A Story of Down Syndrome, Motherhood, and Self-Discovery
by Kathryn Lynard Soper
First sentence: “No. Oh, no.”
Review copy sent to me by the author.
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Some books can just be summed up in a few words. The words for this one: Honest. Brave. Beautiful.
I’ve been working on this review for two days now, and I am still at a loss how to adequately sum up this book. It’s a story of a mother learning to accept her newborn son’s diagnosis of Down Syndrome. It’s a story of a woman who’s dealing with depression. It’s a story of a person who has been dealt an unexpected set of cards trying to come to terms with her faith and her community.
It’s not the story that makes this book compelling, though it’s a compelling story. What drew me in, and kept me there even though I thought I couldn’t relate, was the writing. There’s always a self-indulgent aspect to memoirs: one has to think they’re unique or important enough to write a memoir in the first place. But Soper takes an incredibly unflinching, honest tone, and uses spare, beautiful writing. Both of these combine to give the book an emotional wallop, making Soper’s journey not only captivating, but accessible and understandable to those who haven’t had the same journey. We come to care about Soper and her family. We become emotionally invested in them and their lives.
It’s also an unexpected story, which gives it a raw edge. Soper doesn’t take everything just fine. There are ups and downs, both emotionally and medically. It’s a hopeful ending — I almost wished for an epilogue; how is her son, Thomas now? — but it’s not a pat ending. There will be bumps down the road; Thomas will have medical problems, there will be discrimination, there will be trials. But, by the end, Soper (and the reader) have come to a new enlightened state, where everything is, if not happy, then at peace.
I do have one more word: remarkable.