This riveting, nuanced memoir about unforgettable individuals thrown together by chance and DNA tells a story of nature, nurture, and coming to terms with one's true inheritance.
What is a “normal family,” and how do you go about making one? Chrysta Bilton’s magnetic, larger-than-life mother, Debra, yearned to have a child, but as a single gay woman in 1980s California, she had few options. Until one day, while getting her hair done in a Beverly Hills salon, she met a man and instantly knew he was the one she’d been looking for. Beautiful, athletic, artistic, and from a well-to-do family, Jeffrey Harrison appeared to be Debra’s ideal sperm donor.
A verbal agreement, a couple of thousand in cash, and a few squirts of a turkey baster later, and Chrysta was conceived. Over the years, Jeffrey would make regular appearances at the family home, which grew to include Chrysta’s baby sister. But how much did Debra really know about the man she’d chosen to father her daughters? And as a single mother torn between ferocious independence and abject dependence—on other women, alcohol, drugs, and the adrenaline of get-rich-quick schemes—what secrets of her own was she keeping?
It wasn’t until Chrysta was a young adult that she discovered just how much her parents had hidden from their daughters—and each other—including a shocking revelation with far-reaching consequences not only for Debra, Chrysta, and her sister, but for dozens and possibly hundreds of unsuspecting families across the country. After a lifetime of longing for a “normal family,” can Chrysta face the reality of her own, in all its complexity? Bringing us into the fold of a deeply dysfunctional yet fiercely loving clan that is anything but “normal,” this emotional roller coaster of a memoir will make you cry, laugh, and rethink the meaning of family.
Named a 'Best Book of the Summer' by LA Times, People, USA Today, Vanity Fair, The Hollywood Reporter, Amazon, Apple, Cup of Jo, Kirkus, Parade, & Today
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Chrysta Bilton’s memoir kept us enthralled, page after page. The book recalls her tumultuous life, sifting through the painful and joyous memories of a childhood largely defined by her unpredictable but devoted mother, a charismatic, semi-closeted lesbian who chose a sperm donor based on little more than a gut feeling. While Bilton’s father’s presence was sporadic by (her mother’s) design, she and her sister grew up hoping that one day he would return to them for good. Instead, a shocking discovery revealed they had even less claim to him than they’d imagined. Part mystery, part confessional, Normal Family paints an ultimately loving portrait of an unorthodox household—in which every person has secrets to spare.
An ‘Unputdownable’ Family Story
Beautifully written, compelling, and insightful portrayal of human complexity.
Not what I expected
The subtitle and jacket description of this book make it sound like it’s a story of how the author tracked down and got to know her 35 genetic half siblings. But only the last 25% of the book even addresses that. The rest of the memoir is about the turbulent childhood the author endured at the hands of her loving but dysfunctional, alcoholic mother. The stories are well told, but I’ve read several other memoirs about difficult childhoods, and I was hoping to read something entirely different.