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50 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Must Read Memoir
Breathtaking.

I found Kelle's blog about a year ago, and I remembering spending a full two days catching up on three years of entries I'd missed. It's bookmarked on my browser, and I never miss an entry. I love her zest for life, her honesty, and the way she pushes herself to have a positive outlook. This book made her experiences and her more "real" and...
Published on April 3, 2012 by Anne

versus
108 of 127 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars If this is what Kelle Hampton fever is all about, I don't think I want to catch it.
Did I read a completely different book than other reviewers here? Bloom does not impart "unexpected wisdom" and it isn't a truly "transformative" memoir. It isn't the triumphant and inspiring look at overcoming challenges that I expected to read.

Hampton is shattered - paralyzed - by her daughter's Down syndrome diagnosis, because it puts a wrench into the...
Published on April 26, 2012 by April R.


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108 of 127 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars If this is what Kelle Hampton fever is all about, I don't think I want to catch it., April 26, 2012
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This review is from: Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected--A Memoir (Hardcover)
Did I read a completely different book than other reviewers here? Bloom does not impart "unexpected wisdom" and it isn't a truly "transformative" memoir. It isn't the triumphant and inspiring look at overcoming challenges that I expected to read.

Hampton is shattered - paralyzed - by her daughter's Down syndrome diagnosis, because it puts a wrench into the blueprint she'd created for the perfect life. Rather than "a love story between mother and child," Bloom is like reading a 278 page transcript from a counseling session where Hampton tries to justify her mistakes and figure out how to love herself and her "new" life. I guess the reader is supposed to forgive her as she forgives herself for her struggling and selfishness. I hoped while reading the book that Hampton would come to some significant realizations by the end, but it didn't really happen. She reveals that she isn't particularly proud of some of the things she's done (or thought) in the past, but she makes no apologies and basically says that she has good intentions and is starting to learn, so she chooses to rock her life and doesn't care what anyone else thinks of her. She never really faces that Down syndrome is a part of her life.

I don't understand all the hype about Hampton, who comes off in this book as insulated, self absorbed, immature and spoiled. In fairness, she is creative and a talented photographer, and her love for her family is clear. But Hampton revels in center stage throughout the book as she explores her own slowly evolving "transformation." In the end, she realizes that Down syndrome is not going to ruin her life, and that she may be able to face a different future than the one she wanted and planned. While it may be helpful for others to see that Hampton's fears about life with Nella were somewhat overblown, it is very odd that Hampton is being heralded for the realization. She's become a sort of celebrity, and she's bought into it (the book's Thank You section at the end was her version of an Academy Awards speech - ?).

Nella, the little girl with Down syndrome, is teaching her mom and the rest of the world about the beauty in *all* people. She is the real star of this show. I wish there'd been more about her. Instead of "a testament to the miraculous healing power of family, friendships, women, and forgiveness" (as another reviewer suggested), Bloom felt like a testament to the masking power of frothy cold ones, lipstick, false mantras, and Hampton's need to control everything in her path. Rating this book is as complicated as reading it. Hampton earns a point for candor, but loses it for lack of humility. What she earns for showing the ugly, she loses for painting it over. In the end, this back and forth of appreciating her honesty (and feeling compassion for her as a person), coupled with an overwhelming sense of her inability to see outside herself, made me question the depth of her transformation. Strangely, this book details the author's drunken escapades alongside more tender moments with her family, and is entirely focused in one way or another on the author's blooming, or pseudo-blooming (depending on how much the reader buys into the idea that Down syndrome is an enormous tragedy).

Adjusting to new realities and a new sense of normal is hard in general. But discovering your own faults and making the decision to love a child with Down syndrome is not heroic or Oscar worthy. This was an easy book to read, contains lovely photographs, and was entertaining in parts, but the lesson of the story was tainted by the author's hubris. There are much more inspiring stories out there, and there are other more realistic positive portrayals of coming to terms with a Down syndrome diagnosis. I'd recommend looking elsewhere.
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119 of 142 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected, April 15, 2012
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This review is from: Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected--A Memoir (Hardcover)
I recognize that I am giving this book a low rating and I apologize for hurt feelings. However, after reading the reviews and ordering the book (and as someone who has not read Kellie's blog), I expected this memoir to contain more information about her child.

