Far From the Tree
Andrew Solomon set out to study families in which the children were very different from the parents, children born deaf, dwarfs, autistic children, children with severe physical disabilities, prodigies, schizophrenics, and others including children who turned out to be criminals or were conceived through rape. And what an extraordinary book he has produced. The full title is Far From the Tree: A Dozen Kinds of Love. A huge amount of research went into it including interviews spread over nearly twenty years, some with people Solomon visited again and again. The stories he heard were sometimes terrible, almost always deeply moving. It turned out that schizophrenia was one of most difficult conditions to deal with, because of the way it seemed to erode personality. He talked to the parents of Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine killers and the mother ended by saying: ‘I know it would have been better for the world if Dylan had not been born. But I believe it would not have been better for me.’ Again and again he heard something similar. His conclusion was that ‘Parenting had challenged these families, but almost none regretted it: they demonstrated that with enough emotional discipline and affective will, one could love anyone.’ The research was fuelled by his experience of growing up gay in a heterosexual family and he came to realise that it was also a means of subduing his anxieties about becoming a parent. The last chapter is an account of how it gave him the courage to have a child himself.