Involuntary joy

/ 13 September 2007

Joy Newcomb has written a compelling book about her early experiences with her son Stross, who was born with the challenges of spina bifida. You can get a taste of her writing at her blog — like this post on exponential love.

The first part of the book reminded me so much of my own experiences when Alex was a newborn, that I often found myself crying while reading it. Alex's challenges are different (he lives with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, etc.), but those early times were so similar.

I LOVE the title of her book -- Involuntary Joy -- because that also describes much of my own experience. An experience that was not chosen, would not be wished on anyone, and yet is full of joy and learning. And I really appreciate the way she's linked that experience to her faith, without going all gooey or fundamental about it.

I think anyone who cares about families who are faced with the amazing challenge of a child with special needs, ought to read at least the first half of this book. It's also a bit of a faith story, because Joy Newcomb and her husband have spent some time in seminary and in youth ministries, although that's not what they're doing at the end of the book.

I think the later part of the book was less successful for me, and I wonder if that's in part because as she gets closer to current time, she's less able to share? Her son is the age of my eldest now, and I would have a hard time -- DO have a hard time -- sharing some of those experiences, because I wouldn't want to do it without my son's permission, and he's unlikely to want to give it. There's also less sense of knowing that you'll find out "how the story ends" -- since it isn't in any way over. Those are the limits of writing a memoir, when the memories are still being created. It's still a very powerful book.

In any case, Involuntary Joy is a book I recommend highly to anyone seeking to be present to families undergoing the challenges of raising children with special needs, and it's DEFINITELY a resource that churches and libraries should have on hand.