They say truth is stranger than fiction.
In the home of young Shawn Thornton, that would be putting it mildly. In his newly released memoir, All But Normal, this senior pastor and director of Awana Clubs International tells just how strange things can get—even in a Christian home.
His story centers around his mother, whose rollercoaster emotions and physical limitations roiled their home into a ceaseless cage of turmoil. Although, as a teenager, she was the image of the perfect girl, a split-second tragedy robbed her of the ideal life she and her family might have enjoyed.
In this jolting story, we view life from the eyes of a boy who believes that quiet, peaceful households are as fictional as the other stage props on his favorite sitcoms. He learns early to check his meat for rawness, sniff his milk for chunky rancidity, and strongarm his handicapped mother to prevent her from launching a hot skillet at Dad.
Shawn gets the best glimpses of the woman his mother might have been at church, where she is transformed into a jewel of a saint. Here, she comforts the suffering. Here, she greets the forgotten. Here, she’s the hands of Jesus to those no one else sees.
Come to think of it, at church Shawn sees a woman that his mother never could have been without first experiencing her own pain.
Shawn’s father, a sincere yet hurting man himself, struggles responding correctly to his wife. There’s no doubt that he loves her, despite his heated responses to her railings. His faithfulness is a powerful example to his sons, who also go on to accept their mother for who she is.
When Shawn’s family discovers the cause of Mom’s abnormal behavior, they are astounded. What shocks them even more is the discovery of just what an impact she made. Because of her, Shawn’s life would also impact many.
This book is like a billboard for Romans 8:28.
Not one of the characters in it are perfect. Sometimes they are so imperfect it’s funny and heartbreaking at the same time. But they love God and are called according to His purpose, and He—and only He—transforms what could have been a nightmare into something beautiful.
That’s what this story celebrates. Jesus wins. From the depths of the depravity that lurks within the best of us and is hidden by carefully polished reserve, Shawn’s story shows that Jesus is even greater—and that He has a good plan for every life. Especially the lives of the least of these.
Tyndale sent me this book for free in exchange for my honest review. Honestly, writing this review was difficult. I don’t like reading books with profanity, even if the profanity is only implied. I don’t like hearing about couples fighting. I don’t like thinking about parents who aren’t consistent. I don’t like considering that a split-sec accident could plunk me in the same shoes.
I love hearing about Jesus fixing it, though.
This story is hard. It’s not a feel-good story, but it will make you feel good if you absorb the truth that Jesus wins.
In the end, I decided I like this book. The subtitle says it all: Life on Victory Road.
Because no matter where the road takes us, the whole way it’s still Victory. Because of Jesus.
…Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanks again, Tyndale, for a gripping read.
God bless! 🙂