A bold, honest account of surviving tragedy and living with disability.
The cover photograph of Perreth’s debut memoir captures one of the last times her son, Ben, ran chasing butterflies. Struck by an undetected congenital abnormality known as arteriovenous malformation, Ben made medical history after undergoing an emergency brain surgery that, despite the odds, saved his life. During his recovery, he suffered a two-week coma from which he emerged unable to speak or walk. Countless rounds of physical, occupational and speech therapy over many years allowed him to recover some of his abilities, but his significant cognitive and physical difficulties forever changed his life. Perreth’s rambling, diarylike account captures the overwhelming number of tasks she did, and still does, to help her son: handling appointments, insurance, doctors and specialists; providing highly specialized care while also raising two other children; maintaining a home; and working three part-time jobs. Perreth also focuses on the spiritual and emotional support that she and her husband gave to each other. At one point, Ben’s mother had to explain an adage to Ben (“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”) because he could no longer process nonliteral phrases—one of many heart-wrenching vignettes Perreth uses to depict the “profound and permanent” effects of Ben’s condition on their entire family. The author also describes her own struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression and Ben’s struggles with depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder with little bitterness. The life lessons she shares in this lengthy memoir make it a worthwhile read; the Perreths’ perseverance, and Ben’s continually sunny disposition—despite having to relearn how to walk more than once—are truly humbling.
A poignant memoir, full of hope and deep, abiding love.