This book is heavily focused on Kellie processing her feelings about her baby's Down Syndrome. I felt as if the book was 80% "I am so shocked/sad/adjusting my expectations/crying" + "my amazing friends came and told me they loved my baby just as she was"

After I read her book, I visited her blog and read that. I preferred her blog. Her mature perspective on her family was brilliant. Her shocked perspective as captured by the first year of her daughter's life made me sad. I think if you are a long time reader of her site, you probably feel like you are friends with her you will love it. If you are new to her site and looking for a book about raising a child with DS, I suggest you read Road Map to Holland: How I Found My Way Through My Son's First Two Years With Down Syndrome.
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125 of 150 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars "Bloom", Reviewed by Meriah Nichols of With a Little Moxie, June 13, 2012
This review is from: Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected--A Memoir (Hardcover)
Book Review, "Bloom" by Kelle Hampton. Reviewed by Meriah Nichols of With a Little Moxie ([...])

I had arrived in a comfortable place with my feelings regarding Kelle Hampton. I admired the money she raised for NDSS (assuming, of course, that the money isn't going to padded salaries but rather to assisting individuals with Down syndrome). Happy that she had toned down the seemingly endless tea-parties on her popular blog, Enjoying the Small Things, and had turned some attention to Down syndrome. Because, as you see, she had been lifted high by the Ds community and had accepted leadership but wasn't stepping up much - besides to stand behind podiums and accept awards.

It was a nice spot, that comfortable spot. It was warm and friendly and I rather liked tapping in to her blog from time to time to see what was new.

Imagine then my astonishment at cracking open her memoir, Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected and discovering almost immediately that it must have been written by an entire other.

Using broad strokes full of sweeping generalizations, worn platitudes, exhausted cliches and sophomoric adjectives, Kelle paints a picture of her life. Unlike Monet however, the painting does not become a masterpiece when viewed from a distance. Rather, it's becomes a mash-up of gloss, painted thick but smelling of tempera - which, when stormed upon, will run.

She starts her book off with her "perfect" life - a life full of friends, good times, fun, and things. Then she has Nella, her daughter with Down syndrome and she undergoes great pain and grief before transforming herself from someone who likes to have a good time and party while wearing great clothes, drunk - to someone who likes to have a good time and drink while wearing great clothes.

Speaking of drinking: Kelle and her husband Brett don't seem to ever talk about problems; rather, they drink through their problems. They have this "unspoken pact" to not "bring the other down" by talking about the things that have real meaning in their lives. Rather, Brett uses his "uncanny ability" in passing out the beers. In her (5 day) hospital stay with her heartbreak over having Nella, Kelle is with her friends while Brett brings the beer. The night she wrote her famous birth story - she wrote through her agony; Brett brought her beer. It seems that at every turn, they are "cracking a cold one." The former alcoholic in me got thirsty with all that drinking; the wife in me that relied intensely on her husband to pass through her own grief (and yes, despair) at bringing a child with Down syndrome into the world was absolutely at a loss as to how one could go through this without talking about it with one's partner.

Kelle's writing about the "hot" therapist and the "hot" doctor in the hospital does nothing for me in developing even a smidgen of a sense of admiration in the loyalty, strength and bond of her relationship with her husband, either. Rather, I was struck at the seeming senselessness of their union - why be together? Just to drink? Get wasted and skinny dip with the neighbors, as she writes of?

The content being what it was for me, I turned to look and absorb her actual writing - the business of crafting sentences, pulling them together with meaning. I think Kelle does a good job of writing in her blog, after all.

