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Far from the Tree, by Andrew Solomon

by Judith Newman

We long for our children to be just like us, to pay us “what may be life’s most profound compliment: their choosing to live according to our own system of values.” But when they don’t—or can’t—what happens to our identity and theirs? These questions lie at the heart of Andrew Solomon’s extraordinary new book, Far from the Tree (Scribner). A gay son who could never entirely live the life his parents wanted for him, Solomon (whose chronicle of depression, The Noonday Demon, won the National Book Award) spent 10 years talking to parents whose children were profoundly unlike them: children with dwarfism, autism, schizophrenia, Down syndrome and transgenderism, as well as those born of rape and those who became criminals. Their stories are entirely unpredictable and offer us the full range of human experience—not only the horror but also the astonishing beauty—and in the end a Shakespearean sense that we are such stuff as dreams are made of.