A memoiristic collection that shines with quiet strength.

Normal's Just a Cycle on a Washing Machine


A housewife and mother in a Dallas suburb chronicles various changes in her life in this compilation of humor pieces.

Bourland, a Dallas-based writer and NPR broadcaster who mines humor and wit from the ups and downs of everyday living, offers a collection of her essays and columns in this debut. She divides the book into different laundry-themed sections, and in the first part, “Pre-Soak,” she introduces her surgeon husband, her two sons and daughter, and the family dog. In the second, “Normal,” readers will settle into her household’s routine and laugh at observations such as, “There is some sort of cosmic joke that at the exact point at which communication with a teen is at its lowest, the states decree you can sit in a vehicle in a city with horrendous traffic and ‘teach’ your kid to drive.” However, by the third section, “Spin Cycle,” Bourland writes that her husband had an affair that results in divorce, and she must reinvent herself, her family, and her column as a single woman in midlife. In “Second Cycle,” she writes movingly about keeping her family together and developing a career of her own for the first time as well as about dating again—right as her kids are starting to date for the first time. By the end of the book, she’s settled comfortably into the role of a grandmother. Overall, the author does an excellent job of grounding her material in real-life events. For example, as she and her children grow in different ways, she alludes to events such as the Gulf War, President Bill Clinton’s sex scandal, and 9/11, which all shape their perspectives. There are times when the memoir seems a bit quiet, especially in comparison to others that touch on more dramatic subjects, such as alcoholism or abuse. But as Bourland perseveres through hardships and maintains her sense of humor throughout these essays, she remains emotionally accessible to readers, who may recognize themselves in her. In the end, the “ordinary” nature of the author’s story is its greatest asset.

A memoiristic collection that shines with quiet strength.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9977415-0-6

Page Count: 218

Publisher: EPB Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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