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Normal: A Mother and Her Beautiful Son

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A moving memoir from the mother of a child with Treacher Collins Syndrome, with a foreword by R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder For Magda Newman, normal was a goal--she wanted her son Nathaniel to be able to play on the playground, swim at the beach, enjoy the moments of childhood that are often taken for granted. But Nathaniel's severe Treacher Collins syndrome--a craniofaci A moving memoir from the mother of a child with Treacher Collins Syndrome, with a foreword by R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder For Magda Newman, normal was a goal--she wanted her son Nathaniel to be able to play on the playground, swim at the beach, enjoy the moments of childhood that are often taken for granted. But Nathaniel's severe Treacher Collins syndrome--a craniofacial condition--meant that other concerns came first. Could he eat without the aid of a gastrointestinal tube? Could he hear? Would he ever be able to breathe effortlessly? In this moving memoir, Newman, with the help of her son, tells the story of raising Nathaniel, from the shock she and her husband faced when he was born, to the inspiration of Nathaniel's own strength and quirky humor. All this while also facing both non-Hodgkins and Hodgkins lymphoma diagnoses of her own. This uplifting story of a family tackling complex and terrifying circumstances with love and resilience is a true testament to Magda and her family, and to families everywhere who quietly but courageously persist.


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A moving memoir from the mother of a child with Treacher Collins Syndrome, with a foreword by R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder For Magda Newman, normal was a goal--she wanted her son Nathaniel to be able to play on the playground, swim at the beach, enjoy the moments of childhood that are often taken for granted. But Nathaniel's severe Treacher Collins syndrome--a craniofaci A moving memoir from the mother of a child with Treacher Collins Syndrome, with a foreword by R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder For Magda Newman, normal was a goal--she wanted her son Nathaniel to be able to play on the playground, swim at the beach, enjoy the moments of childhood that are often taken for granted. But Nathaniel's severe Treacher Collins syndrome--a craniofacial condition--meant that other concerns came first. Could he eat without the aid of a gastrointestinal tube? Could he hear? Would he ever be able to breathe effortlessly? In this moving memoir, Newman, with the help of her son, tells the story of raising Nathaniel, from the shock she and her husband faced when he was born, to the inspiration of Nathaniel's own strength and quirky humor. All this while also facing both non-Hodgkins and Hodgkins lymphoma diagnoses of her own. This uplifting story of a family tackling complex and terrifying circumstances with love and resilience is a true testament to Magda and her family, and to families everywhere who quietly but courageously persist.

30 review for Normal: A Mother and Her Beautiful Son

  1. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    This was so thought provoking, emotional, funny, sad, and beautiful. I’ll write a full review later, but trust me, this is a story you’ll want to read. **** I received an arc of this from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review Magdalena has had a hell of a life. And so has her son. This book chronicles not only his life but hers as well. This book takes you on a journey through surgeries, hospital stays, near death experiences, the fears of parents with disabled children, the resilience of di This was so thought provoking, emotional, funny, sad, and beautiful. I’ll write a full review later, but trust me, this is a story you’ll want to read. **** I received an arc of this from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review Magdalena has had a hell of a life. And so has her son. This book chronicles not only his life but hers as well. This book takes you on a journey through surgeries, hospital stays, near death experiences, the fears of parents with disabled children, the resilience of disabled children, ableism, cancer, and so much more. Magdalena is so real and raw in this book, it would be difficult to not feel exactly how she’s feeling. I laughed, I cried, I got angry, and I felt triumphant. This is not an easy book to read, probably even harder to write, but this is a must read book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Krisette Spangler

    This is a moving memoir about the author and her son who is born with Treacher Collins Syndrome. Madga tells her story with such grace and honesty. She is very upfront with her feelings of grief and sorrow, but also tells of her joys and triumphs. Throughout everything she has a beautiful faith in God that sustains her through the darkest days of her life. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is wondering how to survive a trial with grace and your faith in God intact.

