This is such a lovely book.
It tells the story of a modern day Broadway star, Geneva Jordan, who suddenly finds herself in small town America in sole charge of her thirteen year nephew, a boy with Down Syndrome. Very few books handle conditions like Down Syndrome with the sensitivity that Lorna Landvik does here: not least because she manages to acknowledge the fear and sympathy most of us feel before we are blessed enough to know a child with Down's, without ever alienating her readers by insulting or perhaps more importantly, patronising them. There were plenty of moments worth crying about here: Rich's awareness of how Down's Syndrome imposes on his life is, at times, heartbreaking, always touching and often hilarious:
"Still I wish I didn't have Down Syndrome." He shook his head. "Know what Conrad say's we should have?"
I shook my head and his eye's squinted as his smile grew wider.
He was so delighted with his joke that I had to laugh with him.
"Know what Up Syndrome is?" he asked. I shook my head. "Up Syndrome is when you are not the dumbest kid in the class, but the smartest. so smart you are even smarter than the teacher. So smart that the teacher says "Hey Rich, why don't you teach class today?". Connie's smart, but he can't run so fast. with Up Syndrome he'd run so fast they don't even have stopwatches to tell how fast he can run. " He chuckled. "That's fast isn't it?"
"Thats very fast."
"Everyone would want to have Up Syndrome, cause when you have it, you do everything better. Every single thing." Rich's smile was wistful now. "Everyone would want to be like me and Conrad.
But the general tone of the book is overwhelmingly positive and upbeat, and I loved it, not only because it was charming, and gentle, and heartwarming, but because "The Great Mysterious" is something every family should do: a childhood ritual that lies at the heart of the book. As children, Geneva and her sister created a book called The Great Mysterious which asked enormous questions about life, death and happiness. Every member of the family submitted their answer to each question and ultimately they create a tiny piece of family history, revealing in every sentence the quirks and eccentricities, hopes and dreams of each individual...
Isn't that lovely? Imagine that this Christmas: creating a "Great Myterious" of your own and every Christmas making it a ritual to ask a new question and have your family commit to paper their very own voices. Too often we don't have time to listen, but memories recorded like this will last forever...
Buy this and other Lorna Landvik books (including the really rather fabulously title "Angry Housewives Eating BonBon's" here...