Andy Carter was happy. He had a solid job. He ran 5Ks for charity. He was living a nice, safe Midwestern existence. And then his wife left him for a handsome paramedic down the street.
We’re All Damaged begins after Andy has lost his job, ruined his best friend’s wedding, and moved to New York City, where he lives in a tiny apartment with an angry cat named Jeter that isn’t technically his. But before long he needs to go back to Omaha to say good-bye to his dying grandfather.
Back home, Andy is confronted with his past, which includes his ex, his ex’s new boyfriend, his right-wing talk-radio-host mother, his parents’ crumbling marriage, and his still-angry best friend.
As if these old problems weren’t enough, Andy encounters an entirely new complication: Daisy. She has fifteen tattoos, no job, and her own difficult past. But she claims she is the only person who can help Andy be happy again, if only she weren’t hiding a huge secret that will mess things up even more. Andy Carter needs a second chance at life, and Daisy—and the person Daisy pushes Andy to become—may be his last chance to set things right.
Hardcover 288 Pages
Publisher: Little A (June 1, 2016)
Although this author has a popular first book (Domestic Violets) out, I had not read it and instead signed on for this book tour based on the description and the mention of "wry humor" (which I happen to like--especially if there is a touch of snarky and sardonic added to the mix--fingers were crossed!). We're All Damaged is all of that--wry, a little snarky and sardonic at times, but it is so much more. It's funny and touching, honest and completely relatable--even if you don't happen to be a 30-something who has his life basically implode beginning with his wife telling him that she is leaving him at Applebee's. It doesn't get better for Andy after the Applebee's incident--he loses his job and has an infamous YouTube video of his drunken outburst at the wedding of his best friend. He's hiding out, tending bar in New York City when his mother calls to tell him to come home to Omaha to say good-bye to his ailing grandfather. Andy isn't the only one who is damaged, each person in his family has their own damages, as do his friends, his self-appointed life-coach Daisy, and even his ex-wife--now shacked up in their old house with the hot paramedic she left him for. Heck, even the hot paramedic has some challenges.
We're All Damaged had me snort-laughing on one page and tearing up a bit on the next one. The humor is well matched with the heart in this book. You can't help but like Andy--as awkward and almost pathetically inept as he is, he has sparks of humor and sarcasm that shine through, and some truly hilarious thoughts and comments that quickly won me over. Daisy is an interesting character. I loved her wit and humor and how she pushed Andy: "We're in one of those movies. You're my hopeless teenage girl, all stuck in your shell, and I'm here to give you a fresh coat of makeup and a slutty dress. Push those boobies up, Andy Carter, it's go time." (Bonus points for the plenty of '80s and '90s pop culture references peppered throughout the book too.) All of the characters had depth and I was surprised at how attached I got to many of them--even the less-lovable ones added to the story. I was sorry for the story to end, the under 300 pages flew by. I would definitely be on board if Matthew Norman were to revisit Andy and/or Daisy in another book and I will be adding Domestic Violets to my TBR pile too. If you like humor, heart, and stories about family and life drama (and don't mind a bit of swearing and other stuff...), give We're All Damaged a try. (Go to the bottom of the post to enter to win a copy!)
Matthew Norman lives in Baltimore with his wife and their two daughters. His writing has appeared on Salon, the Good Men Project, and the Weeklings. His first novel, Domestic Violets, was nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award in Best Humor.
You can connect with Mathew Norman via his blog or on Twitter.
We're All Damaged is what I would call a foodie book as many of the mentions are for snack or processed food and nothing much sounded good. Still, some of the moments around the food were ones that made me laugh. There was Applee's with the waiter's "Ask Me About Bacon Time!" button, enormous novelty margaritas, chicken fingers and fries and "Sizzling Chili Lime Chicken off the 550 Calories menu."
"Don't get me wrong. I'm not a snob. I don't have a problem with Applebee's per se. But I think we can all agree, as a civilized society, that lives shouldn't change there. Significant things shouldn't begin or end at Applebee's. You shouldn't walk into Applebee's as one thing and then leave as something else entirely."