  3. 4 out of 5

    aqilahreads

    ever heard about treacher collins syndrome? 🙇‍♀️ well honestly i have never!!!! 🙅‍♀️ this is still new to me as i felt that it is not a common condition especially in singapore. found out that normal actually comes into two books - one from the perspective of magda ((mother of nathaniel)) and another one from the perspective of nathaniel himself whom is having the condition. this book that i read is in the perspective of magda & it is interesting to read what is the condition is all about - i ha ever heard about treacher collins syndrome? 🙇‍♀️ well honestly i have never!!!! 🙅‍♀️ this is still new to me as i felt that it is not a common condition especially in singapore. found out that normal actually comes into two books - one from the perspective of magda ((mother of nathaniel)) and another one from the perspective of nathaniel himself whom is having the condition. this book that i read is in the perspective of magda & it is interesting to read what is the condition is all about - i have learnt so many things. it also talks about how the family overcomes hardships and staying hopeful. i love wonder by r.j. palacio and turns out that nathaniel’s story is part of how wonder came up too. ((which i didnt know of!!!)) the flow of story could have been better but overall, its such an inspiring & beautiful read which i wish that more people are aware of. highly recommended and also a great one to raise awareness. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 always be kind to one another everyone 💚

  4. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    I thoroughly enjoyed this story of an amazing family. It is heart warming, funny, sad and inspiring. Highly recommended.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    This is a great companion to Wonder. I liked the story of Nathanial and his family. I was very happy to hear they are all doing so well. I am hoping there will be pictures of the family in the book. Reading the eBook did not have any. I felt there was a lot of unnecessary jumping around in the timeline. Magda would be talking about present-day and then jump to when she and Russell had first met. I can sort of see it as a useful way to tell the story but it happened so much that it got annoying, This is a great companion to Wonder. I liked the story of Nathanial and his family. I was very happy to hear they are all doing so well. I am hoping there will be pictures of the family in the book. Reading the eBook did not have any. I felt there was a lot of unnecessary jumping around in the timeline. Magda would be talking about present-day and then jump to when she and Russell had first met. I can sort of see it as a useful way to tell the story but it happened so much that it got annoying, in my opinion. Overall though, I did enjoy the story.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Sanders

    This book was a very touching true story. When Magda and her husband's first baby was born, the doctors took him out of her view as they all seemed shocked by what they were seeing. She had been expecting and dreaming about having a new baby boy that she'd be taking for walks and doing all of the things she saw other mothers doing with their new babies. She had been in a pre-natal class with other women who were mostly due around the same time and she couldn't wait for them to all see each other This book was a very touching true story. When Magda and her husband's first baby was born, the doctors took him out of her view as they all seemed shocked by what they were seeing. She had been expecting and dreaming about having a new baby boy that she'd be taking for walks and doing all of the things she saw other mothers doing with their new babies. She had been in a pre-natal class with other women who were mostly due around the same time and she couldn't wait for them to all see each other's new babies when they were born. She and her husband didn't expect anything to be wrong with the baby. All her tests had come back normal! When she finally did get to see him she knew why the doctors had not let her see him at first. He didn't look anything like all of the other babies in the NICU. He was a normal size but his face was quite deformed. He has Treacher Collins syndrome, the same disease that the book and movie Wonder, with Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson playing the parents of a boy with the disease. That story was fiction, though, while this one is completely true. Magda writes about all of the difficulty, pain, doctors, surgeries and treatments that she and her husband went through with everything, and as their son got older he also took part in helping her write his story. In reading it I cried for the family's pain and struggles, and I remembered how lucky I am to have had 2 healthy sons. I don't know if I could ever have been as strong as the Newman's were and still are! Definitely a book worth reading, just keep a box of tissues close - especially if you have kids!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marcia A

