Friday, March 20, 2015

Book Review: An Uncomplicated Life by Paul Daugherty

From Goodreads:
A father's exhilarating and funny love letter to his daughter with Down syndrome whose vibrant and infectious approach to life has something to teach all of us about how we can better live our own.

Jillian Daugherty was born with Down syndrome. The day they brought her home from the hospital, her parents, Paul and Kerry, were flooded with worry and uncertainty, but also overwhelming love, which they channeled to "the job of building the better Jillian." While their daughter had special needs, they refused to allow her to grow up needy--"Expect, Don't Accept" became their mantra. Little did they know how ready Jillian was to meet their challenge.

Paul tells stories from Jillian's mischievous childhood and moves to her early adulthood, tracing her journey to find happiness and purpose in her adult life, sharing endearing anecdotes as well as stories about her inspiring triumphs. Having graduated from high school and college, Jillian now works to support herself, and has met the love of her life and her husband-to-be, Ryan.

In An Uncomplicated Life, the parent learns as much about life from the child as the child does from the parent. Through her unmitigated love for others, her sparkling charisma, and her boundless capacity for joy, Jillian has inspired those around her to live better and more fully. The day Jillian was born, Paul says, was the last bad day. As he lovingly writes, "Jillian is a soul map of our best intentions"--a model of grace, boundless joy, and love for all of us.
The author is a sport writer for a newspaper, and, in this case, I think his background in journalism serves him well.  He tells his daughter's story thoughtfully and with feeling, but he avoids being overly saccharine or emotional, which could easily happen in this kind of memoir.  I was also impressed with the way that his writing reflected his goals for his daughter's life: he and his wife decided from her birth that she would be treated like other children as much as possible.  In the book, he doesn't make his daughter out to be an icon or a saint - he portrays her as she is, with faults and foibles and makes her a human being.  He also acknowledges his own shortcomings and the shortcomings of others in a practical way that doesn't feel like pandering or martyrdom.

Entertainment Value
Of course I fell in love with Jillian.  Who wouldn't?  She's so determined and devoted to everything and her lively and happy spirit radiates off the pages.  It was an absolutely joy to read and a book where I could really enjoy the "everydayness" of the author's experiences which are so different from mine.  I loved reading little snippets and stories of their life and seeing Jillian grow into womanhood.  It's pleasure reading at it's best.

I think this book will have a pretty wide audience.  I recommend it to fans of memoir, fans of uplifting stories with happy endings, and those with an interest in the developmentally disabled.  I'd also recommend it to those who have no experience with anyone who is disabled, as it will certainly education and provoke compassion in readers.  My mom works with developmentally disabled adults and I know this is one she'll also appreciate and enjoy - I can't wait to pass it on to her.

Thanks to TLC for including me on the tour!  Click here for a full list of tour stops.

1 comment:

  1. What a great book! I can see how the journalist training would really help when writing a memoir. I'm so glad you loved it! Thanks for being on the tour!