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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book Review: "A Good and Perfect Gift"

TITLE: Good and Perfect Gift, A: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny
AUTHOR: Amy Julia Becker
PUBLISHER: Bethany House, 2011, (237 pages).

This is a touching memoir of a family living with a girl named Penny. Based on journals and reflections from October 2005 to August 2008, the author shares her spectrum of thoughts and emotions about conceiving her first child, receiving a shocking diagnosis, and living out a rich relationship with Penny.

Penny has Down's syndrome. She has something that the world typically calls 'retarded' or 'mentally challenged.' Let me use the metaphor of a showering process. In the struggle toward acceptance, the author and her husband initially bathe themselves with questions God both theologically and emotionally. They allow many well-intended friends and relatives to lather in their opinions of how best to see and take care of Penny. At the same time, medical professionals continue to guide them, brushing them with various therapies and tests on Penny. Gradually, the couple learns to accept that Penny, warts and all, is truly a gift from God. As they let God bring them into God's fuller perspective of life, they slowly and surely experience the showers of blessings from God, that with or without Down's syndrome, Penny is still their gift from the LORD. It takes the love of God to wash away our preconceived ideas and misguided sense of what 'normal' is.

"Penny wasn't a perfect child. Neither was William. We weren't a perfect family, and we never would be, at least not by the standards I would have set out for us years earlier. But we were coming close to our telos, our true perfection, because we were learning what it means to be human, what it meant to be whole." (237)
The journey to acceptance is long and sometimes arduous. Beginning with the pregnancy and the prognosis, readers are invited to journey with the author through the ups and downs of the thought of a Down's syndrome child, how the world will react, and how parents will need to cope. The struggle is hard. The fears make it harder. Such a process is eased with the counseling groups and advice available. The journey to acceptance begins not with a medical breakthrough but a spiritual promise: "Whoever receives this child, receives me." The final stage of the book ends with simply 'Just Penny.' No more. No less.

This book is less about a girl with Down's syndrome but more about the external responses and the inner struggles the rest of us have surrounding the presence of a person deemed 'abnormal' by most of the world. Everyone of us are more imperfect that we believe. Through this book, it reminds me about how God teaches us how imperfect we are through a 'good and perfect gift.' In this light, I appreciate how the author hones in on the very human person in Penny, that whatever the Lord has given, let none of us tarnish the good gift through our selfish perspectives. The best part of the book is this. For many of us, it takes someone that the world easily brands 'imperfect,' 'retarded,' or 'disabled' to teach us what it means to be human. Perhaps, through such people, we may soon realize that those of us deemed 'normal' are actually the more abnormal people. Perhaps, they reflect less of how beautiful they are, but how ugly we all are. Most of all, they teach us that God loves us as we are. Period.

Ratings: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free of charge from Bethany House Publishers without any obligation for a positive review. The opinions above are mine, offered freely for the benefit of the wider reading audience.

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