    These two new books add to the small number of books that exist about craniofacial conditions. Normal, A Mother and Her Beautiful Son was written by Nathaniel’s mother about their family’s journey with Nathaniel who was born with Treacher Collins syndrome with severe symptoms. Normal, One Kid’s Extraordinary Journey was written by Nathaniel and his mother, and contains some (humorous) illustrations. They tell the same story, one for adults and the other for younger readers. Grades 5 to 10 were m These two new books add to the small number of books that exist about craniofacial conditions. Normal, A Mother and Her Beautiful Son was written by Nathaniel’s mother about their family’s journey with Nathaniel who was born with Treacher Collins syndrome with severe symptoms. Normal, One Kid’s Extraordinary Journey was written by Nathaniel and his mother, and contains some (humorous) illustrations. They tell the same story, one for adults and the other for younger readers. Grades 5 to 10 were mentioned; a younger child with a craniofacial condition and familiar with surgeries could be interested in Nathaniel’s book, either reading it or having it read to them. The author chronicles their extraordinary situation in which serious health crises occurred often, dealing with the constraints of both a gastrostomy and tracheostomy tube since Nathaniel’s infancy and many high risk surgeries. This is while she herself has a second child, cancer and a recurrence, many moves in different states and frequent job changes of Nathaniel’s father. Despite these uncommon and difficult challenges the family is resilient, upbeat and thankful; they retain a sense of humor, especially Nathaniel. Of special interest is how the book and then the movie of Wonder positively affected Nathaniel and the family. Nathaniel explains how wonderful the family’s dogs are, how he usually appreciates having his brother, and that he doesn’t feel defined by Treacher Collins.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rebekah Hendren

    This book chronicles the medical, emotional, and spiritual struggles of the Newman family, whose son Nathaniel was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome and inspired the bestselling book and now Hollywood movie “Wonder”. Nathaniel’s mother Magda shares her family’s story in a way that is at times humorous, always engaging, and extremely moving. I very much enjoyed the way that Nathaniel’s perspective was sprinkled in alongside his mother’s. Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways for me from the work This book chronicles the medical, emotional, and spiritual struggles of the Newman family, whose son Nathaniel was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome and inspired the bestselling book and now Hollywood movie “Wonder”. Nathaniel’s mother Magda shares her family’s story in a way that is at times humorous, always engaging, and extremely moving. I very much enjoyed the way that Nathaniel’s perspective was sprinkled in alongside his mother’s. Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways for me from the work can be succinctly explained by this quote from Nathaniel himself. “Who I am will never change. Treacher Collins doesn’t define me. What defines all of us is how we face what we’ve been given. I’m Nathaniel. I’m not normal, and neither are you.” This work wonderfully illustrates that we should look beyond the differences that we may see in a person and instead focus on who they truly are inside. This was a great read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    West Hartford Children's Library

    A most poignant personal journey of a family facing insurmountable odds and tremendous challenges as they navigate life. Nathaniel Newman was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome, a craniofacial syndrome that involves all aspects of health and life. The family's journey through Nathaniel's 67 surgeries before the age of fifteen, frequent moves across the country, challenges with making friends and keeping the faith through extreme hardship is moving, riveting, heartbreaking and honest. The Newman A most poignant personal journey of a family facing insurmountable odds and tremendous challenges as they navigate life. Nathaniel Newman was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome, a craniofacial syndrome that involves all aspects of health and life. The family's journey through Nathaniel's 67 surgeries before the age of fifteen, frequent moves across the country, challenges with making friends and keeping the faith through extreme hardship is moving, riveting, heartbreaking and honest. The Newman family embraces and tackles these extraordinary circumstances with courage, resilience and tremendous love for each other and the world. This is a story of how to face life when the unexpected happens and you are forced to be stronger than you have ever known that you could be in order to save your family. This book gives you faith in humanity. Carol Waxman

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mollie

    I found this book fascinating. I liked that there were bits told from Nathaniel's perspective, but that most of the text comes from his mother. We often hear stories of people with unique experiences from their own viewpoint, but we don't often hear very much about the family members and how they are affected. Magdalena Newman is inspirational. She is very honest about her feelings throughout the book--not only does she talk about how wonderful her son is, but she shared how some of her own expe I found this book fascinating. I liked that there were bits told from Nathaniel's perspective, but that most of the text comes from his mother. We often hear stories of people with unique experiences from their own viewpoint, but we don't often hear very much about the family members and how they are affected. Magdalena Newman is inspirational. She is very honest about her feelings throughout the book--not only does she talk about how wonderful her son is, but she shared how some of her own experiences weren't always good. Many people wouldn't like to admit that they were scared or freaked out upon embarking on a journey such as hers, but she tells us about her own issues as well as those of her son.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Calista Andrechek

