Narrated through the eyes of an older sister, we meet parents unprepared for the news that their son, Matthew, has been born with Down syndrome. In contrast to Matthew’s parents, strained by fears for Matthew’s and their own future, the narrator-sister expresses an unadulterated joy for her newest sibling. As the course of Matthew’s life unfolds, Penny does justice to the richness and complexities of a family with developmental disability. Robust characters leave the reader feeling part of the Parker family, at times hurting and at other times celebrating, as Matthew transitions through boyhood into adulthood.
As the first-ever student with Down syndrome to attend his public school, Matthew encounters episodes of heart wrenching discrimination and rejection. Matthew’s resilience and out pouring of love for others, however, heals the fears and stigma held by his classmates. Truly, the central theme that emerges from this story of Matthew’s life is not the limitations of his disability, but the incredible gifts he has for loving and uniting others around him. At his graduation, Matthew receives a standing ovation for his service to others, a cherished and valued member of the school community.
Told through the eyes of his older sister, this book draws attention to the importance of sibling relationships within families with a disability. Too often, this perspective surrounding disability goes unshared. However, as evidenced from this story, siblings provide important wisdom about drawing out and integrating the gifts of those with disabilities.
"Having a Down syndrome person in my life,” adds Penny at the end of the book, “has brought my family so much joy and laughter. My brother truly was a special gift" (p. 351).
The authenticity of this story will resonate with families of loved ones with Down syndrome while appealing to, and satisfying any reader. I highly recommend this book!
An Extra Ordinary Life is available for purchase by contacting the author email@example.com
Rebekah Flores is a Field Associate with Anabaptist Disabilities Network.