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Life With Charley Paperback – October 22, 2014
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From the Author
When a clergy couple has a baby it's big news. When they adopt a baby, it's even bigger news. But when they adopt a baby with special needs? Everyone is tested.
All the couple wants is to have a family. Little do they know that adopting a baby with Down syndrome breaks all the rules. What their family wants is to talk them out of it. Thus begins a phone-calling campaign of do-gooders warning of the pitfalls. Surely this couple has no idea what they are doing. Surely they realize it's a lifetime choice. What these well-intentioned people don't know is that it's the chance of a lifetime.
What the church wants is a typical pastor's family (The handsome, evangelical, eloquent Pastor. The thin, super-organized, perfect pastor's wife. The well-behaved, well-mannered preacher's kid). What they get is the polar opposite, and what they find out is that sometimes even church life is full of challenges.
Throw out the textbooks, step into the classroom of real life and meet a colorful cast of characters (demons and angels), as you journey through this honest, intimate, hilarious, and poignant look at the marriage between family, church, school, and community, the secret chaos of parenting an unpredictable special needs child, and the profound impact it has on all who open their hearts to unconditional love.
Add to that, a young man named Charley who is unimpressed with his Down syndrome, a refusal to be stereotyped, and an infatuation with girls. Mix in an obsession with going to the prom, and a peer tutor who sees past the barriers of disability, and dreams really do come true.
A love story twenty-one years in the making, Life With Charley is a powerful message of hope, faith, acceptance, commitment, and discovery. The reader will cringe, laugh,and cry (sometimes simultaneously) while learning from the unlikeliest of sources that the key to happiness is not in trying to fit in, but in just being yourself.
About the Author
Sherry Palmer has been a writer since she was able to hold a pen. Her stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Christian Family Soul (HCI, 2000), I'm Glad I'm a Mom (Harvest House Publishers, 2008) and Foliate Oak Online Literary Magazine. Her guest columns have appeared in The Breathitt County Voice, The Tennessee Star Journal, and Monroe Life magazine. A graduate of Spalding University's Low residency MFA program in Louisville, Kentucky, Sherry studied creative nonfiction with what she calls the greatest mentors and colleagues ever. She currently lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with her husband, Brad, their son, Charley, and their two ill-mannered cats, Gizmo and Gravy Train. Sherry's latest work, Life With Charley: A Memoir of Down Syndrome Adoption, is the result of a love story, twenty-four years in the making.
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Top Customer Reviews
From bringing the little guy home at just over two months old to watching him navigate and decipher the intricacies of high school, dating, death, personal space, and all the small inbetweens, Life with Charley jumps around from different ages and personal anecdotes as it gives us glimpses into his ups and downs. The author admits raising a special needs child is a marathon, but it’s one she details here in happy obstacle-conquering stories and life-affirming little snippets.
Again, if you’ve been around or had someone with Down syndrome impact your life, the book will probably hit home more than it would if you’re just giving it a casual look. That said, it’s not hard to find the universals scattered throughout the memoir detailing what it’s like growing up, fitting in, learning patience, and loving someone special. In the end, that’s what Life with Charley is really all about.
Palmer’s memoir is self-aware but not self-centered. She shares her own reactions to situations and experiences honestly, but the story is not limited by her perspective; we meet many other people who have also come into the lives of the Palmers and have shaped their Charley Experience along the way. Of course, being a family with the church, there were many moves, and these bring new opportunities for introducing Charley into new communities. Palmer shared the highs and lows learning how to let go, how to allow Charley to teach his ways, and to embrace help.
And it really is a unique story. I too have an adult son with Down syndrome and though I agree with the recurring themes of Palmer’s thesis: Unconditional love and What Charley has to teach us, our story does not parallel hers. Our boys are definitely unique to one another.
Palmer does an excellent job of recreating dialogue, it keeps the pace up, as well as the focus not soley on our storyteller. Again, this book is not the term that floats in pubishing circles, a Me-moir. That said, my favorite chapter is when the Palmers, “Re-Wed.” It is one of the chapters where we get to live inside of Sherry Palmer a bit more, see the world as a narrative through her eyes. After details of the day, the dress, the event, the crowd, it comes down to this: “It’s good to be reminded of your journey. The goods and the bads, who we were, who we are.” And it’s lovely.
Although the stories within Life with Charley span over twenty years, they are each told as separate nuggets. This is good if you are like me and have difficulty committing to a book that is over 400 pages. You can read, come back, read, come back. You will want to turn the pages, but if the length of the book deters your decision to buy, don’t worry! Small pieces is the way to go.
Lastly, I want to emphasize the quality and honesty of her voice. There is no sugar coating to a few of the trickier situations they have found themselves in, to the occasional heartache or to the fear that I expect nearly every mother feels for her son. By telling her own truths, she braves it all. The line that struck me most, “Writing isn’t easy. Writing means telling the truth when I want to lie.”