Book Review: Life with Charley

I recently had the chance to read a memoir of raising a child with a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism: Life with Charley, by Sherry Palmer.

This was a fun read for me because Charley is an adult, and I love getting a glimpse into possible bits of our future with Sam. I know some parents of young children with Down syndrome prefer not to get that glimpse into the future, and I can certainly understand that—but for me, I enjoy seeing what life may bring in the future as we continue to watch Sam grow.

What I found in reading this book was that Charley is a total hoot! I found myself laughing out loud at many parts. The book doesn’t have a rigid structure as it follows the story of his parents adopting him and then raising him. Rather, it’s a series of stories of life with Charley—whatever his mother, Sherry, felt like sharing. Which sounds rather scattered when I type it, but really, it works for the book. It feels like a fun little romp through life with Charley.

One interesting thing about this book that’s a bit different from some other memoirs is that Charley’s parents are a pastor and his wife, so you get a look at what it’s like for a family heavily involved in the church to raise a son with special needs. The book isn’t heavily church-focused—it’s certainly not off-putting to people who aren’t involved in the church—but I personally found it fascinating to see when and where the family found acceptance…and when and where they experienced discrimination because of their son.

This is an uplifting book in general. Certainly, there are hard parts discussed. Charley is an eloper, for example—he wanders off, and on more than one occasion he is returned to his parents by the police. That’s a scary thing for parents of children with special needs to consider, but it’s a reality for many. But through it all, Sherry Palmer’s love and pride for her son shine through.

If you enjoy reading books that will give you a glimpse into life with an adult child with Down syndrome, this is a fun one.

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