I felt lost in a maze of repetition, contradictions (in the very same paragraph!). She likes to cuss, yes, but unlike say, Bill Bryson, she doesn't insert a well-timed swear word into an elegant sentence, throwing the visual picture into quick comic relief. Nor is she like other authors who just have a potty mouth throughout and it's a part of who they are, with a writing style being wrapped tight around each and every cuss word. No, Kelle does not cuss like that - she cusses like she's out to prove how "bad ass" she is, that she's a "rock star" - and she really, really likes to call herself a bad ass rock star. She throws in her "hell" and her "damn" or whatever like it's going to hammer that final nail, firmly hanging her neon sign, but coupled with the melodrama with which she drenches her life, if feels a lot more like reading someone's embarrassing diary from high school than a book that is supposed to pack an inspirational punch.

"Bloom" being as far from an inspiration as a book could possibly be for me was actually depressing. Literally. It triggered an attack of depression. If this book is making bestseller lists (as it is), if this book is receiving great reviews (as it is), then its success obviously stems from the deep and essential pity that the general population feels for a young mother who receives a surprise diagnosis upon the birth of her child with Down syndrome. The success of this book hammers the point of how much further the walk of inclusion and advocacy remains, because I am confident there is absolutely no way this book could be successful on the basis of superior writing.

Furthermore, I honestly do not understand the portrayal she paints of herself as one who finds the good in all things, who fleshes out even the tiniest bit of the positive and "sucks the marrow out of life". Her life is one blessing after another. She has money. A full backing of friends. She has health, beauty. She even has a gay dad, for crying out loud! What more could one ever ask for? I would believe her ability to be a solidly bright and positive spirit if I saw something in her life - besides having a child with Down syndrome - which was truly a challenge. Getting burned like NieNie maybe. Or growing up poor - or ugly. Or teased. Or abused. Or just...something more than the awfulness of owning a house with 15-year old tiles and not wood floors...Or having a child with Down syndrome... sigh.

On the bright side - the photos - of which there are an abundance - are first-class. Kelle is in over half of them, so obviously some uncredited soul is highly involved. The ones she did take however, are lovely. The photos are extremely important in changing perceptions of Down syndrome, and I acknowledge her for making Down syndrome far more appealing to the mainstream US than it probably ever has - the gloss and "perfection" with which she continues to paint her life includes Nella. Nella - and therefore by extension, Down syndrome - is thus portrayed by Kelle while garbed in fashionable attire, at good angles, in lovely light and with fetching accessories.

I wish I liked this book. I didn't. I think that while she is a very good blogger, she is not a very good writer - living proof that there is a an enormous difference between handling a blog and writing a book. Furthermore, I am upset that she is a representative of the Down syndrome community, indeed she is the representative. I'd rather have George Estreich, Amy Julia Becker, Martha Beck or Kathryn Lynard Soper; people who truly know how to craft a memoir. People who have a maturity and depth of understanding regarding Down syndrome and disability that does not include laughing at their friend's drawing of stick figures of men with large penises under a table at an emotional meeting in which they are present as an honorary speaker.

Or, if they do, have the good sense to not write about it in their books.

[...]
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39 of 45 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars NOT a positive book--just one big PITY PARTY., December 5, 2012
This review is from: Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected--A Memoir (Hardcover)
I had to stop reading this book about 1/3 through. I tried to keep going, but it was torture. I have a child with Down syndrome. I realize that people have all different reactions to a birth diagnosis. However, Kelle Hampton walked out of the hospital with a perfectly healthy, beautiful baby, and yet her book is one big pity party after another. If I had read one more page about someone walking into the hospital room and sobbing with her, I think I would have thrown up. The title says "finding beauty in the unexpected" - I don't know when she got to that, but I didn't read much of anything that supported that part of the title.
The bottom line is, I would HATE for someone to think her experience is typical of all or most parents who have a surprise birth diagnosis. It's not.
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79 of 95 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Uplifting in concept, disappointing in practice, April 29, 2012
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This review is from: Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected--A Memoir (Hardcover)
I will first say that there are some very visceral and powerful passages in this book, the most poignant being Kelle's vivid description of the first 48 hours of Nelle's life. However, I found two fatal flaws with the book that overall left me with a feeling of disappointment upon it's completion:

