Sunday, September 16, 2012

Stephen Gallup Book Review: What About the Boy? A Father’s Pledge to his Disabled Son

(Kikay Mom Note: This is yet again one of the posts from my former blog which I just couldn't bear not to republish. I read this book about a year ago, when I was considerably less confident of my ability to keep up with an active toddler while being a newly-singled mom. You can also read Stephen Gallup's guest post by clicking here.)

With free time at a premium, I have been very selective about what I have been reading lately.  Reading Stephen Gallup’s memoir took me about a day, in between attending to the Wonder Boy.  Now that I have read it twice, I can say that it was free time well-spent.

A few minutes after I had picked up my copy of the book at the Post Office, I read a few pages while sitting in the backseat of the car.  The first few pages telling of Joseph’s difficult birth had me instantly hooked, and I could hardly wait for my Wonder Boy to settle down for the night so I could continue reading.  I read the rest of the book straight until the wee hours of the morning, and it left me so affected that I felt I had to let a few weeks pass before writing a review.

What it is about:
The book What About the Boy? (published by Lestrygonian Books) is a memoir written by Stephen Gallup.  In it, he details the struggle he and his wife Judy encountered upon having a son with an undiagnosed disability that left him years behind his contemporaries when it came to developmental milestones.  Outwardly, Joseph looked like any other kid, but he kept falling further and further back.  At an age when babies start rolling over, sitting up, standing, etc. all that Joseph could do was lie on his back staring at the ceiling.

Stephen and Judy naturally become anxious as parents, and they initially place their trust in the ability of medical experts.  Eventually, they become disillusioned at the seeming passivity and disregard for their son so they take it upon themselves to find a way to improve Joseph’s quality of life. Although the ending of the story is not exactly a happy-ever-after scenario, it does manage to end on a note of hope.

My Thoughts:
As a mother, an avid reader, and a registered nurse, the book speaks to me on several levels.  As a reader, I find that the author was able to write in a voice that flows naturally, as an engaging storyteller should.  The language is clear and easy, and despite the inclusion of medical facts and other specialized knowledge, it avoids falling into the trap of jargon and boring shop talk.  Readers who are merely out to be entertained will find this to be a good read.

Taken at face value, Stephen Gallup was able to maintain the focus on Joseph all throughout the book.  As a memoir, I was worried that it would eventually become rather egocentric at some point, but happily that did not really occur.  If anything, Gallup tends to be shy about disclosing his true thoughts and feelings in certain situations included in the book.  However, he has a good command of the art of innuendo, so that the reader can still get a good sense of what is really going on.

As a parent, I learned some lessons from reading this book.  First, I became more appreciative of the fact that my son had been born without any disabilities or handicaps.  When you stop to consider how many things can go wrong during a pregnancy or childbirth, a baby who is born without defects is something that shouldn’t be taken from granted.  This was brought home to me more strongly after finishing the book.  Second, I rethought some of my parenting principles, as there were some concepts discussed in the book which I found pertinent to Wonder Boy’s development.

I would recommend this book to every first-time parent like me, whether or not they have a disabled child.  It is also something that should be assigned reading to students in the allied health courses.  If I had read this book when I was still a nursing student, it would have helped me develop a better empathy and attitude towards patients entrusted to my care.

For more information, contact the author at the link I included above. This website is actually full of information and other resources on pertinent health issues and topics for families with special children.

Disclosure: This review features a product sent by PR for review. However, the opinions I have written in this post are entirely my own.

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