All But Normal: Life on Victory Road by Shawn Thornton

All But Normal: Life on Victory Road by Shawn ThorntonAll But Normal: Life on Victory Road Published by Inc. on July 5th 2016
Pages: 320
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Growing up, Shawn Thornton’s life was anything but normal―but then, so was his mother.

After waking from a coma following a car crash, Beverly Thornton’s once sweet and gentle disposition had been replaced by violent mood swings, profanity-laced tirades, and uncontrollable fits of rage. Inside the Thornton house, floors and countertops were piled high with dirty laundry and garbage because Bev was unable to move well enough to clean. Dinners were a Russian roulette of half-cooked meat, spoiled milk, and foods well past their expiration dates. A moment of frustration might prompt her to hurl a knife at Shawn, his brother, Troy, or their dad or to vehemently cuss them out, only to shower them with love and affection moments later as though nothing had happened. And God help the family cat!

On several occasions, Bev even tried to jump out of the car on the highway while Shawn and his brother struggled to keep her inside. Yet this same woman was also a devoted Bible reader, Sunday school teacher, and friend to the elderly, poor, and marginalized wherever she went. How the same woman could be a saint one minute and a nightmare the next was a constant source of frustration for the family. Then one day, after decades of embarrassing outbursts, a surprise discovery finally helps the Thornton family come to grips with Bev’s mysterious condition and brings Shawn to a startling realization that changes the course of his life forever.

A heartwarming coming-of-age story, All But Normal is a powerful reminder that sometimes the “broken” people in our lives are the ones who need fixing the least.

It’s actually been a few weeks since I read this book but I was having a difficult time trying to decide what to write about the book other than “WOW” because that’s the word that comes to mind every single time I think about this story in my mind.  The title of this book is All But Normal and it is definitely what the author dealt with constantly – his life was “all but normal” even though most people would have thought that he had a pretty normal life, his life at home was a disaster in about every sense of the word. I’ve heard it said that truth can be stranger than fiction and that is the case in this situation.


I felt a little like a fly on the wall seeing inside this boy’s life and how he was raised. His mother, Beverly Thornton, might have been a normal girl prior to her car accident as a teenager but after that accident, she had an issue that just never resolved and only seemed to get worse. His father, John Thornton, feeling responsible for his mother’s illness, stepped up and married Beverly and continued to build a life with her partly out of love, and partly out of guilt.

The shining light in this story is that Beverly Thornton knew Jesus and was able to become close to those people that would be considered “broken”. She would greet these people at church and would always pray with them and ask about them and their family. She would read the Bible over and over, had several earmarked throughout the house along with other Christian literature. 

As a young boy, Shawn learns to check his meat for rawness, sniff his milk for chunky rancidity, and “handle” his mother when she was having a fit and tried to send a hot skillet launching at his father. Shawn and his brother Troy have it tough, but despite this “all but normal” childhood and upbringing, both of them learn to walk with God and in fact, have both gone into ministry as adults.

I flew through this book in two sessions. I would have read it straight through if it wasn’t for the pesky fact that I have a day job. It keeps readers connected from cover and cover, and I love the fact that the book has a subtitle, “Life on Victory Road”.  These people showed us a walk with Jesus that prevailed over what others might not have been able to struggle through.  This story is hard too, don’t get me wrong. It’s not one of those “feel-good” stories, but it will make you feel good if you absorb the truth that Jesus wins.

This book shows the devotion and love Shawn’s father showed towards his wife, the grace God showed to all of them throughout their difficult family life, and the grace God gave to Shawn and his brother Troy to forgive and forget and move on in life.  While this book is a really good read for everyone, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has dealt with or is dealing with a loved one with mental issues. This author is currently a pastor and he does a great job of showing how God used his “not normal” childhood to shape him into the man he is today.

thornton Shawn Thornton serves as Senior Pastor of Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village, California. He is also the Bible teaching voice heard daily across America on the half-hour radio program, “All Things New.” Shawn has the honor of serving on the Board of Directors of Awana Clubs International and on the Board of Directors of the Joni & Friends Foundation.

He blogs regularly at Shawn and his wife, Lesli, have three young adult children—Jon, Katie, and Megan.


Joel Kilpatrick is an award-winning journalist and author whose work has been featured in Time magazine, the Washington Post, USA Today, CBS Radio, the Dallas Morning News and dozens of newspapers and magazines. He has authored and ghostwritten more than 60 books, including a New York Times bestseller. He has reported from disaster zones and civil wars in seventeen countries, and received numerous prizes for writing and reporting, including the highest award for Christian humor.

Kilpatrick earned an MS degree in journalism from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York in 1995. He lives in southern California with his wife and five children, most of whom he loves.

To get connected with Shawn Thornton or learn more about this, you can check him out here:

In compliance with the Federal Trade Commission regulations, please be aware that Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this post as part of their Tyndale Blog Network.


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