    Thank you to NetGalley, Magdalena Newman and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the free e-book in exchange for an honest review. This novel was exactly what I needed this month! I was addicted right away, the writing is amazing and their story is so sad but also so amazing. I felt the positivity from this family right off the bat. This story really made me stop focusing on all the negative things that were happening in my life and delved right into the struggles of this family. This book was so inspi Thank you to NetGalley, Magdalena Newman and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the free e-book in exchange for an honest review. This novel was exactly what I needed this month! I was addicted right away, the writing is amazing and their story is so sad but also so amazing. I felt the positivity from this family right off the bat. This story really made me stop focusing on all the negative things that were happening in my life and delved right into the struggles of this family. This book was so inspiring for me because I realized how easy it is to fall into the negative when you should be looking at the small positives. I would highly recommend!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I'm in the craniofacial world so I'm biased... but I couldn't put this book down. The ups and downs, the emotional rollercoaster, and throughout, the simple voice of a kid who is simply himself. He knows no other way of life. And that is the ribbon that ties it all up and makes it beautiful. Those in the medical world, the special needs world, whatever world life has you in... You just live. You do the next thing. Not because you as a parent are capable of more, not because your kid is capable o I'm in the craniofacial world so I'm biased... but I couldn't put this book down. The ups and downs, the emotional rollercoaster, and throughout, the simple voice of a kid who is simply himself. He knows no other way of life. And that is the ribbon that ties it all up and makes it beautiful. Those in the medical world, the special needs world, whatever world life has you in... You just live. You do the next thing. Not because you as a parent are capable of more, not because your kid is capable of more, but because that's the life that you have. Inspiring, and as a mom... encouraging. Only thing lacking is pictures.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    Magda and her husband were caught by complete surprise when their first child was born with a serious case of Treacher Collins syndrome. The family learns to live life as a family with a medically fragile child. Many people n their lives are helpful, while a few are hateful. Add in some serious medical problems for Magda, and there is a lot for the family to cope with. The publication of the book “Wonder” by R. J. Palacio opens up new connections and new understanding of their sons’s challenges. A Magda and her husband were caught by complete surprise when their first child was born with a serious case of Treacher Collins syndrome. The family learns to live life as a family with a medically fragile child. Many people n their lives are helpful, while a few are hateful. Add in some serious medical problems for Magda, and there is a lot for the family to cope with. The publication of the book “Wonder” by R. J. Palacio opens up new connections and new understanding of their sons’s challenges. And their son Nathaniel is as gutsy and confident as they come...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I feel odd rating someone’s life story, but I’m giving this four stars because I am so inspired by this family’s grit and outlook on life. Wow, did they persevere through so many hardships! I thought there were so many sections where the author perfectly captured the emotions involved when devastating things happen. I would have liked, though, to hear more from her son. His excerpts were so insightful and made me crave more. I hate saying this but I felt the book was somewhat choppy and could’ve I feel odd rating someone’s life story, but I’m giving this four stars because I am so inspired by this family’s grit and outlook on life. Wow, did they persevere through so many hardships! I thought there were so many sections where the author perfectly captured the emotions involved when devastating things happen. I would have liked, though, to hear more from her son. His excerpts were so insightful and made me crave more. I hate saying this but I felt the book was somewhat choppy and could’ve used a bit more editing.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    A very humbling memoir about an extraordinary mother and son. As the mom of a daughter born w/ a cleft lip and palate, I thought I'd been through some stuff. Well, my stuff was quickly put into perspective and I hope my daughter (who is now a teenager and also read the book) felt that way, too. If Magda and her son are able to handle all the trials and tribulations life throws at them with such determination and resilience, maybe my daughter and I can do the same.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    This was a sweet, well written memoir about a woman whose son is born with a rare disorder that causes his face to appear differently than most people. The book details the struggles the author faced with having a child with special needs, along with his many different medical issues and her own along the way. It was a pleasant, feel good kind of read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    Quite good, similiar to Wonder, had some meeting the real Wonder folks in the book which made it a little odd. I lead a book discussion on Wonder at our retirement home, these types of books are always popular. People are just glad it isn't their family. What made it really hard was two types of cancer for the mother and lots of moves, she did a great job and now this book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Justine

