Book Review: My Heart Can’t Even Believe It

This week, I had the chance to read My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome by Amy Silverman.

There are a lot of mommy blogs about Down syndrome—some of them good and some of them not to my taste—and some of those blogs have spun into books. Many of them are sort of memoirs of a parent’s experience with his or her child with Down syndrome. And, like the blogs, some are really good and some are just…well, okay.

My Heart Can’t Even Believe It falls into the “really good” category for me. Why? For one thing, it takes a slightly different approach than many such memoirs. Amy Silverman is a journalist by trade, and it’s clear that she’s a research junkie—something I can appreciate and understand well! For the book, she documents her dive down several rabbit holes, trying to get answers to questions that interest her about Down syndrome.

Many of these questions are science-based—for example, she very much wants to learn why people with Down syndrome rarely ever have curly hair, so she consults with some of the country’s top genetic experts to get an answer. (Spoiler alert: No one can give her a definitive answer on that one.)

I could really relate to that quest. I was at least the third generation in my dad’s family to have curly blond ringlets as a child, and then my first son inherited them, too. Both of my babies were born bald, but when we found out Sam had Down syndrome, one of the first things Chris and I both thought of was the hair. “I want him to have your curls to flip Down syndrome the bird!” Chris declared. It wasn’t so much the aesthetics of the curls as the fact that if Sam inherited the curls, it was, in our minds, some sort of odd proof that Down syndrome wouldn’t define him. (Spoiler alert: He has the fine, straight hair characteristic of people with Down syndrome. Second spoiler alert: Down syndrome doesn’t define him anyway.)

My Heart Can’t Even Believe It was full of such little quests for knowledge, and that really appealed to me as someone interested in little-known tidbits of information.

And, too, I just plain enjoyed the author’s voice. She’s very relatable and matter-of-fact, which I appreciated. She uses the dreaded R-word, which might turn off some readers, but she carefully examines the power of the word and how it got that way—and how language is fluid and that word might later morph meanings again.

Pick up a copy. It’s a fast, enjoyable read, and particularly if your child with Down syndrome is young, it’s a lot of fun to read about the author’s daughter, Sophie, who is now a pre-teen.

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