An inspiring memoir about the author’s struggle to come to terms with her stuttering.
More than 60 million people worldwide deal with the condition of stuttering, and many of them still struggle with the root causes of that stuttering, whether it be physical pain in childhood, repression of emotions, or other starting points mired in PTSD. Preston began stuttering around the age of 7, and the book starts there, smartly capturing the mix of abject terror and curious observation that childhood stuttering can create. The stakes, viewed from adulthood, may not seem as high, but to a child, it’s a bitter victory to evade stuttering by asking for the ice cream treat in a cup instead of the desired (but difficult to say) “waffle cone.” In different points of her life, the author found connections in interesting ways; for example, Preston’s parents enrolled her in speech therapy in a program named after Monty Python member Michael Palin. Watching the stutterer in Palin’s film A Fish Called Wanda, the author felt mortification as her friends stole glances at her. Years later, Preston met Palin, who dealt with stuttering as a child, and they discussed his rationale for the part. She chronicles her many interviews with fellow stutterers—people bullied, people strengthened and people driven from those they care about. She also traces her own coming-of-age through the maze of stuttering—e.g., learning how to flirt with boys in ways that left her in control of the conversation.
Readers expecting a fairy-tale ending when they finish the book can’t have been reading very closely, but Preston comes to a truce with stuttering, and her battles with it make for engaging reading.