Welcome to the TLC Book Tour for Domestic Violets
Tom Violet and his wife, Anna, want to have another child. After all, their little Allie is seven years old already and there will be a wide enough age span between their two children. But if Tom doesn’t find a cure for his erectile dysfunction, there will never be a sibling for Allie. Tom is only thirty-five years old, but matters have only worsened over the past few months. To add insult to injury, the veterinarian has diagnosed their dog, Hank, with acute anxiety.
Part of his problem could be the fact that he has a crush on his twenty-three-year-old subordinate, Katie, a beautiful and talented copy writer who toils with him at the corporation known as MSW or, as Tom refers to it, the Death Star. There, miserable hordes of employees labor daily in Cubeland, while Tom tortures his immediate supervisor, Gregory, by calling him “Greg” and taking every available opportunity to disrespect him. Barack Obama is running for president, as the economy seems to be flatlining and more and more people are losing their jobs. Despite the fact that his family needs his income, Tom just can’t resist pushing Greg’s buttons, even as he wonders when one of his jabs will be his last.
What Tom really wants to be is a novelist. He has almost completed his first novel after working on it for five years. But he has the very large shadow of his famous father, Curtis, looming over his shoulder. Curtis is the celebrated author of sixteen novels. He is also a womanizer who has given Tom a series of stepmothers, the most recent being the beautiful and totally self-absorbed Ashley. But Curtis hasn’t published a new novel in five years, and his readers and critics alike are wondering when, if ever, he is going to deliver his next literary masterpiece. Curtis has left Ashley and is staying in Tom and Anna’s guest room where he claims to be writing — when he’s not drinking, smoking pot or playing with Allie, that is.
Tom knows that he has to take control of his life and his destiny. He wonders if his first novel is any good, determined to publish it under the name of “Thomas Ferris” — an homage to Ferris Bueller — in order to avoid the obvious comparisons to his father’s work. His mother, a high school English teacher who showed great promise as a young writer, but sublimated her own ambition to that of her then-husband because, after all, a family can only support one writer, warns Tom that every first novel is to some extent autobiographical. Is his? And if so, what is Tom trying to say about his life so far and the crossroads at which he appears to have unwittingly arrived?
Domestic Violets, author Matthew Norman’s debut novel, is equal parts hilarious and poignant, an intoxicatingly refreshing spin on what it feels like to be trapped in a job you hate but very much need in order for your family to survive, while wondering if you will ever fulfill the dreams you have been dreaming since you were young. It is the coming-of-age story of a man who needs to reconcile his past in order to embrace his future, told with snarky and self-deprecating humor that makes Tom Violet completely empathetic and endearing.
At thirty-five, Tom is very much aware of the fact that time is not unlimited, perhaps subconsciously intuiting the truth about his father’s life and legacy, as well as beginning to appreciate the wisdom his responsible and always-there-for-him mother has dispensed over the years. Tom loves his daughter more than life itself, but his relationship with Anna has grown increasingly strained over the past few months. He loves Anna still, but finds himself drawn more and more to Katie, making her his workplace confidante. He knows that his behavior is reckless and dangerous, but can’t seem to stop himself because Katie is young, idealistic, and looks up to him in a manner that reassures him and strokes his ego in ways that Anna, the woman who knows him completely, never can.
Domestic Violets is a first-person narrative, revealing Tom’s inner struggles and sarcastic observations about the sheer lunacy of corporate life. He has an ongoing dialogue with the Human Resources Department, crafting yet another memorandum complaining of his own disrespectful and belligerent behavior to add to the massive pile that Greg has already delivered. He is completely intolerant of the office-speak that seems to permeate his weekday existence, wondering when getting back to a coworker morphed into “pinging” them and he wound up working under the direct supervision of a man who injects acronyms like “WIIFM” (“What’s in it for me?) into everyday conversation. Tom’s story is related from the perspective of an average guy who knows that he has many blessings, including his wife and daughter, but is mystified about how hard marriage has become and wonders if he and Anna can survive their current problems, while trying to overcome his insecurities about his writing.
Norman’s story succeeds because of its sheer believability. He draws his readers into a domestic scene that in some less exaggerated respects could mirror their own. Tom is likable, though deeply flawed, and readers will cheer for him even as he appears to hurl uncontrollably toward self-destruction. The same can be said for each supporting character, from Anna, a woman who wants to feel close to her husband again, but is not sure how to restore the intimate connection that previously bound them together but now seems to have been severed, to Curtis, a man who openly professes that there is only one thing in his life that he has ever gotten right and that is listening to “the men upstairs” — the characters he has created who reside in and communicate with him from his own imagination. Domestic Violets is a strong first novel that entertains while gently probing some of life’s most monumental issues, leaving readers pondering the domestic life of the Violets long after reading the last page.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one copy of Domestic Violets free of charge from the author in conjunction with the TLC Book Tours review and virtual book tour program. I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own. This disclosure complies with 16 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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