Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell, Sir Richard Branson, Walt Disney, Jay Leno, Whoopi Goldberg, Nelson Rockefeller, Agatha Christie, Steven Spielberg, Harry Belafonte, Winston Churchill, and Richard Strauss.
These are the names that young Jackson “Jacko” Smith learned from his tutor at a young age. Famous people who have overcame their dyslexia to do something important for the world. He uses these names to help guide him through the decisions he makes in his life. What some would consider extraordinary, he sees as a nice, normal life.
Diagnosed as dyslexic in pre-kinder, Jacko receives help from most of his family to overcome the disability. While his mother would not approve any special help, his father and siblings make sure he gets the extra help he needs. It is through his second tutor that he meets Samuel “Sammy” Collins. The two youngsters become best friends with Sammy helping Jacko out with his school work. As they progress through school, they must deal with setbacks life has for them. Between bullying, lost loves, and general anxiety about the future, the boys stay friends through the years.
As they move on to adulthood, Sammy trains to be a teacher dealing with students with disabilities. Jacko takes a job with the city cutting lawns. His ability to think differently than most others will fuel his rise through the ranks until he gets to management. Along the way, Jacko realizes that he has feeling that are more than friends for Sammy, who has been out and proud his whole life. The pair marries and set off creating their life together, like any other Australian couple. What follows leads the pair to the pinnacle of Australian power, something neither of them imagined.
This is a wonderful book that sets out the life of Jacko as he struggles with his dyslexia, issues with his mother, bullies, and xenophobic people. While this is a book about the lives of these two men, it also deals with several issues currently facing Australia specifically and other parts of the world. The author touches on monarchist, partisanship, foreigners, and the current debate on marriage equality in Australia. (In the book, the issue has been settled for several years.) The book also serves a mini-travelogue of Southeast Asian countries. If you want a book that deals with family dynamics, a touch of politics and a friends to lovers story, I highly recommend A Nice, Normal Family.
The cover art by Maria Fanning shows the Collins-Smith family as I pictured them. Jacko, Sammy, Max and Kate are pictured in front of a harbor on the Australian coast.
ebook, 350 pages
Expected publication: September 30th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634775465 (ISBN13: 9781634775465)