Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Birth Memoir Tackles Grief, Disappointment and Finding Beauty Where You Least Expect It

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Kelle Hampton is the kind of woman who plans things down to a T.  Including the birth of a child.  As her belly swelled in anticipation of her first baby's arrival, she wrestled with every last detail to ensure the event would go off perfectly.  The 31-year-old knew who would be in the delivery room when her baby came (her husband and best girlfriends), what they would listen to while she pushed (carefully-selected birthing music), which outfit she would don while receiving visitors (a slinky nightgown and a tiara), and that she would distribute handmade party favors (yes, really) to everyone who stopped by to see the newborn.  Everything about the day would be perfect.  Absolutely flawless.  

Then, Nella Cordelia arrived.  With Down syndrome.  And all of Kelle's work toward having the perfect birth experience with the perfect baby flew out the door.  Because, despite her obsessive planning, the baby in her arms was far from the one Kelle had been expecting.  Although she looked as pink and round as the healthiest infant, Nella carried an extra chromosome—and that made all the difference.  As Kelle absorbed the devastating diagnosis, she went through every possible emotion.  Bottom line: she had to learn to love her baby.  The question was how to do so when she felt so scared, so let down, so helpless. 

Kelle found the process so difficult that she poured out all of her feelings about it on a blog that became enormously popular.  In 2012, her blog entries, along with dozens of family photos, were assembled and published as the best-selling memoir, Bloom.  And it's a lovely book, in lots of ways.  The photographs are striking, the prose stirring.  The journey Kelle recounts feels so real and raw that it's almost as if it's happening right here, right now, to you.  It's touching, no doubt about it.  Because even as Kelle recalls even her ugliest thoughts and emotions, she does it with a sincerity that underscores her ultimate message—beauty can be discovered in even the most surprising packages. 

Now, I admit that I almost set this book aside a few times.  The prologue made me roll my eyes and wonder if I could really relate to an adult woman who wore a tiara while receiving visitors in the hospital.  But I persevered.  Later, as Kelle took two hundred pages to work through her grief and disappointment, I found myself more than a little irritated with her self-indulgent whining.  It's eloquent whining, don't get me wrong, but since I'm more of an accept-what-you-can't-change-and-move-on kind of person, it grated on my nerves.  As did Kelle's constant neediness.  Still, I appreciated the honesty and passion with which Kelle told her story.  And even though the book isn't really about the ins and outs of parenting a special needs child, it is about learning how to accept them, to nurture them, and to endow them with the fiercest, most empowering gift you can give them—your undying love.  I can get behind that message, even if it comes from a whiny woman wearing a plastic tiara.

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:  B

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG-13 for language (no F-bombs), and very mild sexual innuendo/content

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Bloom from the generous folks at Harper Collins via those at TLC Book Tours.  Thank you!

5 comments:

  1. I had the exact same thoughts while reading the description and am glad I read your review... the idea of the book sounds good, but the whining would totally bother me. Don't think I'll be paying this one any attention.

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    1. I'm not saying the book isn't worth the read, only that the author drove ME crazy. Her personality just seems SOOOO needy and obsessive that I could hardly stand it!

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  2. I had a totally different experience with this book! :)

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    Replies
    1. I figured I would be in the minority on this one and that's fine. Like I said to Jenna, it's not that BLOOM is a bad book or that I don't recommend it, just that the author, herself, made me crazy.

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  3. I'm glad you were able to appreciate Kelle's growth even if you didn't always appreciate the journey.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour

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