A Piece of Normal

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Release Date: April 20, 2017
Pages: 404
ISBN13: 978-1544033822



At age thirty-four, Lily Brown has finally gotten her life to be just the way she likes it. She’s got a great job as an advice columnist for the local newspaper, an adorable four-year-old son, and an ex-husband, Teddy, who still thinks she’s wonderful. She even lives in the same beach house where she grew up with a great view of Long Island Sound and plenty of roses to stop and smell.

So what if she won’t let herself date anyone until she finds a new girlfriend for Teddy, who happens to be still hung up on her? So what if she hasn’t changed a thing in her parents’ house, even twelve years after their tragic deaths? So what if it’s been ten years since she’s heard from her younger sister, Dana, who stormed out of the house in a rage when she was still a teenager? Lily has coped. And she’s fine, thank you very much.

But life has a way of sneaking up on you with reminders of a past that you might not have quite made peace with. When Dana shows up on Lily’s doorstep, bringing with her the fun and drama and hell-raising spontaneity Lily has missed—as well as some questions about decades-old family secrets better left untouched—Dear Lily must heed the very advice she often doles out to her readers but never follows herself, something about accepting life’s messiness and chaos.


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“Richly textured, insightful…[the author's] humorous, touching story fully engages the reader.”
– starred review, Library Journal

“A fine blend of humor and poignancy.”
– Hartford Courant

“As her protagonist tries to learn that she cannot and does not have to control everyone around her and tries to enjoy the ‘fun’ of a dysfunctional family life, Dawson delves into family relationships with humor and empathy, making this a pleasurable read.”

“Shelton’s greatest talent is a gift for juxtaposing comedy and tragedy to the pulsing beat of the modern-day mating dance.”

“A quirky, funny, graceful story.”
– The New Haven Register



The letters come to me by the box load, carried upstairs to my office by Carl the Mailroom Guy, who drops them off and says cheerfully each time, “Well, here’s some more trouble for you to solve.”
He says this every single day as though it was a new thought, and every single day I laugh, and then as soon as Carl leaves the room, I sit down on the floor with the box and start pulling the letters out, one by one, unfolding them and breathing in their scent: the smell of paper and trucks and mailrooms and, yes, trouble. It’s like meditation for me—almost religion—that moment of unfolding a letter to get at its secret core.

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