Sonderbooks Book Review of Expecting Adam

Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004
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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations

cover

*****Expecting Adam

by Martha Beck

Reviewed July 21, 2004.
Berkley Books, New York, 1999.  328 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (B BEC).
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004, #2, Personal Stories and Reflections

Wow.  This book is funny, poignant, and tremendously thought-provoking all at once.  Martha and John Beck were Harvard graduate students who had bought into the attitude that hard work, intelligence, and success were the most important things in life.  Then Martha got pregnant with their second child, and their whole world turned upside-down.

Right from the beginning, Martha sensed that something strange, something beyond her control was involved.  She got tremendously ill with her pregnancy, including frequent fainting and dehydration, besides the usual throwing up.  (She later learned that she has an autoimmune system problem that causes that, but she didn’t know it at the time.)  Her husband went to Japan every two weeks, and she had to learn to rely on the kindness of friends, which was its own little upheaval for Martha.

The whole pregnancy, from start to finish, was surrounded by paranormal events and miracles that got Martha through it.  As a Harvard graduate, she wasn’t prepared to accept these things as real, but before long, she couldn’t conclude anything else.

Then she learned that her baby had Down syndrome.  The pressure from her colleagues and even her doctors to abort the baby was intense.  Although Martha is pro-choice, she couldn’t bring herself to abort after all she had already been through.  She was ridiculed and scorned for that decision.  After all, to the world they lived in, what value is a life without intelligence?

Through the whole book, Martha includes flash-forwards of life with Adam.  We begin to understand what a tremendous gift his life is, and why Martha feels privileged to be his mother, even though he’s not always sweetness and light.

She tells the story with wonderful humor.  It’s good that she can laugh now at the people who told her she should simply get up and get moving and not “give in” to morning sickness—right before she fainted. 

When she described visiting her family during Christmas vacation, I thought I had discovered a long-lost sister.  Our families are eerily similar.  She’s got a large family (okay, only 8 kids, but it’s the same effect as 13) with a genius father.  They make up for their messy surroundings by being clever.  The worst insult you could give anyone is to call him an “idiot.”  Bringing a Down syndrome child into that family caused another hard look at values.

In summary, this wonderfully written book is a beautiful story of what’s truly important in life.  It also gives a look at the great mercy, grace and love of God bringing the special gift of Adam into his parents’ lives.

Reviews of other books by Martha Beck:
Leaving the Saints
Steering by Starlight

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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