Reviewed by Donna
TITLE: A Nice Normal Family
AUTHOR: John Terry Moore
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: 350 Pages
RELEASE DATE: September 30, 2016
Jackson “Jacko” Smith is dyslexic, but like many people affected by the learning disability, he is highly intelligent. His best friend Sammy Collins helps him get through school and unlocks his potential. Jacko progresses through the ranks of local government until Mother Nature intervenes and the straight boy and the gay boy become a couple.
As Jacko and Sammy start a family and challenge social mores, Jacko enters politics, horrified at the direction the Australian government is taking. With Sammy by his side, he can achieve anything and rises through the ranks to the highest office in the land, driving Australia away from its British colonial roots and engaging with its neighbors in Asia like never before. Economic growth results, and while most Australians are supportive, a small group of extremists might endanger everything Jacko has built—including his life.
Through the love and the strength of their partnership, Jacko and Sammy rise above their ordinary lives. Because love is never ordinary.
I had no plans to review this story. It was just a random book that I picked up during one of Dreamspinner’s sales. It’s actually a miracle that I got around to reading it that same week, because I’m sure my Unread folder looks similar to most book addicts’. I’d be surprised if I ever actually read all of the books that I’ve bought. Fortunately for me, I had recently read another book set in Australia and enjoyed the familiar setting so much that I decided to jump straight into this one.
I should begin this review by warning readers that even though I gave A Nice Normal Family 5 stars, it definitely won’t suit a lot of people. I wouldn’t describe this book as a romance, it’s more a utopian political tract that uses a love story as its base storyline. Politics fascinate me. It’s probably fair to say that I love politics; I’m just not so fond of the politicians. So if you can’t stand politics, maybe give this one a miss. I’d even go further and say that you might specifically want to have an interest in Australian politics to get the most out of this story. It’s by no means necessary, but I think those interests are what made this book such a brilliant piece of writing in my eyes.
The story begins with ten year old Jacko struggling with dyslexia, branded dumb and lazy by people who should be helping and supporting him. Finally someone intervenes and Jacko is introduced to classmate Sammy, who’s been set the task of dragging Jacko’s struggling butt through school. Through primary school and high school the two boys are the very best of friends, and although Sammy is successful at teaching Jacko to read and write, his task isn’t made any easier when Jacko discovers the joy of horny teenage girls.
Beyond school the two remain the firmest of friends, even while they seem to be drifting apart, and it’s during this time that Jacko gets his first government job – as a gardener.
From gardener to Prime Minister of Australia? How could that realistically be possible? Well this author makes it happen in a fairly credible way. Ok, some pretty perfect circumstances have to align for it to happen, but still, it’s not impossible to see. Especially in a country like Australia, where the idea of a dyslexic gardener named Jacko leading the country would get some people voting just for the novelty of it. The fact that Jacko was married to a man and had two biracial children…they would be much bigger hurdles for many Australians to get over. And those are issues that the author explores, the racism and homophobia that are prevalent in this country, but especially in rural areas. The fact that Jacko, with all of these marks against him (in some peoples eyes) can become the leader of the nation because of his own ideals and Sammy’s love…awww man, I just love this book so damn much.
And really, that’s what this book is about. The fact that Sammy’s love made Jacko into the best man he could be, and Jacko – being that best man – reformed Australian politics and saved a failing country.
I think I loved this book so much because it made me feel hopeful. It gave me faith in politicians again, which is silly really, because there is no way any of the politicians I’ve seen would ever be so prepared to put their country before themselves. But all it took here was one couple that no one saw coming. And while much of the world is in a political mess right now, it’s the nicest thought that change could come so easily.