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A Different Kind of Normal

by Dominic Lawson

Writers of fiction know that, however many words they write, the opening ones are the most important if the reader is to be seized. Andrew Solomon has applied the method to his latest work of nonfiction.

He begins with the statement: “There is no such thing as reproduction.”

In biological terms, this is nonsense: when couples bring forth offspring, their genes are most definitely reproduced, albeit in distributions that are not predictable.

But Solomon is trying to get across the point that children are always their own person, a stranger – and in some cases, utterly different from anything their mother and father could ever have anticipated. In no cases is this truer than when the child has a disability; this is Solomon’s theme. He has interviewed 300 such families; the resulting 962-page tome is the reduction of more than 40,000 pages of transcripts.

(To read the rest of the review, please visit the Times website.)