Connell and Marianne grew up in the same small town, but the similarities end there. At school, Connell is popular and well liked, while Marianne is a loner. But when the two strike up a conversation—awkward but electrifying—something life changing begins.
A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years at university, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. And as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.
There was something very painful about watching the way Connell and Marianne came together and pulled apart over time. The push and pull of their connection to one another was like a dance, but one that was awkward and hurtful. Normal People felt so ironic, in that the two of them seemed to go out of their way to avoid connecting with each other.
Their inability to communicate their true feelings felt like a phase in the beginning since the young often cannot say what they truly mean to one another. Their near misses could “normally” be this off in the adolescent stages, but these two kept up their blundering and stumbling shuffle for many years, well into college and beyond.
Their disparate backgrounds and dysfunctional families did not help them learn better ways to be together, but in the end, I gave a painful sigh when they stumbled upon ways to talk to one another in a halting fashion. Finally.
This book was difficult to read, not only because of the constantly shifting emotions, but the writing style was off-putting, with its absence of quotation marks that made the communication seem even more challenging to follow. A worthwhile read, once the reader gets through the “stumbling” parts. 4 stars.