Practicing Normal

Cara Sue Achterberg

Story Plant paperback

ISBN: 978-1-61188-244-5

Fiction Studio Books e-book

ISBN: 978-1-945839-01-6

Publication date: June 7, 2017

352 pages

“Does facing the truth beat living a lie? In Practicing Normal, Cara Sue Achterberg has given us a smart story that is both a window and a mirror, about the extraordinary pain — and the occasional gifts — of an ordinary life.”
– Jacquelyn Mitchard, New York Times bestselling author of The Deep End of the Ocean

The houses in Pine Estates are beautiful McMansions filled with high-achieving parents, children on the fast track to top colleges, all of the comforts of modern living, and the best security systems money can buy. Welcome to normal upper-middle-class suburbia.


The Turners know in their hearts that they're anything but normal. Jenna is a high-schooler dressed in black who is fascinated with breaking into her neighbors' homes, security systems be damned. Everett genuinely believes he loves his wife . . . he just loves having a continuing stream of mistresses more. JT is a genius kid with Asperger's who moves from one obsession to the next. And Kate tries to manage her family, manage her mother (who lives down the street), and avoid wondering why her life is passing her by.


And now everything is changing for them. Jenna suddenly finds herself in a boy-next-door romance she never could have predicted. Everett's secrets are beginning to unravel on him. JT is getting his first taste of success at navigating the world. And Kate is facing truths about her husband, her mother, and her father that she might have preferred not to face.


Life on Pine Road has never been more challenging for the Turners. That's what happens when you're practicing normal.


Combining her trademark combination of wit, insight, and tremendous empathy for her characters, Cara Sue Achterberg has written a novel that is at once familiar and startlingly fresh.

“What does it really mean to have a normal life? Achterberg’s stunning new novel explores how a family can fracture just trying to survive, and how what makes us different is also what can make us most divine.”
– Caroline Leavitt, author of Cruel Beautiful World and the New York Times bestsellers Pictures of You and Is This Tomorrow

Practicing Normal takes a deep dive into the dysfunctional dynamics of a ‘picture perfect family.’ A compelling story about the beautiful humanity in the most ordinary of lives: from first love to a marriage on the downward slide to an unexpected family tragedy. Achterberg handles each thread with tender care and we can’t help but root for every member of the Turner family.”
– Kate Moretti, New York Times bestselling author of The Vanishing Year



“I am just amazed at how well Achterberg writes her characters and how quickly she draws you into their lives.”

– We Imagine She Must Lead a Rather Dull Life


Practicing Normal is an amazing look at a somewhat messed up family trying to feel and appear ‘normal.’”

– Dandelions Inspired


“Beautifully written, Practicing Normal is a captivating reminder that you never know what’s going on in someone else’s life.”

– Sometimes Stellar Storyteller


“The prose is reflective and sincere. The characters, including all the supporting characters, are complex, strong, and endearing. And the plot is a compelling tale full of familial dynamics, friendship, infidelity, secrets, coming-of-age, honesty, humour, love, as well as an in-depth look into the stereotypical mentality, difficulties and extraordinary abilities that those with Asperger’s experience.”

– What’s Better than Books


“There is some major drama in this story as well as some great suspense and – a great ending to boot!”

– Wall-to-Wall Books


“A must read.”

– Just Reviews


“This is a delightful look at family and all their failings.”

– Books Direct


“A riveting and engrossing story that I could not put down. I am the newest fan of Ms. Achterberg! I highly recommend this extraordinary novel!”

– CMash Reads


“Wowzer. Achterberg has produced something very special right here. A great piece of contemporary women’s fiction that is not only accurate to so many families around the world, but is also sensitive in tackling issues that are normally left on the periphery of a text. I am applauding her loud and proud right now!”

– Paige Turner


“I think pretty much everyone would enjoy this book.”

– The World As I See It


“Ms. Achterberg has woven a story that is complex, emotional, often times leaving you thinking about the meaning of normal, and utterly heart stealing.”

– Caffienated Reads


“There's lots to love, some (people) to hate, and moments to both stop and start your heart, which all add up to a book that should definitely be on your must read list this summer.”

– Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers


Practicing Normal is a authentic portrayal of the complex lives many of us lead and the desire to hold it all together and be perceived as normal.   If you enjoy stories of family dynamics, Practicing Normal will not disappoint.”

– Reading in White Bear Lake


Practicing Normal is a compelling women's fiction story that easily draws the reader into the drama and emotions that come with the complexity of life and the dynamics of relationships.”

– Jersey Girl Book Reviews

Cara Sue Achterberg is a writer and blogger who lives in New Freedom, PA with her family and an embarrassing number of animals. Her first novel, I’m Not Her, was a national bestseller, as was her second, Girls’ Weekend. Cara’s nonfiction book, Live Intentionally, is a guide to the organic life filled with ideas, recipes, and inspiration for living a more intentional life. Cara is a prolific blogger, occasional cowgirl, and busy mom whose essays and articles have been published in numerous anthologies, magazines, and websites. Links to her blogs, news about upcoming publications, and pictures of her foster dogs can be found at