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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Anything but normal

Julie Catt’s refreshingly honest memoir ‘Normal’ is of course anything but, with a storyline more suited to a wacky soap opera.

Adopted at an early age, the Sydney psychologist and ex-pat American was a self-described wild child who revelled in the attention she attracted from the opposite sex.

After a stream on sexual shenanigans, she ‘settles’ down with Will in what appears to be married bliss and quickly has two children – but something is still amiss.

She buries herself in feminist literature and, on a whim, attends a women-only festival where she leaves her inhibitions at the gate and samples life as a bisexual.

It’s on her second outing to the same festival that Cupid strikes, and she falls in love with an Australian lesbian, which spells the end of her relationship with Will – and seemingly draws a line under her sexuality.

She swaps marriage in America for de facto disharmony in Australia, and finds living with a militant feminist is not all it’s cracked up to be when you have a young son in tow. It’s heartbreaking stuff to read of how she ships off her child to live with his father when her partner makes it clear he’s not welcome to live in what she believes should be a women-only household.

In a brief moment of domestic bliss, Julie becomes pregnant with her third child via artificial insemination - but her tortured relationship disintegrates as the birth approaches.

The reader hardly has time to catch a breath when a rebound fling six months down the track sees another baby in the making – but how and with whom? The answers are surprising, but then this book is one long surprise.

There’s more, much more, but somehow not enough in this colourful memoir about a woman who has lived her life with such passion and pizzazz. The reader is left wanting to know more about Julie’s world, one in which she seems to have re-written the rules of relationships and parenting.

Issues of family, love, sexual attraction and parenting are all explored as Julie, who admits her fair share of mistakes, seeks to discover what drove her decisions and governed her relationships with those closest to her.

The wild ride seemed to be over far too quickly, but what a ride it was – and love had quite a bit to do with it.

Normal – The true story of a complicated family by Julie Catt, Text Publishing, (RRP$34.95).

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