Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman is written very frankly and is told from the point of view of corporate cube dweller Tom Violet, whose father just happens to be the famous writer Curtis Violet who has just won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Tom is having marriage problems, hates his corporate job as a copywriter, and continues to have daddy issues; he’s on the precipice. At work, he cuts into his enemy Greg every chance he gets and flirts with his underling, copywriter Katie. He’s filling his days with useless interactions and writing that has no meaning for him. He’s aimlessly adrift, but still wants his father’s approval, but how far is he willing to go to get it. Will he become his father and chase after younger and younger skirts? Will he become pretentious and full of himself, while looking down at other writers? Norman’s character is adrift, but blissfully unaware of it until he loses his job and his thin connections to the “real” world.
“Then I realize that despite what both of them must suspect about me and my abilities as a man, Anna and Allie are looking at me. They’re waiting for me to do something. Waiting for me to protect them. Even Hank is looking at me now, perfectly still, the rigid statue of an ugly little dog.” (Page 9)
Like the characters his father writes about in his novels, Tom acts on impulse and very rarely worries about the consequences, and in fact, on occasion, thinks that the consequences will be positive. The banter between Tom and Greg is highly entertaining and almost surreal because in a normal work environment wouldn’t Tom have been fired after how many complaints were filed against him by Greg?
“She tried to read it, but she had to put it down, stunned that she’d married a man who is so bad at writing books. On almost every page, there’s something egregious to change. There are typos, cliches, errors in logic, rambling sentences, and narration where there should be dialogue.” (Page 163)
When Tom uncovers the truth about his family and his father, he’s faced with a hard choice. He has to either move on and forgive or continue to flounder in self-pity, regret, and indecision to the point at which decisions will be made for him. Norman has a clear grasp of what it means to be a writer, full of self-doubt and self-confidence at the same time, and his characters are dynamic and incredibly flawed. Although there are moments when readers will not like Tom or his father, there are other moments where their hearts will soften for him.
How do you domesticate a writer, who is trained to run wild, at least in his imagination? Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman is about finding peace with oneself and their family even if events are beyond their control and immutable. It’s an adventure for readers and writers alike, and a true page turner.
About the Author:
Matthew Norman is an advertising copywriter. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Baltimore. His first novel, Domestic Violets, was recently nominated in the Best Humor Category at the 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards. Read more on his blog or follow him on Twitter.
This was a stop on The Literary Road Trip because the author lives in Baltimore and the novel takes place in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.
This is my 34th book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.