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Cleft Heart Paperback – November 25, 2013
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Top customer reviews
It has a universality in that we all need to connect––to communicate––with other people. Whether we have complications because of a speech impediment or shyness or acne, each of us is alone, reaching out for the interconnectedness of human kind.
Schonborn writes plaintively of an early inability to connect:
"But nothing compared to the pain in my heart. It reminded me of my first public humiliation years ago when my mom inadvertently left me with a group of strangers for a minute. Judgmental eyes and headshakes shamed me after I made a simple statement in front of the group. Wanting to redeem myself at once, I screwed up my face and courage and concentrated on enunciating during a second attempt.
As the words started in my throat, I contracted my lips, tensed my cheeks, and gritted my teeth to make the words more intelligible. But to no avail. By the time the words emerged, they still sounded nasal and whiny as if coming from an underwater source. Upon hearing my second try, the people staring at me needed no further proof, given my scarred, asymmetrical face. A couple called me names I didn't understand. Most turned their backs and left. I stared at the ground until Mom reclaimed me. I felt awful until I told Mom. We both cried then."
Schonborn wasn't completely alone because he had such a strong relationship with his mother, who championed his causes and made sure he received the medical treatment and speech therapy he needed. As his voice and face became more "normal," the still young boy embarked on a friendliness campaign to extend his connection to the world. And all the while, he stood up to bullies who taunted and mistreated him.
Schonborn also travels Forrest Gumpishly, though with a much higher IQ, through the history of the United States during the '40s, '50s, and '60s. He takes part in the beginnings of Silicon Valley, learns about non-violence from Joan Baez and her cohorts, and encounters future Secretary of State John Kerry during their college days. Cleft Heart includes a captivating endorsement by Kerry. Schonborn travels much of the world as a young man, on the literal and figurative road to maturity–a maturity he needs desperately when he faces a major loss.
Schonborn writes in the voice of a person with a great deal of perception, yet he maintains a sense of humor throughout much of the book. Cleft Heart: Chasing Normal earns The Janie Junebug Highest Seal of Approval.
I had the pleasure of working as one of the editors on this book. After it was published, I intended to scan it before writing my review, and instead ended up reading the entire book again because I felt so caught up in it.
Karl became successful through hard work. His deformity and the bullies who harassed him pushed him to study medicine and ways to avoid violence. He's a great wordsmith, and funny, too. All manner of readers will find Cleft Heart an engaging and enlightening memoir. Moreover, healthcare professionals should read this book. It's the only one about a cleft by a person with a cleft.
Healthcare providers who aspire to treat the person, not just the disease, will love that Cleft Heart allows them to see beyond the early years of surgery. They'll see how this common birth defect influences the lives of their patients for years to come.
Educators, librarians, healthcare providers, and all y'all (I can't believe I just wrote all y'all; stop me before I turn into a southerner) can benefit from reading Cleft Heart and watching how Karl goes about promoting it. He is not one to give up, and I don't want you to give up, either.
If you’re like the rest of us, “Cleft Heart, Chasing Normal” is a valuable lesson in honesty, courage and indomitable human spirit that will open your heart and enrich your life.
Like “Catcher in the Rye,” it’s the saga of a boy, then young man, trying to find himself against great odds. Unlike “Catcher,” this story is true, chronicling not just psychological doubts but also a physical challenge — a challenge often left in the shadows of our consciousness (and consciences) to the delight of a few cowardly bullies who disguise gaping flaws in their own souls behind contempt for another’s lack of perfection.
Though an autobiography, “Cleft Heart” reads like a novel. It had me on the edge of my faux-leather recliner and was hard to put down. Clearly it took great courage to write this book, more certainly than you and I have, given the many personal revelations and struggles author Karl Schonborn reveals in painful detail. He is a master storyteller who has created an inspirational and motivational piece for everyone who has ever been or felt like an outlier.
The Bully in "Cleft” is a bit arch and without redemption, but no doubt people like him are never in short supply, especially in their youth. I found myself hoping the author would just smack him silly a couple of times (old-school bully repellent, you know), but practical restrictions made that unlikely.
Schonborn’s bullying tormentor also foreshadows one of the book's themes, learning to resolve differences among people and nations with more intellect than muscle. The author’s ultimate revenge against the bully is priceless and non-violent. "Cleft" does beg more resolution of the Bullyboy, but questions about his evolution, if any, go unanswered. My guess: retired, successful political operative living in posh Marin County.
Again, this is a courageous book. Not just from the standpoint of one’s physical struggles, but also from the honesty the author displays in revealing his thoughts and emotions throughout, especially during his self-financed, working world tour. Many have thought, "How could I let her go; no one will ever love me again," but few have the guts to write it.
Aside from the many insights, the sometimes gripping drama and philosophical wisdom, this life story itself is compelling. Quite a journey, albeit just Schonborn's youth, so one can hope there may be a sequel in the works about his later life. If so, place my order now.
Most recent customer reviews
Schonborn's stories and characters ring true.Read more