1) The book does not technically do what the publisher's description promises, which is, "[take] readers on a wondrous journey through Nella's first year of life...in which a mother learns that perfection comes in all different shapes." Quite simply, there is very little detail about Nella herself and very few vignettes about Nelle's journey. The story is more about how Kelle became comfortable "being a parent of a child with Down Syndrome" rather than becoming comfortable "being Nella's mother." Kelle focuses primarily on how the outer world perceives her, rather than her journey accepting her specific daughter in all her wonderful perfection and imperfection. I do think she makes some progress towards this end along the way, but the book centers on her own internal struggles to be ok being a mom to an "imperfect child," and thus an imperfect life.

2) The author is unsympathetic and naiive in her "I'll ignore all research / resources on Down Syndrome and do this my own way" approach. While I believe that in the first few shocking weeks/months of adjustment parents should be able to grieve their situation and come to acceptance in whatever way feels right to them, Kelle's utter refusal to do even preliminary research into Down Syndrome holds with it strong repercussions that she doesn't acknowledge. When you decide to forgo the potential benefits of literature and resources on the psychosocial and physical aspects of a disability, I feel you must own the risks that you are taking. In this case, I feel the risk she took was that she remained uninformed about her daughter's potentially bright future for a much longer time than she would have if she had faced the resources earlier (yes, I read the passage where she stayed up late and looked at internet resources, but I feel she should have gone with the ones medical professionals had specifically suggested rather than reading the depressing Special Olympics youtube comments). By secluding herself from others with Down Syndrome and resolving to "do it her own way," she remained in an isolated bubble where her lack of information, in my opinion, fed into her insecurities and fears for her daughter. I have worked and volunteered with children with various developmental disabilities and I am no stranger to how difficult it can be, but I have also had wonderfully positive experiences...just like with "normal" kids.

I'm really confused as to why her example is held up as extraordinarily positive, because while she repeatedly proclaims that her outlook is positive, there was a strong undercurrent of fear and denial throughout the story. She was afraid to even face children and adults with Down Syndrome until she went to the large conference near Nella's first birthday, and I think it is no coincidence that this experience represented a turning point for her.

I do believe that some people will find this story helpful, particularly in the author's honesty and ability to admit the feelings that many might feel uncomfortable admitting. She also has some great descriptions of her interactions with her husband. Overall, however, I would recommend Martha Beck's "Expecting Adam," which I feel is better written, more interesting and faces the issue more head on.
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38 of 44 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't relate to the shallow, narcissistic author., January 5, 2013
This review is from: Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected--A Memoir (Hardcover)
I had never heard of Kelle Hampton until a friend recommended this book, perhaps because I have a nephew with down syndrome. After reading all the positive reviews I expected it would be a good read but I found Kelle a narcissist and her story contrived. She seems to have an obsession with perfection. Reading through the first few chapters I noticied the word perfect popped up every few sentences..

I felt sad reading her daughter's birth story. Kelle only focuses on how perfect everything was and how she loved the attention she was getting. Then her daughter was born and she admits how she wanted to run away with her other daughter and have her "perfect life" back again.

She did not talk about seeing her daughter and being worried about any other health issues or about what the future may hold for her daughter. She only seemed to care about how this had destroyed her perfect life. Then after a night of crying and wallowing in self-pity she decides she is over it and life can be perfect after all! Instead of admiring how she overcame the shock of having a daughter who wasn't "perfect" - she compares her one night of agony to the pain her friend who lost a baby at just a few months old suffered.... - I couldn't help but feel like she was only concerned with herself.

Yes, there are nice photos but the writing has no substance. There is a part in the book where she says she looks like she has Down syndrome because she has been crying so much so she decides to put on lots of make up and keeps telling herself to "fake it till I make it" - I think she uses this philosophy for everything. She glosses over everything rather than face up to reality. I found myself doubting whether everything was true, it seemed like many things were blown completely out or proportion. Did she really have no idea her daughter might have health issues? It seems so unrealistic that you could be that grief stricken and be over it again in just a few hours if you really thought your baby was perfectly healthy.

