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Andrew Solomon: ‘I’m one of five parents with four children in three states’

Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity (Scribner 2012)by Carole Cadwalladr

The most immediately striking thing about your new book, Far from the Tree: A Dozen Kinds of Love, is what a doorstopper it is [976 pages]. It’s massive! Did it really take you a decade to write? And what did it feel like when you’d finished?

It took 11 years and it was both a source of enormous relief and enormous anxiety when I finished it. Though the fact that I actually did still feels like a daily miracle because there was a long time when I thought I’d never reach the end.

You explore how families cope with having children who are in some way different from them – whether they’re autistic, schizophrenic, incredibly gifted or conceived in rape – by interviewing them, 300 in total. Did you not get to 150 and think, “Oh, that’ll do.”

I think the detail is necessary. The tension of the book is what all these experiences have in common but I also wanted to describe what each of them individually is like. I felt that I couldn’t write about the experience of families dealing with deafness if I only interviewed four families. I felt that you would only be telling the stories of four families. Whereas if you have 15 families and have also done a great deal of other research, you can make a claim that it’s a representation of the deaf experience.

(To read the rest of the interview, please visit The Observer.)