In the Neighborhood of Normal

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Eighty-two-year-old Mish Atkinson from Fair Valley, West Virginia, is determined she’s going to make something of the time she has left on this earth. When a text message on her new smart phone leads to an encounter with a woman she believes is Jesus, Mish is eager to obey the woman’s instructions to follow the love. She knows that Jeff, the gay pastor at her church, think she’s lost her marbles, but now that her husband is gone, she’s not going to let anyone put a damper on her sunshine. And when  a pregnant teen needs her help, it doesn’t matter that she doesn’t know the difference between STDs and DVDs, she follows the love—in for a penny, in for a dollar, as she always says. Following the love is exciting and meaningful… until it costs much more than dollars and cents.

Praise for In the Neighborhood of Normal

“’Follow the love,’ is the message from the unlikely Jesus discovered in a local diner by a grandmother with a new smartphone. It’s the message that changes the lives of several folks in a small church in West Virginia. Unlikely friendships, miracles, doubts, and faith are all a part of this lovely novel by Cindy Maddox. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll cheer! It’s a story that reminds us of what we can do and who we can be when we look for and follow love.”

-Lynne Hinton, author of The Beekeeper’s Wife

“What do we mean when we say ‘normal’? In her engaging novel, Cindy Maddox pushes on norms we may assume around inclusion, intergenerational friendships, and the human capacity to grow and change. She builds a small-town world the reader hopes to revisit, full of characters across the age range who are relatable in their hopes and struggles with family and faith. When Mish sets out to help a new friend, readers will root for her to fulfill her mission.”

– Martha Spong, Denial is My Spiritual Practice (and Other Failures of Faith)

“Cindy Maddox’s In the Neighborhood of Normal could rightly come with this warning on the front cover: ‘Necessary for your health. This book may cause tears amidst laughter.’ Spending the afternoon with Mish, the heart and main character of this folksy, seeking, multi-layered story, is like spending time cocooned in a homespun Afghan blanket, sipping rich hot cocoa with a wise, good-natured friend. According to Mish, ‘Sugarcoating is for cereal,’ so she says it like it is, no matter if she is talking to Pastor Jeff about his belief in God or sixteen-year-old Juliann about her unplanned pregnancy. The result is salt-of-the-earth wisdom, delivered in ‘bacon and eggs gal’ style. Eighty-two year old Mish has been widowed for one year when she finally buys a smart phone. Upon receiving a mysterious message, Mish meets a woman at the local diner, a woman who Mish thinks is Jesus Christ, and whose message is to ‘follow the love.’ Mish accepts this missive with brave determination because she’d ‘…rather die trying to live than live afraid of dying,’ all the while making luxury out of ordinary moments. The novel’s poignancy surprises, like the sun playing hide and seek with clouds, even during its laugh out loud Sponge Bob Square Pants dick pic moments. Mish’s journey is our journey as she learns how to stand up for herself because she always stands up for others. As she follows the love, she spreads it, making strangers’ lives better because ‘I think you find what you are.’ In the Neighborhood of Normal is the exactly right read for this unprecedented post-Trump, knee-deep-in-Covid, uncertain moment. A good dose of Mish’s boldness and optimism is what the doctor ordered.”

– Alex Poppe, author of Girl, World, Moxie, Jinwar and Other Tales from The Levant, and Duende