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52 in 52 Week 5: The Shape of the Eye by George Estreich


The Shape of the Eye: Down Syndrome, Family, and the Stories We Inherit  by George Estreich                                                                 
This book was selected by my "Book Babes" Book Club. The father of the lovely child on the cover is a stay-at-home dad who is also a poet and writer. He paints a beautiful canvas of words across the page. He lives in my town (didn't know that when I first started reading). So, it was fun to have him paint descriptions of this city in the heart of the Willamette Valley of Oregon. He also mentions my old work place, the Eugene Children's Health and Rehabilitation Center, where I learned as a young 21 year old receptionist that having a child with special needs was not the end of the world but the beginning of something beautiful. I saw so many happy families as they waited for their appointments. They were amazing people who adapted and grew from the challenge of raising a child with special needs. 
This book is not only about Down Syndrome but essays about the author's life and relationships. I loved how he spoke of his evolving love for Laura. He thinks deeply about things and writes about them beautifully. About the first year and the challenges of getting his daughter, Laura to eat and develop, he writes:
"That year, in my bitterest moments -- bitterness being the taste of poison, the evolved displeasure that says, Do Not Eat -- I'd think, Great. Another climb out of the canyon, just to get to the plateau where other children are already toddling toward the horizon, hand in hand with happy parents. Our frustration with eating became a species of a general discontent: the longing, wistful and bitter turns, for the normal childhood, the one that was supposed to happen. It is, of course, nostalgia for a projection. It dies hard. Even now, years later, it feels sometimes as if the rest of the world is light enough to walk on clouds and live in cities there, while we have sunk, under the weight of a single chromosome, into a valley of intermittent rain." p. 108
The work is poignant, and I loved his reflections on work and family. He is a first-class writer (he used to teach English and composition at the university level). The biggest downside is that, sometimes, there were many details that did not interest me, but it would definitely interest someone who was the parent or grandparent of a Down Syndrome child or worked with one.

I just saw that he will be coming to our May 19th book club discussion, but I think I am speaking at a retreat that weekend. I would have loved to meet him, but as I look at his picture in the inside of the jacket, I have seen him around town!  I'll have to introduce myself next time. 
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