Book Reviews

“An exceptional compilation of writings. This is very important reading for educators, physicians, therapists and anyone who works with families of children with special needs. It will make us laugh and make us cry. And most importantly, it will open our eyes and help us to understand and support more effectively.”

— Dr. Ina Whitman, Neonatologist, St. Vincent Women’s Hospital

“In Monday Coffee & Other Stories of Mothering Children with Special Needs, the authors deal with severe hardships generated by children who suffer from debilitating conditions that require constant care and a society in general that grows less inclined – or financially able if you prefer political correctness over truth – to help. They all deal with the guilt, frustration, anger, and pain this struggle causes. Each mother has learned to do that in her own way and has become stronger. What these narratives share with us, as readers, is a sense of hope translated into language through the grace of the actions that created the words. Do humanity a favor and contribute to a worthy enterprise by buying this book. Do yourself a favor by reading it.”

 —Jim McGarrah, award-winning author of A Temporary Sort of Peace and Breakfast at Denny’s

“’Special parents aren’t chosen, they’re made’ says Ann Bremer in an essay from this remarkable book. Forged is more like it, or annealed perhaps, in a crucible you cannot comprehend unless you, too, have been the parent of a child with Autism, or Down Syndrome, or Cerebral Palsy, or any of the other conditions gathered under the currently-popular sobriquet of ‘special needs.’ These haunting essays and poems returned me to the early, dark time of my son’s birth and diagnosis, before I picked my cautious way, as these authors do, through the ruins of a naïve dream of the perfect, golden family back into gratitude for the families that we have.

On this journey, society fails special moms and their special needs kids. Our friends fail us, and our families, and sometimes our spouses and lovers. Visits and calls dwindle, and when we go out, it is into a world that can be hostile or at best insensitive. People wonder why we kept our child alive or do not have him or her shut away. What is left, but to draw on our own resources and create our own, new ideas of perfection and community? There is no Pollyanna hope in this honest, raw book, but the writing resonates with complex emotions that transcend despair. I came away with empathy and admiration for the fierce faith and fortitude of these mothers, who remind me of those in support groups I joined and founded when my son was in grammar school. While other parents fretted over invitations to parties and college applications, we wondered things like, will my child ever say the word ‘Mom’? Who will care for him when I am gone? Who will pay for that? Who will love him? Or, even, will my child still be alive the fall of his or her senior year?

And yet, somehow, we go on. Partly by learning appreciation for the smallest gifts. ‘Rather than bemoan that my daughter might not be able to swallow’ Heather Kin Lanier says, ‘I reveled in the amazement that was swallowing, and humanity’s overwhelming adeptness at it. We were geniuses out there! All of us! Swallowing!’ We go on by learning to re-frame our visions of perfection. And we go on, too, because we have each other. And we have books like this one, to remind us with power and grace how to endure what we sometimes fear we cannot.”

—Rebecca Foust, award-winning author of God, SeedAll That Gorgeous Pitiless Song, and a new manuscript shortlisted for the Dorset and Kathryn A. Morton prizes.

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