“Red and blue police lights flashed against our house. From my bedroom window, I could see the front yard where the officer’s car was parked. It looked so unusual sitting there, like something out of a TV crime show that my family, on more peaceful nights, might watch together. But the tears on my face, the pit in my stomach, and the sound of hateful words and shattering glass ringing in my ears reminded me that this was not a scene I could switch off by pushing a button. Tonight, it was real, and it was happening to the Thornton family”
So begins this memoir by Shawn Thornton who is born into a family impacted by chaos as a result of a tragic automobile accident that leaves the girl who would become his mother mentally broken and shattered.
His mother, Beverly, was an exceptionally intelligent, pretty, gentle, Indiana teen when she stepped into her boyfriend’s car to go to the store to exchange a blouse before leaving on vacation. Then without warning the car they were in was hit in an accident.
After weeks in a coma, she awakens, but the girl who wakes up is quite different than the one who had left to exchange a blouse. Her disposition that had once been so gentle has been replaced by violent mood swings, profanity-laced tirades, and uncontrollable fits of rage that can be triggered by nearly anything or perhaps nothing.
Her boyfriend, John, is devastated as he watches her slow recovery in the hospital and agonizes with her family as they watch and pray for recovery. Racked with guilt over the accident, he finds no one to help him deal with what happened. Ultimately, he asks her to marry him, promising to always take care of her. The strain on that commitment will be more than he can imagine, but he will persevere.
Even so, in the midst of the darkness and uncertainty, lack of answers to this change in Beverly, and frustration, one light will flicker steadily within Beverly. That light is her love for Jesus and the Bible that had been so much a part of her life before the accident. The light impacts John and her Dad who give their lives to Christ and soon many others are also touched.
John and Beverly become active in Twin Branch Bible Church that was Beverly’s family church home. It is there that Beverly seems most at peace. Her avid Bible reading has equipped her to be a Sunday school teacher for a children’s class who adore her. Her empathy for the elderly, the poor, and others who seem to not fit in or have problems touches lives from the vestibule to the pew to the nursing home she visits.
These knew her awkward movements and difficulty with walking, balance, and fine motor coordination, but could not have imagined what life at home on Victory Road was like for her, John, and their two sons, Shawn and Troy.
John worked hard at a local factory, but money was always in short supply. He would arrive home uncertain of what to expect. Beverly could not navigate caring for their home, managing food, or managing their two sons. Clothing would be found anywhere and everywhere in stacks around the house, some clean and some dirty. Food could also be found in numerous places and in varying conditions. John and the boys learned to look at dates and labels after more than one curdled glass of milk or one nearly raw piece of meat placed out to eat after Beverly was convinced it was cooked.
The extreme shifts in Beverly were always unpredictable. One moment she might hurl a knife at Shawn, Troy, or John while cussing them out in the worst language. The next moment she might be showing them love and affection as if nothing had happened just minutes before.
Anything But Normal leads you through the nightmare of living with unbelievable brokenness.
The book also shows you an incredible picture of how God intersects this family, deepening their faith as they broaden their ways to escape and cope with Beverly’s behaviors and hurtful language.
It isn’t until much later that John reads something about traumatic brain injury and discovers the horrific change in Beverly has been the result of the accident so long ago. This discovery, seemingly unknown by the doctors at the hospital at the time of the accident, sheds new light on what had happened and changes the course of Shawn and Troy’s life forever.
As Shawn Thornton, now senior pastor of Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village, CA, says, “Sometimes the broken people in our lives are the ones who need fixing the least.”
This book describes the anguish of traumatic brain injury for the victim and all those around him or her. It provides a reminder as well of how much the Lord would cause us not to judge or flee those and their family so afflicted, but rather to love and care for their hearts.
In exchange for my review, Tyndale through the Blog Network, provided this book, published by Tyndale House. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”