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1. When the novel opens, Opal is truly "Entering Normal." What is the significance of the novel's title? What is Opal's sense of the town, in contrast to the viewpoints of Rose and Ned? Is the locale aptly named? Why or why not?
2. Entering Normal shifts between points of view, giving voice to Opal, Rose, and Ned. How does this narrative choice impact the story? Do you feel that the story is evenly divided between these three characters? Why or why not?
3. Opal takes most of the significant steps of her life--from her dalliances with men to her move from North Carolina--because of signs. Are these real or imagined guideposts to her life? How do other characters in the story use signs in less explicit ways?
4. How is the theme of "fate vs. choice" explored throughout the book? Are Rose, Ned, and Opal vibrant participants in their own fate, or do they let life choose for them? How?
5. Rose immediately labels Opal as a girl who "sucks trouble to her." Is this assessment true, or is Opal more a product of circumstances? How does Rose's instant reaction to her new next-door neighbor shed light on the feelings she harbors about herself and those around her?
6. From the start of Entering Normal, Ned and Rose's marriage is in trouble. How have their different approaches to grief driven them apart? From their separate memories, how do you envision their lives before Todd's death?
7. Although Rose patiently waits for her dead son, Todd, to return and refuses to let go of his memory, her only glimpse of him is in a flashback. Why does the author use this technique? What do we learn about Rose'scharacter--and about her relationships--from the episode?
8. Ned discovers that Rose has withdrawn from her writing class, and then lied to him about it. Why doesn't he confront her about this deception? How does Ned's assumption that Rose has been chastised as an inadequate writer shed light on his perception of her?
9. Although she's an unwed mother, Opal views Zack as the one perfect element to come out of her relationship with Billy. How does this view compare and contrast with Rose's relationship with Todd and with Ned?
10. In what ways is Opal similar to Rose as a mother, and in which ways would their parenting techniques diverge? How does Zack remind her of Todd, and in which ways is Zack different?
11. Neither Zack nor Todd ever had a sibling. Ethel, Ned's sister, is depicted as selfish and terrible. How is the motif of only children significant in the novel? How would each of the boys' lives have been different if he had been raised with a brother or sister?
12. In one of the book's most pivotal events, Rose lies to the doctor at the hospital, insisting that she was present when Zack fell and broke his arm. What would compel Rose to reach out to Opal? In what ways, other than motherhood, does she identify with her neighbor?
13. When Zack injures himself, Opal blames herself for not being able to control her "hunger." What types of hunger, both food-related and otherwise, spur conflict in the novel? How is Zack's fractured arm a symbol for larger destruction?
14. A snowstorm forces Zack to stay with Ned and Rose on New Year's Eve. How is that night a turning point for all of the characters? How does the friendship between Zack and Ned affect Rose? How does it hint at the coming relationship between Rose and Zack?
15. Opal first becomes involved with Ty because of a sexual longing; Rose hasn't slept with her husband since her son's death, and she flees when Anderson kisses her. How do each of these attitudes impact the women's lives? Is sex viewed as a necessity or a luxury in this novel?
16. When Billy files for custody of Zack, Opal dismisses Billy as someone who wants what he cannot have. How accurate is this judgment? In which ways is Opal similar to Billy?
17. When he visits Trudy's diner, Ned consciously compares his wife with the waitress. Trudy admits her jealousy of Ned's wife; how is Rose, in turn, envious of Trudy? How has Trudy dealt with the death of a loved one, and how does her attitude compare to that of Rose?
18. The writing teacher, Anderson Jeffrey, won't stop contacting Rose. In your opinion, what parts of their relationship exist in reality, and which lurk in Rose's imagination? What elements of Rose's personality are unleashed by Anderson's attention and by her writing? What other outside influences shape Rose's transformation?
19. In the custody hearing, Opal's own parents side with Billy about her incompetence as a mother. What reasons would they give for their actions? In which ways is Opal a product of the failings of her own childhood? How does Melva's relationship with Opal compare to Opal's with Zack?
20. Ned is expected to recover fully from his heart attack, but he unexpectedly passes away. How does this event parallel the death of his son? How does Ned's death provide a catalyst for Rose's rebirth?
21. While Opal wins custody of her son, she must return to her hometown. How do you envision that Opal will assert her own independence while living under the thumb of her parents and brother? How will Rose help her attain that goal?
22. Why do you think that Rose volunteers to go to North Carolina with Opal and Zack? Do you think that Rose is truly free of her ghosts, whether real or imagined?
Posted June 17, 2005
Just finished reading this book and any book that can make you cry or can evoke any emotion from you is worth recommending. It was a great story and definitely worth the read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 19, 2005
This is a novel you will not want to end. It is very well written and will evoke emotion from even the most 'hard hearted Hannah'! LeClaire is a must read author. A rare and wonderful read. Do not miss it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 8, 2004
A wonderful story. I don't like to give away how stories are told but I have to say I wasn't expecting what happened in this book. I am amazed at how much I loved these characters. This is one of those books you don't want to end. This was my first book by Leclaire and it will not be my last. She is a wonderful heartfelt writer that makes me excited to find her books.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 8, 2003
It wasn't bad, but not what I'd call a 'page-turner' by any stretch of the imagination. I did find myself curious about the lives of these two very different women, Opal and Rose, but when the book was over I didn't feel like I knew Rose at all. Her character was so 'closed' emotionally that it was hard for me to get a clearcut image of her in my mind, whereas Opal I could see clear as day. I was glad that Rose finally opened up her heart to love again, although it took a tragedy for her to realize how much of life she had truly missed. Overall, there were some good lessons to be learned from the lives of these women. The book isn't a 'must-read', but it's not a waste of time either.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 20, 2002
This story is one that you will find you can't wait to turn the next page. I thought it was wonderfully put together, with the perspectives of the 3 main characeters, creating such an image - you feel you are literally watching this story unfold. A great book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 13, 2001
Thsi book is wonderful and you truely know these two women and want to be their friend after reading it. This hte first of her books I have read and plan to read the rest. Very impressive-FANTASTIC!!!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 5, 2001
Motherhood is the tie that binds Rose and Opal, mothers who are miles apart in years, lifestyle and situations. Rose is mourning her son; Opal is striving to build a new life for herself and her little boy. Yet they are able to find the common ground where they can discover new friendship and hope. As the author of a book for mothers, NEW PSALMS FOR NEW MOMS: A KEEPSAKE JOURNAL, I believe that our love for our children is a universal bond that all mothers share. Enjoy this inspiring story.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 15, 2001
Posted December 9, 2008
Five years has passed since Todd died and Rose Nelson waits every minute she breathes for a sign from her son. Rose remains in a constant of grief and disbelief since the accident took her child¿s life. Her relationship with her spouse Ned has never recovered from the stunning tragedy. <P> Opal Gates and her five year old son Zack has moved next door to Rose after fleeing her family and the father of her son to start life anew. Rose would prefer to ignore the single mother and the child because she brings back memories of a happier time rather than the endless numbing she continually feels. However, Rose is soon drawn into Opal¿s fight to keep custody of Zack even though it means opening up her heart to love and hope, emotions that she thought died with Todd¿s death. <P> ENTERING NORMAL is a powerful inspirational tale that never tries to explain why bad things happen to good people, but instead provides a message of hope. People grieve a loss of a loved one, but always need someone to care about and be cared for to remain human. Anne D. LeClaire provides her uplifting message inside a strong and entertaining story line starring real people who easy could be a reader, a relative, a friend, or me. <p>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.