An unflinching and luminous memoir that explores a father’s philosophical transformation when he must reconsider the questions what makes us human? and whose life is worth living?
Before becoming a father, Chris Gabbard was a fast-track academic finishing his doctoral dissertation at Stanford. A disciple of Enlightenment thinkers, he was a devotee of reason, believed in the reliability of science, and lived by the dictum that an unexamined life is not worth living. That is, until his son August was born.
Despite his faith that modern medicine would not fail him, August was born with a severe traumatic brain injury as a likely result of medical error and lived as a spastic quadriplegic who was cortically blind, profoundly cognitively impaired, and nonverbal. While Gabbard tried to uncover what went wrong during the birth and adjusted to his new role raising a child with multiple disabilities, he began to rethink his commitment to Enlightenment thinkers - who would have concluded that his son was doomed to a life of suffering. But August was a happy child who brought joy to just about everyone he met in his 14 years of life - and opened up Gabbard’s capacity to love. Ultimately, he comes to understand that his son is undeniably a person deserving of life.
A Life Beyond Reason will challenge listeners to reexamine their beliefs about who is deserving of humanity.
“Gabbard writes with wit and humility about how caring for August prompted him to reexamine his deepest assumptions about the value and purpose of human life. This book should be required reading for parents, caregivers, teachers, and doctors.” (Rachel Adams, author of Raising Henry)
“A Life Beyond Reason is an extraordinary book, telling a story that needs to be told - and heard. It is a story of extreme caregiving . . . . It is also a story of enduring love, and the way that loving someone with a disability can change your world . . . . This bracingly unsentimental book is moving, illuminating, and deeply rewarding.” (Michael Bérubé, author of Life As Jaime Knows It)
“Stunning.” (Terry Castle, author of The Literature of Lesbianism)
What members say
Good story, poor narration
This book was a very sad story about medical malpractice but the case never proceeded. The narrator though was not suitable for this book. It needed a gentler tone than the more abrasive narration it has. If books are redone I hope this one is.
Absorbing, well-crafted memoir
By turns humorous, heartbreaking, and wise, this forthright memoir brings to light the everyday battle between progress and intuition, intellectual reason and heartfelt commitment. In telling the story of raising his son August, Chris Gabbard addresses many issues pertinent to disabled people: the role of caregivers (or dependency workers), the cycle of over-attention and resignation of the medical community, and the social and philosophical pressure to "normalize" a disabled child. Gabbard relies on his training in 18th-century literature to anchor this narrative – a narrative that makes its discoveries in an engaging non-linear way. This is a beautiful story.