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In Sickness and in Health: Love, Disability,…

In Sickness and in Health: Love, Disability, and a Quest to Understand the…

by Ben Mattlin

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Author Mattlin, who has spinal muscular atrophy, takes the reader through the stories of interabled romance: the joys, the trials, the highs and the lows of couples where one is able-bodied and the other is disabled. From raising a family to the perceptions of outsiders to the financial costs to the decisions they make, Mattlin strives to give the reader the stories of these couples that is beyond the "inspiration porn" or other awful tropes the media sometimes uses.

Divided into 3 parts the book looks at various couples of a variety of backgrounds, ethnicities, abilities and orientations. Most of these individuals are just regular people who you might now: your neighbor, a relative, your co-worker, a fellow member of your Meetup group, a classmate, etc. Through a series of essays we get glimpses of each couple and their lives.

I have to say, I'm disappointed. I was looking forward to the book and did find it very informative. This is definitely an area I don't know a lot of about and did learn a lot. And I definitely want to read more of these stories and hope we get more.

But I found the writing really pedestrian. I found the review in 'The Washington Post' very helpful since it reflected some of the concerns I had. The tone and snark wasn't a bother but the constant telling-style was.

I also have to give a bit of a side-eye to the chapter on John and Alison. The John here is John Hockenberry, who was accused by several women of sexual harassment and inappropriate touching. To be fair these allegations came out after the book was written, but the WP reviewer is right that Mattlin does seem a little star-struck (and that is made clear in the text). I'm not saying Mattlin knew and I'm not sure what he/the publisher should (or could) have done but I just felt a bit skeptical with that chapter.

But as I don't share the experiences of these individuals I did appreciate overall what the book was trying to do. Glad I borrowed it from the library and would recommend that method if you're interested. ( )
  acciolibros | May 5, 2018 |
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Ben Mattlin’s wife, ML, recalls falling in love with his confidence and sheer determination. On one of their earliest dates, he persuaded her to ride on his lap in his wheelchair on their way home from an Elvis Costello concert. Thirty years later, they still travel like this from time to time, undaunted by the curious stares following them down the street. But In Sickness and in Health is more than an (3zsinspiring(3y sstory of how a man born with spinal muscular atrophy—a congenital and incurable neuromuscular condition—survived childhood, graduated from Harvard, married an able-bodied woman, built a family with two daughters and a cat and a turtle, established a successful career in journalism, and lived happily ever after. As Mattlin considers the many times his relationship has been met with surprise or speculation by outsiders—those who consider his wife a (3zssaint(3y sor him just plain (3zslucky(3y sfor finding love—he issues a challenge to readers: why should the idea of an (3zsinterabled(3y scouple be regarded as either tragic or noble? Through conversations with more than a dozen other couples of varying abilities, ethnic backgrounds, and orientations, Mattlin sets out to understand whether these pairings are as unusual as onlookers seem to think. Reflecting on his own experience he wonders: How do people balance the stresses of personal-care help with the thrill of romance? Is it possible that the very things that appear to be insurmountable obstacles to a successful relationship—the financial burdens, the physical differences, the added element of an especially uncertain future—could be the building blocks of an enviable level of intimacy and communication that other couples could only dream of? What emerges is a candid glimpse into the challenges and joys of interabled love—from the first blush of sexual awakening to commitment and marriage and through to widowhood.… (more)

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