Nathaniel Newman and his mother, Magda, recount how Nathaniel’s Treacher Collins syndrome has affected their family.
In alternating passages, the authors relate how, after being born with severe craniofacial deformities affecting his hearing, eating, and breathing, Nathaniel underwent “sixty-plus” surgeries before age 16. Along the way, he and his family faced kids’ curiosity and adults’ insensitivity. Magda’s poignant, sometimes absurdly humorous endeavors to raise Nathaniel and his little brother, Jacob, as normally as possible emphasize how Nathaniel’s disability shaped their family; siblings of kids with disabilities will sympathize when Magda describes how Jacob’s needs came second. Nathaniel is witty and matter-of-fact about his condition, concluding that “it would have been easier to be born ‘normal,’ but far less cool.” Throughout the book’s second half, the authors discuss how R.J. Palacio’s book Wonder (2012) encouraged empathy for kids with craniofacial and other differences, and fans of the movie will appreciate thought-provoking peeks behind the scenes. Despite being dubbed “Auggie Pullman come to life,” Nathaniel abundantly shows that he’s his own multifaceted person. Flashbacks to Magda’s childhood in Poland emphasize the importance of family and imagination in tough times. Though their story sometimes feels disjointed or overstuffed, its breadth reflects their personally extraordinary but emotionally universal journey. As Nathaniel observes, “I’m not normal, and neither are you.” Swaab’s full-page cartoon-style drawings introduce each chapter. The Newmans present white. Magda is Catholic; her husband and sons are Jewish.
Funny, compassionate, and thoughtful. (Memoir. 10-14)