There were mentions of steak, Weight Watcher's meals, a grape Mr. Misty float, ginger ale, Diet Coke, Diet Dr. Pepper, coffee house drinks, biscotti and blueberry muffins, chili, spaghetti, lasagna--premade from the grocery store, "a skinny piece of grilled chicken and a limp stack of soggy vegetables", Grandma's "Jell-O molds with mango or ominous blueberries floating inside," shrimp cocktail Nerds, Snickers, M&Ms, Skittles, pizza and bread sticks from Lazzari's (Andy's friends' pizza parlor), and ice cream--mint chocolate chip, vanilla and pistachio nutmeg ice cream that "tastes every bit as unnecessary as it sounds." Hot Pockets would have been a good choice as Mrs. DiGiacomo at the nursing home microwaves them for Andy and has definite opinions on the best ones for breakfast (egg and cheese, sometimes sausage and cheese--but the sausage doesn't always agree with her on account of her reflux). There was plenty of alcohol--Japanese Beer, 7 and 7, appletinis, tequila, Coors Lights, a bottle of Jack Daniels, red wine. And finally, cereal comes up a few times--Cheerios, Teddy Grahams and diet cereal and especially the Cap'n Crunch that Andy feeds Jeter, a mangy, gray and black cat that wanders his apartment building.
"I pour him a bowl of Cap'n Crunch and he goes crazy for it. Like pretty much every cat I've ever met, Jeter swings back and forth between loving me and trying to murder me, so I never know exactly what I'm getting."
To come up with my book/food pairing, I started thinking about the title "We're All Damaged" and foods that are damaged, broken, or cracked. That led me to chocolate bark with it's jagged sharp pieces, and then I remembered a Frozen Yogurt Bark recipe that I pinned a while back. The bark had strawberries and pistachios, which led me back to that "unnecessary" pistachio nutmeg ice cream, and I thought it would be fun to do a nod to Jeter and his bowl of Cap'n Crunch and add the cereal to my bark (and I found a single-serving cup so I didn't have to invest in a box of it!).
So I ended up with a quirky mix of fruit, pistachios, chia seeds (because, why not?), and Cap'n Crunch frozen on top of lightly-sweetened Greek yogurt, then broken into pieces--much like Andy thought his life was. Maybe not the most obvious pairing but I think it fits the book pretty well. ;-)
I made a few changes to the recipe based on what I had and like--noted in red below with more details in my Notes/Results.
Frozen Yogurt Bark
Adapted from Anna Stockwell via epicurious.com
2 cups full-fat unsweetened Greek yogurt (I used 3 cups)
3 Tbsp honey (I used 2 Tbsp honey)
1 tsp vanilla extract (I used 2 tsp)
pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup fresh raspberries or other fruit or berry (I used green grapes, blueberries and raspberries)
1/3 cup chopped unsalted pistachios or other nut
(I added 1 Tbsp chia seeds)
(I added 1/3 cup Cap'n Crunch cereal)
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Using a rubber spatula, mix yogurt, honey, vanilla, and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Pour into the center of prepared sheet and spread to 1/4" thick. Top with raspberries and pistachios. Freeze until completely firm, about fours hour. Break into pieces to serve.
Yogurt bark can be made 2 months ahead. Freeze in a resealable container.
Notes/Results: A fun way to eat yogurt that would be great for kids to help make and eat, and it's surprisingly good. I was terribly inattentive to the recipe here--Using about 3 cups of Greek yogurt and my small brownie pan--making a thicker base (more like 1/2-inch than the 1/4-inch suggested). I don't think it mattered too much and I imagine that it made melt less quickly once out of the freezer. (This bark should be served out of the freezer so it stays solid.) I also made it less sweet, adding less honey to the yogurt and letting the fruit on top and the cereal add more of the sweetness. The cereal (and chia seeds) added a nice crunch so I would add them again--but maybe next time granola instead of Cap'n Crunch. You could replace the dairy yogurt with soy or coconut yogurt and the honey with maple syrup if you want a non-dairy or vegan option. A bit like having a treat for my breakfast or a snack, I would make this again.
I'm linking up this review and recipe to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.
The publisher has generously offered a copy of We're All Damaged to one of my readers as part of this TLC Blog Tour. (Open to US/Canada addresses)
To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment please (Because I like to read them!) ;-) telling me either what your favorite '80s or '90s film or song is or why you would like to win a copy of We're All Damaged.
There are a couple of other optional ways to get entries: 1) Tweet about this giveaway (you can do this once per day if you like) or 2) follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii) and/or Author Mathew Norman (@TheNormanNation) on Twitter. (Note: You can still get free entries even if you already follow me or Matthew Norman on Twitter.)
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Note: A review copy of "We're All Damaged" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.