Getting to Normal — A novel by Sandra Campbell
Stoddart Publishing Co. Ltd.
5.5x8.25 256 pages
ISBN 0773732799 hardcover
At the outset of the story seven year old Alice is in pediatric isolation. Doctors suspect a virus of the central nervous system. As Alice takes the reader on her journey out of isolation, we enter into the pain and pleasures of her relationships with her troubled mother, her distant father and her rebellious adolescent sister Sarah whom she idolizes.
Alice’s perspective is contrasted by Medical Notes, the daily observations of her physicians and nurses who are attempting to discover what their patient really sees, hears and thinks.
Alice’s recovery is forged in new relationships. When Alice’s illness pushes the mother into a breakdown, Irma, a refugee from Sarajevo is hired to care for her while the mother retreats to New York. The mother’s postcards punctuate Alice’s narration of her blissful days with Irma with whom she falls deeply in love. Alice discovers her curiosity, laughter and imagination and makes what her doctor calls “exceptional progress”.
The mother’s return precipitates Alice into a painful crisis of loyalty, belonging and loss. Alice’s ability to navigate this without a retreat into withdrawal is uniquely her own.
Never didactic or sentimental Getting to Normal invites the reader into the heart and mind of a child as she struggles to belong, yearns to be ‘normal,' The contrasting voices of Alice, the medical team and the absent mother enable a deeper understanding of illness, childhood and what we all need to stay fully alive and healthy.
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