It’s the Soul that Needs Surgery: Catherine Klatzker’s You Will Never Be Normal
May 03 ● BY Alain-Jules Hirwa
In her debut novel, You Will Never Be Normal, memoirist, poet, and retired pediatric ICU nurse Catherine Klatzker comes to terms with her split-off “Parts”—her selves that hold dissociated and unprocessed memories of sexual abuse.
Over the course of the memoir, Klatzker discovers that her father sexually abused both her and her sister Linny when they were young children. The memoir opens in 2009 with Klatzker in conversation with her Parts, offering an introduction into the different selves that exist inside her. The narrative then flashes back to 2002 when the reader is introduced to Klatzker’s meditation practices. Concurrently, Klatzker decides to engage a therapist, Dr. Lew, who goes on to become a major figure in the process of Klatzker revisiting her childhood and initiating the integration of her Parts.
As she undergoes therapy, Klatzker begins to have flashbacks that reveal her sexual abuse and resulting dissociation. These dissociations fragmented Klatzker’s selves, resulting in a unique story for each of her many fragments.
When her mother, Virginia, falls sick, Klatzker re-examines her parents’ relationship with each other, as well as with their children and family at large. While it is true that Virginia was not there for Klatzker most of the time, she too was enduring abuse from Klatzker’s father. With Virginia on her deathbed, mother and daughter allow themselves an intimacy they have always avoided, realizing that they have both been victimized.
After the death of her mother, Klatzker decides to begin making frequent visits to her father Leopold to re-establish a connection with him, and in doing so she discovers that her story is about choosing to rebuild herself.
As the memoir progresses, flashbacks escalate, and Klatzker ultimately breaks. She cries in a hitbodedut (self-secluded meditation) and cuts herself to alleviate the emotional pain; however, the breaking of her spirit ignites her healing. Accompanied by therapy, her dissociation breakdown, books, and her husband Steve, she begins to heal.
The narrative is not linear. It includes many flashbacks as the narrator is on a quest to awaken memories, which also comes to inform the reader not only of Kratzker’s problems but also her joys. The style is often entertaining, especially due to the inclusion of Kratzker’s poems and some prayers. The memoir tackles themes of sexual abuse, family relationships, romantic relationships, self-harm and self-love, dissociation, therapy, and single-parenting.
In this brilliant memoir, you will find the two ends of human experience, love and death.
This memoir is a book not written to one target group, but to the whole race of humans who owe each other humanity.