Domestic Violets, the debut novel from Baltimore writer Matthew Norman, throws so many crises at its protagonist, it’s astounding the poor guy doesn’t off himself by Chapter 2. Likeable smart alec Tom Violet is juggling marital collapse, daddy issues, a maddeningly tempting young co-worker, career inertia, and—is there a God?—erectile dysfunction. It’s not easy living in the shadow of his brilliant father, Curtis Violet, who’s spent his life racking up trophies, both literary and spousal, while his copywriter son fumbles with his own novel and, lately, his stubbornly limp penis. But when Curtis drops by his son’s Georgetown home unannounced—drunk, bearing news of new love and a Pulitzer—Tom Violet’s beige life slowly begins to flush with color. Domestic Violets momentarily veers into Office Space territory—white guy emasculated by stupid job, goes out in blaze of glory—but it grows branches, drawing from a mile-wide pool of dysfunctional relationships. Curtis’ carefully constructed web is unceremoniously destroyed, and Tom’s faltering marriage takes a brutal wallop. But Domestic Violets is the story of a family’s triumph, even if triumph comes at one hell of a price.
Matthew Norman reads with Laura Ellen Scott at 2 p.m. at The Writer’s Center, 4508 Walsh St., Bethesda. Free. writer.org. (301) 554-8664.