She leads a privileged life (she can afford to not work and has plenty of time to ogle hot men, drink beers, take photos of her little and spend all day at home Mama-ing and meeting with the friends who make up her net) and has a healthy baby! There are so many other parents with a child with Down syndrome who have a lot of health problems and this is not a book I'd recommend to them as it is not realistic. I don't know how anyone can relate to the life she tries to portray because it doesn't seem real. Nobody's life is perfect but for some reason she seems to try to convince us, and herself, that it is.
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62 of 75 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible writing but beautiful pictures, July 12, 2012
This review is from: Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected--A Memoir (Hardcover)
I am an avid reader of memoirs and also the mother of a child with Down Syndrome. While I could identify with some of the basic tenets of what the author experienced with regard to her grieving process and could appreciate the amount of soul-bearing involved to share some of that, to a large extent it felt over the top. I don't know if it was the fact that the writing was just so bad or if it was some sort of reflection on the author and where she is at on a maturity level. There was way too much drama, way too many long-winded introductions of various friends who were part of her "net", too little in the way making any sort of real spiritual or emotional conclusions as to how this child changed her, too many beer and "dude" references... and way to much of what another reviewer aptly called "The Kelle Show." It just felt narcissistic to me. I was looking for what I found in "Roadmap to Holland" and "Expecting Adam." It just wasn't there. I think this author has much growing up to do in terms of life living, emotional maturity and thinking outside of herself before she can write a decent memoir that draws the reader in, leaves them with some piece of insight. This read like the diary of a 9th grade girl, which was disappointing, particularly given what was supposed to be the subject matter. It was long winded, redundant, sophomoric and clearly terribly edited.

The photography is spectacular. I will say that.
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53 of 64 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Kelle Show, May 14, 2012
This review is from: Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected--A Memoir (Hardcover)
Having followed Kelle's blog for a couple of years, I knew I should have been prepared for how mawkish and self-centred this book would be. I only hope that Nella never reads it. I kept wanting to reach into the pages and shake Kelle. So much drama and hubris! So much cringeworthy description of "beers" and "dude" and "babe". Poor Nella - that's all I can say. Her mother has penned two hundred pages basically saying what an absolute nightmare the first year of her life was.

I felt like shouting "Kelle! It's Down Syndrome, not the incarnation of Lucifer himself!"

One line struck me, when she says something like "I realised it wasn't about Nella - it was about me." Sums it up, really.
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61 of 75 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars narcissism, immaturity throughout, July 27, 2012
This review is from: Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected--A Memoir (Hardcover)
As the mother of a special needs child, I would never recommend this bookto a parent of such a child. The author sounds like a self centered teenager. Would have liked to know more about Nella meeting her milestones, more about her husband's reaction. How unbelievably lucky she is to have 28 friends who will come to her rescue and even fly across the country to party with her in her hospital room. How lucky she is to have fashions so that she can photograph herself in glamorous shots. How lucky she is to have the finances to party, travel and buy whatever whenever she wants. And how lucky she is to only have been a single parent for 17 days. Wow, what about information and ideas about DS and its effect on the family, her parents, her stepchildren and her older daughter, not just her feelings and life interruptions. I hope she matures to find the real beauty in this precious child.
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47 of 57 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not as inspirational as I was hoping, July 22, 2012
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This review is from: Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected--A Memoir (Hardcover)
I was hoping this book would walk me through Nella's first year of life but instead it was all about her mother's feelings in regards to accepting being the mother of a Down Syndrome baby and how her friends and family supported her through it. Even though she goes into her feelings in depth, I still found most of it rather shallow and uninspiring and would have loved to know more about Nella and even Nella's father, in the few glimpses we get of him, he appears to be a solid, admirable and inspirational father. Good luck Nella, you are a gorgeous baby!
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Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected--A Memoir
Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected--A Memoir by Kelle Hampton (Hardcover - April 3, 2012)
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