LIFE AS JAMIE KNOWS IT by Michael Bérubé


An Exceptional Child Grows Up
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A prideful father further memorializes the life of his son, who was born with Down syndrome.

In this sequel to Life As We Know It (1996), Bérubé (Literature/Penn State Univ.; The Secret Life of Stories: From Don Quixote to Harry Potter, How Understanding Intellectual Disability Transforms the Way We Read, 2016, etc.) continues his compassionate chronicling of his son Jamie’s life. This book picks up 20 years after the first and finds the boy in adulthood facing the many challenges of being a productive young man in the sometimes-indifferent modern world. The author addresses these contemporary hurdles through illuminating chapters on his son’s emotional development, the protectiveness and nurturing relationship with Jamie’s older brother, Nick, and Jamie’s complex sadness and confusion when his brother left for college. Embedded in a chapter on his son’s physical well-being are the author’s own perspectives on such topics as unnecessary amniocentesis and the state of American health care. In other sections, Bérubé shares anecdotes on Jamie’s trial-and-error exposures to travel and culture and how he overcame a fear of water to become a competitive swimmer at 17 in the Special Olympics. Perhaps most engaging are the stories of Jamie’s educational accomplishments and subsequent search for gainful employment, which became the subject of a heartfelt 2014 essay. To their credit, both the author and his wife have raised Jamie to the best of their abilities as compassionate parents, though the book is very much told from Bérubé’s own perspective. Janet, somewhat disappointingly, appears much less in this book than in the author’s first, and readers may miss her encouraging voice. While the author clearly paints the life of an adult with Down syndrome as one hinging on the compassion and understanding of others, he also paints Jamie’s experience and immersion into the world as a story of triumph, bravery, independence, and great self-awareness.

An inspiring family scrapbook offering hopeful reinforcement for parents in similar situations.

Pub Date: Oct. 4th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-8070-1931-3
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2016


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