A Normal Boy

Living in an Asylum

Non-Fiction - Social Issues
343 Pages
Reviewed on 11/08/2023
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Author Biography

Jan Keating, grew up in the small prairie city of Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Canada. She received her high school education at Weyburn Collegiate Institute and her post secondary education at SIAST. She re-entered the work force as a working mom (with two daughters) as a secretary and Desktop Publisher for SaskPower Corp. Upon her retirement, she began painting and writing. Her years of desktop publishing for the corporation gave her a reasonable amount of skill and confidence to approach writing.
In 2020, she was prompted by her interest in a story pertaining to the Saskatchewan Hospital in Weyburn (a care facility for the mentally ill) to write her first book, A Normal Boy: Living in an Asylum. Later that same year, due to the corona virus pandemic, Jan found the isolation period a perfect time to begin writing her second book about Sarah Powell, titled, A Prairie Girl: Living in Baghdad. Both books are inspired by true stories and both have a connection to Weyburn.
The author and her husband currently live in their waterfront home at Kenosee Lake, Saskatchewan, during the summers and in California during winters. She enjoys her art, writing, reading, golfing, boating and fishing as well as time with family and friends. Her love of the surrounding beauty inspires her art and is a perfect setting for her writing.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Romuald Dzemo for Readers' Favorite

A Normal Boy: Living in an Asylum by Jan Keating is a gripping story that follows the painful journey of a young boy forced to live in an asylum because the man his mother marries doesn't want him. The setting is in Weyburn, Saskatchewan during the Thirties. Donald is only eight when his father dies in a tragedy. Donald has fond memories of him, especially when he used to tease his mother and make her smile. To save their farm during difficult times, his mother marries Frank, their hired hand. But Frank comes with a condition: Donald's mother must get rid of the children. That's how Donald finds himself ferried to an asylum. What follows is a life of torment, loneliness, abuse, and abandonment. Can Donald grow up to be the happy, normal person he was destined to be?

Jan Keating's book has strong psychological underpinnings and historical elements that provide a solid ground for the narrative. The premise of a normal boy being put in a mental hospital is compelling and disturbing at the same time. The author examines the family dynamics, bringing to the fore the relationship between Donald's father and his mother, a relationship that gave hope and strength to the family until the unfortunate passing of his father. The author explores Donald's emotions and uses a first-person narrative voice that draws the reader in instantly. I was arrested by the affecting pathos and the inner struggles of young Donald, whom readers will quickly love. The historical setting and WWII era are intelligently accomplished. It was a time when many folks fell on hard times and were desperate. Frank is a character that readers will abhor for his inhumanity and cruelty. Overall, A Normal Boy: Living in an Asylum is an affecting story that examines how desperate decisions can affect young lives. This story will tug at your heart long after you have turned the last page. What makes it even more engaging is that it is based on true events.

Nick Coroluick

It may have been because I live in Weyburn and it may have been because I have always been intrigued with the Mental Hospital But… I found that once started I couldn’t stop reading. The story held me in the pages until long after it was finished. It was definitely a feel bad, feel good story throughout. Well done Jan and thankyou


5.0 out of 5 stars Eye Opening and Entertaining
Reviewed in the United States on January 26, 2020
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This book was an entertaining easy read. Even though the topic was a sad one it offered hope. I at one time worked in a school that at one time housed a facility like the one described in this book. I hope we as our society learn from our mistakes. I especially was thankful for the kindness shown to the normal boy. These days with all of the street people we seem, as a society, not to care about, this segment of our population. I am thankful for a book like this. Exposing the problems of institutions, perhaps we can come up with solutions for the mentally ill. Clearly, not an easy fix. I recommend this thought provoking book.

E. Todd

5.0 out of 5 stars Moving Story
Reviewed in the United States on March 14, 2020
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What a story! It's about a boy who gets left at an insane asylum by his mother when her new boyfriend doesn't want kids around. This child was abused by an adult patient his very first night there. He makes friends with two other children who were also dumped there. It's a great story about how people overcome traumatic events and flourish


4.0 out of 5 stars Life in a mental hospital - Weyburn, Saskatchewan - 1930s
Reviewed in the United States on March 4, 2020
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I won't forget this book. Based on a retelling of a first-hand account, this book relates the alarming story of a young boy raised in a mental asylum. Much of the story is based on actual events, making the book a valuable addition to the accounts of early mental health services in the prairies.
But rather than becoming embittered, Donald endures the asylum, and reaches out with forgiveness to those who could have helped him but didn't. The book is a fond and accurate reflection of rural prairie life, and a testament to the power of love and hope.


5.0 out of 5 stars A Story of Courage
Reviewed in the United States on March 10, 2020
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Beginning to end, this book touches every emotion. It is amazing what used to be acceptable in our culture is now unheard of and abhorrent. Well written and complete in the telling of the story.

Joe Thompson

5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling read!
Reviewed in Canada on March 30, 2020
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“A Normal Boy, living in an Asylum” by Jan Keating captures an often forgotten era in Saskatchewan, the farm life and the role the “hospital” played in life around Weyburn. Told from the view point of the normal boy, it is compelling and uplifting as well. The story... sometimes ugly, sometimes poignant but always entertaining, was a good read. Highly recommend.

Keri Fischer

5.0 out of 5 stars A Normal Boy: Living in an Asylum written by Jan Keating
Reviewed in Canada on September 30, 2020
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From start to finish, I found “A Normal Boy: Living in an Asylum very interesting. I am looking forward to reading Jan Keating’s next book A Prairie Girl: Living in Baghdad.


5.0 out of 5 stars wow
Reviewed in Canada on September 23, 2020
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jan Keating is an amazing writer. when i started the book I had to read it all the way through. couldn't put it down until I finished it.

Sandy F

5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommend
Reviewed in Canada on February 28, 2020
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Plot and character development was intriguing. Having grown up very near the “mental hospital” I appreciated the authors accurate depiction of the facility and the local community.
This is one of those books that keeps you reading way past bedtime.


5.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievable
Reviewed in Canada on January 4, 2021
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It's terrible that people put normal children in an asylum to be assaulted by patients and staff!

Marla St.Onge

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read
Reviewed in Canada on January 18, 2020
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I really enjoyed this book. Many tears reading about some of the horrible things that happened at the Mental Hospital. This book kept me reading. I didn’t want to put it down.

Judy G. Shupe

5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Read
Reviewed in Canada on March 5, 2020
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A Normal Boy by Jan Keating captured my interest at page 1. Very well written and a real page-turner. I would recommend this book to anyone

Terry Blankley

5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting
Reviewed in Canada on October 26, 2020
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This book is hard to put down and a great read!!!


5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Reviewed in Canada on January 10, 2020
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A moving story that keeps you reading. Some tears, some smiles. Eloquently written. Looking forward to this author’s next book!

Karla Suignard

5.0 out of 5 stars pulls at your heart strings
Reviewed in Canada on June 29, 2020
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very well written. I really enjoyed reading the book.

Don S

5.0 out of 5 stars A great read !
Reviewed in Canada on August 14, 2020
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A Great read !! Very well written


5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
Reviewed in Canada on April 12, 2020
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A very eye-opening story of early mental hospitals. Highly recommended!

maurene ross

5.0 out of 5 stars Five

ChickenCow's Hearing centre/ Doug Henhef

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent ...5 stars ...highly recommended
Reviewed in Canada on January 28, 2020
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This is an excellent book would highly recommend it anyone.....well written

Carl Morrow

5.0 out of 5 stars A good read
Reviewed in Canada on March 27, 2020
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Very interesting story, well written