Normal People is the story of two very damaged people who only feel whole when together but tragically keep finding ways to be apart.
The story takes place from January of 2011 until February of 2015. In 2011, Marianne Sheridan and Connell Waldron are in high school. Marianne lives in a mansion with her mother and brother and Connell’s mother, Lorraine, is their housekeeper. Marianne is awkward and bookish and has no friends. Connell is popular, athletic, good looking and well liked by the girls.
Connell and Marianne get to know each other as Connell picks up his mother from work. They develop an intimate relationship, which, although meaningful to both of them, they decide to keep a secret from their classmates. At the same time, they decide to go to Trinity College together, further strengthening their relationship. Then Connell invites someone else to the school dance and the thing falls apart.
They reconnect at Trinity and throughout the novel they are splitting up, engaging in new romances and then finding each other. Marianne grows into a beautiful woman and each of her relationships (other than Connell) involves physical abuse.
Each of them has significant family issues. Connell does not know who his father is and believes his grandmother resents him. Marianne’s father is deceased but was abusive. Her mother and brother are emotionally abusive to her as well. Throughout the story and at alternating times, Marianne and Connell spiral down into dark depressions.
Throughout the book there are allusions to political issues, such as the evils of capitalism, problems in the Middle East, and Ronald Reagan. The book also addresses the nature of love and the challenges of mental illness. But all in all, the story is just simply unpleasant.
I understand that life is sometimes difficult and that relationships can be deeply and mysteriously complex. But what I do not understand is all the critical acclaim for this book which seems to be aimed at ensuring that the reader experiences, first hand, each character’s misery, with no other apparent point. If you like to be miserable and to dwell in all of life’s big and little injustices, this is the book for you. You can reserve the novel at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking here.