A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny. By Amy Julia Becker. Bethany House (2011).
Book review by Kathy Dickson
In A Good and Perfect Gift (Bethany House, 2011), author Amy Julia Becker takes us on a journey of experiencing the unexpected at the birth of a child. Shortly after the birth of their first child Penny, Becker and her husband learn that their daughter has Down Syndrome.
The journey begins in the wilderness of being new parents, with the added questions, fears, and stereotypes that come with an extra chromosome. We follow the Beckers’ continuous growth into a deeper love and appreciation for this child, who they come to fully receive and embrace as a gift. The book is written with all the rawness and authenticity of Becker’s vulnerabilities, fears, and hopes. I recommend this book to any new parent, and certainly to any parent learning about Down Syndrome.
While Becker gets to know her daughter for who she is, so do we, the readers. As she comes to terms with the meaning of the words “Down Syndrome” and all that comes with this diagnosis, so do we. Through her journey, Becker struggles with not only the meaning of disability, but the joy and beauty of the life of her daughter.
As a reader who grew up loving and being loved by an aunt with Down Syndrome, twenty-one years my elder, Down Syndrome was not a threat, and I never experienced my aunt as a tragedy. I learned at an early age that the things that made Debbie uniquely Debbie were not so different from the things that made me uniquely me. At times, I wanted to reach into the story and tell Amy Julia the same things other family members of persons with Down Syndrome told her in the book—that it would all be ok, and that her daughter and family would have a beautiful life.
Just as Penny and Debbie are gifts to us, it was a gift to journey with Becker through their family’s story. Becker’s voice made me ever more curious about my grandmother’s or any new parent’s experience who learns their child has some sort of difference from “typical” at birth.
The authenticity of Becker’s grief, her hope, her darkness, her faith, and her celebration of her daughter’s life left me celebrating with her, and all families and friends who embrace difference in the light of the one who gives all life. In honor of this journey, and of yours, I hope you will read this book.
Read Amy Julia Becker’s blog, “Thin Places.”
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Kathy Dickson is a Field Associate and ministry intern with ADNet, studying at Methodist Theological School in Ohio.