Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon
Published by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
Review copy received at SIBA
Far From the Tree, which came about after Solomon conducted ten years of research, stems from the idea that diversity is more uniting than it is dividing. He investigates parents who have children with various needs and issues different from their own – the book covers dwarfism, autism, deafness, schizophrenia, Down’s Syndrome, severe disabilities, children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who are criminals, and who are transgender. Each of the parents Solomon studies are dealing with different specific challenges, yet their experiences are curiously similar. The idea for the book was inspired by Solomon’s own difficulties in being accepted by his family, and by himself, for his identity as a gay man, and his decision upon arriving at this acceptance to become a parent.
I was handsold this book at SIBA and let me tell you, I did not want to read it. The ARC is 700 pages plus 300 more of appendices, sources, etc., and it was way overwhelming for me. However, I was so captivated by the rep’s unabashed love for this book that I couldn’t say no. And after it sat on my shelf for a few months, I realized that I really needed to dive in and give it a try, if not so I could decide it wasn’t for me, pat myself on the back for trying, but ultimately give up.
But that is not what happened! Because oh my gosh, Far From the Tree is amazing. Brilliant. Gorgeous. It made cry. It made me laugh. It made me shake in terror at the idea of being a parent. But also, hope someday to become a parent and love my child as unselfishly and as completely as these parents love theirs. There are not enough words, not enough ways to explain, how much this book touched me. It’s that fantastic.
The book is epic in scope, it is clear within 10 pages that Solomon lived and breathed this book for the decade he was working on it. It is also clear that writing it was cathartic to him, a labor of love in many ways, and that shows in the writing and in his interactions with these families. He fell in love with a lot of these kids, and admired a lot of these parents. He is not without criticism in parts, but it is obvious he is way more open-minded than many people would be, and ultimately he approaches every family with love and an open heart. It is really something to behold, not easily explained. This book asks hard questions and doesn’t provide easy answers, but it will turn your brain on and make it do some work, in a good way.
Honestly I can’t think of anything else to say that will clarify what exactly is so captivating about Far From the Tree but it is so, so good. There are endless things about this book that make it discussion-worthy and beautiful and shocking and sad and hopeful but it is just an all-around amazing read. Don’t miss it.