    incredible!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Caitlan Brewer

    A beautiful, well-written, inspiring memoir and story. Magna is an incredible mother and a great example of loving your children unconditionally, through anything.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Reggie Malz

    Great story - the author, the mother - is truly inspirational. She overcame so many hardships while raising her children to have positive outlooks on life.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I can not recommend this book enough. It might be the best book I’ve ever read. It made such an impression on me, and I just cannot get over how much the Newman family went through. Insane.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mariah

    I love how this book relates to wounder. It talks about how everybody is born different but that it's ok. It talks about how you shouldn't judge someone because of how they look.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Marci

    An inspiring story. Challenges overcome! Perspectives changed. Really enjoyed.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dasha Slepenkina

    A big thank-you to NetGalley, the author, and publisher for giving me a copy of this book for an unbiased review. 3/5 – Liked it Writing a review for this book is difficult. Did I enjoy it? Until I got closer to the end, I can’t say that I did. This family’s experiences are so consistently brutal. Perhaps if this were fiction, it’d be easier to read. Perhaps if I could forget that Magda, her son, and her family are real people, it’d be less frustrating and heavy. But that’s the whole point of the A big thank-you to NetGalley, the author, and publisher for giving me a copy of this book for an unbiased review. 3/5 – Liked it Writing a review for this book is difficult. Did I enjoy it? Until I got closer to the end, I can’t say that I did. This family’s experiences are so consistently brutal. Perhaps if this were fiction, it’d be easier to read. Perhaps if I could forget that Magda, her son, and her family are real people, it’d be less frustrating and heavy. But that’s the whole point of the book. The Newmans weren’t given a life that was easy. This story is real, made up of real people with real problems. Heck, I got anxiety just from reading about their cross-country moves! And yet this is exactly what makes the book worth reading. Because, similar to Magda’s hidden worlds deep in the Polish woods, there are hidden worlds everywhere. It’s when we get too uncomfortable to explore them, too anxious to face them, too self-absorbed to acknowledge them, that we lose our compassion. The story itself is important and I would recommend this book. However, I have a couple of reasons that it’s not rated even higher for me. The first is that I wanted so much to know more about Nathaniel. I had somewhat mistakenly expected this to be a story centered on his experience. This isn’t so much the case – the story, if anything, is Magda’s. It is written from her perspective, covers key aspects of her childhood, and reflects on the struggle of being a parent learning to come to terms with a world which may not always welcome her beautiful, uniquely normal boy. This isn’t a problem – in fact, Magda’s story also needs and deserves to be shared. However, the narrative did not line up with my expectations and I desperately wanted to hear more of Nathaniel’s own voice. I loved the excerpts written by him and wanted to see his story not just through a lens, albeit a very perceptive one, but through his own perspective. I’d have loved for the book to alternate between Magda’s and Nathaniel’s perspectives. The second reason that my rating isn’t higher is due to the narration. Magda is a good writer, but the story felt unedited at times. The transitions between flashbacks and real time are confusing, some of the text is repetitive, and certain details could have been omitted. Sometimes this got in the way of the story. This being said, the story shared in “Normal” is important and should be shared. I am appreciative of the opportunity to learn more about Treacher Collins and am confident that reading this book will change how I view the world and those in it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kristi Sauer

  26. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Krentz

  27. 5 out of 5

    AnnMarie Johnson

  28. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Rupchock

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jada

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