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Robert Rummel-Hudson – Schuyler’s Monster

February 28, 2008

25. Schuyler’s Monster: A Father’s Journey With His Wordless Daughter by Rob Rummel-Hudson (2008)

Length: 273 pages

Genre: Non-fiction; Memoir

Started: 27 February 2008
Finished: 28 February 2008

Summary: Schuyler Rummel-Hudson (pronounced SKY-ler, thankyouverymuch) is a young girl who was born without the ability to speak. The “Monster” of the title is Bilateral Perisylan Polymicrogyria, a rare congenital brain defect whose symptoms vary, but in Schuyler’s case, leaves her unable to produce sounds other than vowels. This book tells the story of this monster and of its diagnosis, but mainly of how it has affected the lives of their family, through depression, infidelity, several cross-country moves, heartbreak, fighting with doctors and school administrators over what’s best for their child, and of the generosity of hundreds of readers of Rob’s blog, and how they raised the money to buy Schuyler a Big Box of Words, so that this spirited, unique little girl could finally have a voice of her own.

Review: I will admit from the get-go that I am not the most impartial person to review this book. I discovered Rob’s blog in early April 2005, no doubt linked from some other website that was trying to help raise money for the BBoW. I remember very clearly spending the entire weekend reading through the archives and crying, crying over the heartbreak of Schuyler’s situation, but also over the beautiful language in which Rob expressed it. At the end of it, I donated some money (not much, maybe $25 or so, but I wished I could give more), and sent the link to everyone I knew. (Note: first time I’ve ever been thanked, albeit en masse, in the acknowledgements of a book. Cool.) Anyways, I’ve lurked on Rob’s blog since then, so the basic “plot” of the book was already pretty familiar to me.

Another reason that I am absolutely a biased reviewer is that I am a stone-cold sucker for any kind of daddy-daughter emotional moment. I’m not a particular crier, but daddy-daughter stuff doesn’t even have to be good, it can be treacly and emotionally manipulative (see: end of Armageddon), and I will be bawling like an idiot. But in this case, not only is this book packed with – in fact, entirely on the subject of – the daddy-daughter relationship, it’s actually good. Well-written, totally heartwrenching, brutally honest and introspective, and smart-assedly funny enough to make you smile through it all (on the subject of cutting the umbilical cord: “the primary reason I didn’t go for the idea was simple. I didn’t think I could resist the urge to predtend I was the mayor of Baby Town, with a big tall hat, a red sash and oversized scissors, ceremonially opening a new mall.”) I can’t say exactly how a new reader will react to this book, since I already knew the story and was already charmed by Schuyler and crazy about Rob’s writing from years of reading his blog, but I was deeply moved by this book, and I suspect my reaction will not be abnormal. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Of highest interest to parents, particularly to parents of “special needs” kids, but even so, I think anyone who likes their memoirs with a touch of sarcasm, a liberal dose of heartbreak, and an ending that leaves them full of hope would do well to check this one out.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

First Line: The first time we met Schuyler’s monster, it lay waiting to pounce, not from behind a rock or from the mouth of a cave, but peeking out from between the lab coats of two nervous and sad-faced doctors.

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