Monkeys and the Chair by Renee Oppenheim Peacock
If the “best books I’ve ever read” exist, then it stands to reason that the “worst books I’ve ever read” also exist. That’s not a mean statement, just how it is. I’m sad to say that this book is in the latter group. I had high hopes for it: the story of a disabled child and his triumph over his disability, written for the parents of disabled children. My children and I are disabled, and stories of success with disabilities are inspiring. That’s not what I found here, though.
I don’t want to hurt the author’s feelings and I know criticism is hard to take, even when it is given with good intentions. I do, however, hope she revises this book and re-releases it, because people with disabilities and their families need the hope that books like this could give them. Now for the hard-to-read (and write) part:
Book needs editing
As an editor, my thought while I was reading it was that this book is a first draft. It’s not ready, and I’m not referring to typos but to deeper problems that go beyond the kind of editing I do.
The author needed someone to come alongside and help her stay focused, because the disorganization gets in the way of the story and will keep the majority of readers from following along well enough to stay interested. It was extremely difficult for me to keep reading. Most people won’t put nearly that much effort into reading a book.
There is too much disjointed information—Monkeys and the Chair is all over the map. Isn’t the book supposed to be about her son and his triumph over his disability?
Monkeys and the Chair bothered me
As a reader, I found myself feeling much less sympathetic toward this woman than I expected to, and I don’t know why that is.
Is it her story-telling style, the rambling and distracted path the book took?
Was my BS meter triggered by something I couldn’t put my finger on? (I want to give her the benefit of the doubt; please understand that I am not accusing her of lying about anything!)
Is there some flaw in myself I hadn’t spotted before? I really can’t figure it out. All I can say for sure is that this book bothered me, and that’s something I rarely say, because I love books.
I’ve never been of the mindset that disabled people should be actively euthanized, and I’ve even had reservations about the thought of allowing them to die of their illnesses without taking “reasonable measures,” at least. That’s why it was so disturbing to me when a thought about euthanasia began to creep into the edges of my mind as I read this book, and it horrified me. Absolutely horrified me. I swatted it away instantly, before it could even take on words, aghast that the thought would even come close to my brain. Nonetheless, God forgive me, it did. Full disclosure requires me to say that I would not have been able to provide Josiah’s care if I had been his mother. I would never have been able to provide foster care for him in the first place. I’m glad that some people can do that, because most of us just can’t.
Some of his problems I would have been able to cope with, but not the way he couldn’t get comfortable and lashed out as he did—even though it’s understandable. I live with chronic pain of my own, and maybe that’s all the pain I can tolerate; I don’t know.
Here is what I do know: This is not a book I would read ever again. In fact, it was one of the most difficult-to-read books I’ve ever come across, and I couldn’t even finish it. After the first few pages, it required sheer determination to continue, and that dried up before I got to the last page. Out of the more than 15,400 books I’ve read so far in my life, it’s one of just a handful that I’d say “never again” about. It was too scattered and it was more about the author than it was about Josiah. The subtitle and cover image are misleading, and reading it was a painful experience. I’m glad Josiah had Renee Oppenheimer Peacock as his mother, and I hope things turned out well for him (I don’t know, because I couldn’t finish the book). Reading this book reminded me to be thankful that the challenges I’ve faced with my own children—though also very hard—were different in nature.
Disclosure of Material Connection: the publisher of this book gave me a free copy to review honestly, through the BookLookBloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review, as you can tell by reading this post. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”