the end of the book. Shawn shares about moving to a new church, as a pastor, in California and the connection to Joni Eareckson Tadas ministry that happened. It was a very powerful reminder to me of how GOD will not waste a hurt, GOD wants to use all that we have experienced to impact the world around us and show his love. I was challenged in my own story, that GOD wants to use it and not only does it shape us into who we are but it is a tool for compassion. "All but Normal" is a memoir that will impact you if you allow yourself, you might be surprised how it helps propel you in your next steps of life. All But Normal is a great book and I would recommend it for reading.

    Disclosure: A big thank you to the publisher, Tyndale Publishing, for sending me a copy so that I could read and share my honest thoughts of the book.
  3. 5 Stars Out Of 5
    Beautiful and Heartbreaking
    July 25, 2016
    Quality: 5
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    All But Normal is the story of Shawn Thorntons life growing up with his mother, who after a car accident, developed a violent demeanor and was never the same again. Shawn Thornton is a pastor at Calvary Community Church in California. Along with Joel Kilpatrick, Shawn brings his story to the pages of this book, to let readers know that although life can be tough, there are always good things that come of it.

    Beverly, Shawns mother, was once a sweet lady who cared deeply for her children and family. All of that was ruined when she got into a car accident and her demeanor changed completely. Now with violet outbursts, rage, and language that could make a sailor blush, Beverly and Shawns lives changed forever. Beverly wasnt able to do the things she once did, like cook, clean and take care of the family. This caused her much turmoil, which she took out on her family. Reading the accounts of what Shawn went through was sad, and scary at times. The fact that she would continuously cuss out her children and husband, and then love on them moments later was a scary thing to think about. Living with a ticking time bomb cannot be easy.

    The saving grace of Shawns mother was her love for church and her bible. She was a Sunday school teacher, and loved to help people that were less fortunate. The way that Shawn grew up, and the mother that he had, turned him into a compassionate, caring, and loving Pastor that doesnt dismiss people just because of their disposition.

    This story was sad, bittersweet, and a good reminder that nothing is promised to us, and no life is more important than another. Even though Beverly may have been violent at time, Shawn still paints a picture of a loving mother, and that shows forgiveness on many different levels. This was a wonderful memoir, something that can teach everyone a thing or two. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. I received this book from Tindale Blog Network in exchange for an honest review.
  4. 5 Stars Out Of 5
    Testimony of Hope in Brokenness
    July 15, 2016
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Red and blue police lights flashed against our house. From my bedroom window, I could see the front yard where the officers car was parked. It looked so unusual sitting there, like something out of a TV crime show that my family, on more peaceful nights, might watch together. But the tears on my face, the pit in my stomach, and the sound of hateful words and shattering glass ringing in my ears reminded me that this was not a scene I could switch off by pushing a button. Tonight, it was real, and it was happening to the Thornton family

    So begins this memoir by Shawn Thornton who is born into a family impacted by chaos as a result of a tragic automobile accident that leaves the girl who would become his mother mentally broken and shattered.
  5. Nashville, TN
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Redefine your Normal
    July 11, 2016
    Nashville, TN
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    How do you define normal in your life? Are you comparing yourself to others around you? Is it dependent upon your paycheck? How successful you, your spouse, or your kids are? How well-adjusted your family appears to those around you?

    The title of Shawn Thorntons memoir, All but Normal, gives you a sense right away that his childhood, his family were different. As I read this book and walked through many of the events of Shawn and his brothers childhood, one think struck me over and over again throughout this book.

    While their family was not at all like those around the Thorntonswhether it be a messy house in which the members cleaned dishes in order to eat and cleared a space amidst the piles of stuff on the table, the yelling and cursing, or trying to stop his mom from hurting them or herselfShawn never seemed resentful.

    Sure, he questioned why they lived the way they did, he cried out to God, he rebelled, but throughout it all, he loved his mother. A mother who, quite frankly, at times would be unlovable.

    The true heart of this story is in unconditional love. You see it in the interactions between Shawns mother and those she meets who are hurting. You see it in how, even though he fights back with her, Shawns father is protective of his wife (and later when he makes a conscious decision to handle things with her differently). And you see it in the hope that Shawn finds during his struggles (it comes in many forms, a mutt who shows up at the door and wont leave, an encouraging word spoken by someone when he needs it most, and a conversation with one of his dads co-workers).

    In todays world where everyone wants others to believe they have it all together, people hide their hurt. Perhaps the couple next door is on the verge of divorce, a parent struggles with a teenagers addiction to drugs or alcohol, a mothers struggle to care for a young one with a disability, or something else, people need love. People need others to come alongside them and show them Jesus. And despite her rages, her cursing, her attempts to injure her family, that the truth that Beverly Thornton taught her children (who, by the way, both went into ministry as adults).

    A book that tugged at my heart, had my laughing in a few places and in tears in even more, All but Normal is anything but your usual memoir. If you need encouragement, hope, or love, this book offers all of those and more.

    ****Tyndale Blog Network provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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