Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman

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.

***This is a book I picked up thanks to so many great reviews, including those from Booking Mama, Rhapsody in Books, Book Chatter, and Literate Housewife.

Author Matthew Norman

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.


  1. This was one of my favorite reads in 2011 — so funny, warm and full of humor. It’s a rare day that a novel succeeds in making my crack up on one page and sob on the next, and I finished feeling like I’d gone on an epic journey with Tom.

    • I’m not sure I would call it epic, but it definitely was a journey worthy of a surreal movie screen. I think it would be an interesting independent film for sure. I really did find it amusing at times, but other times I was annoyed with Tom and his father. But it was a good book overall.

  2. I just read another review over at Jenners and she liked the book as well. I’ve heard a lot of good reviews for it and it is on my wishlist to read someday.

  3. I’m torn. I’ve heard so many good things about this book, but for some reason, I’m thinking that it’s not my cup of tea. I’m glad it grabbed you though.

  4. I have this one on my Kindle and really need to make time to get to it. From all of my blogging friends who liked it, I just know that I will too!

  5. I’ve seen nothing but good reviews for this one, so I’m going to have to give it a try — although I suspect the main character will make me insane. The trials and tribulations of a white guy going through a midlife crisis doesn’t automatically appeal to me…

    • It didn’t automatically appeal to me either, even when I started reading. I thought for sure I would end up abandoning it, but I didn’t. I liked it more by the end than I did when I began.

  6. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this one. I liked that it was told from a man’s point of view. And in all honesty, it was funny. Yes, there were moments were I got irritated with Tom and his father but Tom was really a good guy at heart…just floundering a little I guess.

    • I thought it was fun, and I liked it for the most part…the floundering got old for me in certain sections, but by the end I really just let that frustration go.

  7. I really liked this book too. I passed it on to my mother and she loved it as well.

  8. Now I’m going to have to track down a copy of this book! A book about writers is irresistible to me.

  9. Wonderful review and thanks for the shout-out. I loved it but I totally understand what you mean about Tom getting on your nerves.

  10. I really enjoyed this, but when I tried to get Jim to read it, he didn’t get past about the first 20 pages – I was so surprised, but then I wondered if guys don’t like to read about the kinds of problems talked about at the beginning – LOL!

    • I’m guessing that the midlife crisis stuff is something they don’t want to read…especially if they are at that age…LOL Some books work better than others for men. But I think Jim prefers nonfiction, if I remember right…:)

  11. I feel like I am probably the last person on earth to read this book! It seems like there are a sub-genre of books out there recently that focus on men going through these mid-life issues, and I’m liking it.

    • I had to snap this up when I saw it the library since everyone was raving about it. I enjoyed it, though the main character got on my nerves from time to time.