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Normal People Don't Live Like This Paperback – September 22, 2009
2016 Book Awards
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[A] lean, beguiling novel in stories. . . .Elegantly written. (Eryn Loeb - Bookforum)
Some delicious writing. . . .Buy this for your literary fiction readers and short story fans. (Ellen Loughran - Booklist)
The tales in this bravura work are timeless: They could easily belong to our daughters’ generation instead of our own. (More magazine)
About the Author
Dylan Landis has published stories in Bomb, Tin House, Best American Nonrequired Reading, and elsewhere. A former journalist, she has won a Poets & Writers California Voices Award and other honors for her fiction. She lives in Washington, DC.
Top Customer Reviews
I am usually not a short story fan, but I do enjoy them when they are linked either by character or place. Through the stories in this book we follow the lives of Leah Levinson, an awkward and sensitive adolescent and her mother Helen, a borderline anorexic with a need for order and cleanliness.
The book starts out in the 1960's, and we know this by references to Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix and other bands from that era. In the first story we are introduced to a girl named Rainey as she is being seduced by a friend of her father. She is very aware of her sexual appeal, more so than she should be at the age of 13.
By the next story we meet Leah, who is being bullied by Rainey and another girl. Leah appears just the opposite of Rainey - Leah seems physically immature and unattractive, and her parents seem protective and caring. Leah also has a compulsive need to tap and count.
But we know that there are problems at home, and Leah's mother Helen has an eating disorder. As we travel in time and follow Leah and Helen, we come to realize that both Leah's and Helen's need for order and control belie the turmoil and disarray inside. These stories take us through the development of these characters, as they become more self-aware and understanding of their own needs.
This book is beautifully written, and I think most readers will find passages where they will empathize with one or more characters. Landis truly captures the angst of an awkward adolescence, and the pain and anguish of reaching middle age without having figured out what makes you happy.
This book can be very bleak and dark. If you are looking for a light read, or a beach book - this isn't it.
This book of stories is more like a novel. When one story ends, you're compelled on to the next. You do not want to put the book down at all. If you can handle the intensity. I read it in two sittings (would have been one if I wasn't in the middle of painting my porch).
When I say intensity, I mean these stories do not look away. The main character, Leah, is a young girl who's frightened and fascinated by the whole feast of life--friendship, sex, death and the power of beauty. And Leah cannot keep her hand out of the flame. She is always heading straight into the heart of her fear until a surprisingly steely strength begins to emerge. Her eye is hyperobservant--it gets all the details of surface right (oh, does she know how battered high school jeans are supposed to fit and how chic Manhattan apartments are supposed to look)--but she also makes us feel the biologic reality that surface covers and the undertow of death the whole show is floating on.
Several stories are also about other characters in Leah's world--a sexually precocious friend, Leah's mother--and these are just as wonderful.
So, there's all that... and then there's the writing itself. Let's just say it's kind of dazzling.
In addition to the insights and compelling stories, I love the prose. There are a million little gems in this short book. Dotting them as I read along, I almost wore out my pencil. "The butts in her ashtray were all kissed red at one end and bent jagged at the other." Or "His tone was gentle, a flag in a light breeze." There are just so many sparkling nuggets, I can't list them all.
I enjoyed the book immensely and gained much insight from it, and I guess a reader could not ask more than that.
I read this book in one sitting - - something I very rarely do. It was that great!!!