To many of us, Down Syndrome is manifested in people with almond shaped eyes, perhaps a kinder disposition and propensity toward compassion. To some, it is a birth defect to be avoided and to others an unexpected gift. In his book, An Uncomplicated Life: A Father’s Memoir of His Exceptional Daughter, Paul Daugherty shares their family’s story and more specifically that of his daughter Jillian. From the start, this story was a charmer. Clearly this dad loves his daughter fiercely and it spills out on every page. He is her champion and that is beautiful.
Jillan was born with Down Syndrome. It caught Paul and his wife Kerry completely off guard. Expecting a “normal” baby, they found themselves grieving some kind of loss. Eventually, he realizes that they are grieving perfection. Nonetheless, they adore Jillian and begin the process of making her life the best one possible. In a sense, this story is not spectacular, because really their life is very ordinary. However, Paul does an excellent job of weaving in the little ways Jillian sees the world differently. Her appreciation for the mundane helps their family slow down and appreciate simple experiences like riding a bike, eating breakfast or walking to the bus. As the story progressed, Jillian grows up from a little girl, goes through her school years and eventually falls in love and moves away.
While most of the book centers on life with Jillian and their son Kelly, Paul does take a chapter or so to digress into the politics surrounding Down Syndrome. With improvements in diagnostic prenatal technologies, Down Syndrome can be identified before birth fairly easily. Without pointing fingers, he discusses the choice many make to abort and the negative effect that has on research to benefit those with Downs.
Each chapter in this book causes one to pause and appreciate life…the one you’ve been given and those of the ones you love. Jillian was born with some special challenges but that extra chromosome, number 47, also brought with it abundant blessings their family could never have anticipated. I highly recommend this book as a celebration of life and the value inherent in each individual. Whether you know someone with Down Syndrome or other disabilities or just enjoy gaining a deeper perspective, this book is for you.
Sarah McCubbin is a homeschooling and foster mom in NE Ohio where she resides with her husband and 7 children. In addition to reading great books, she enjoys gardening, traveling and blogging at Living Unboxed.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by HarperCollins Publishers. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.