Wednesday, October 9, 2013

"Sun Shine Down" by Gillian Marchenko. Reviewed by Stephanie Sumulong

"The sun will shine again" was a quote that author Gillian Marchenko cut out and taped up in her home.  It came from an email a friend sent to her shortly after the birth of her third child, Polina (Polly for short), who was diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Gillian's memoir chronicles her journey to acceptance of her new role in the world of special needs, Down syndrome, Early Intervention, and therapy appointments.  She also realizes along the way that her daughter is at first a baby, not a diagnosis.

What I found most interesting about Gillian's memoir is that she had the added perspective of giving birth to her daughter in the Ukraine where people with disabilities essentially do not exist.  The beginning of the book tells of a cold pediatrician that basically tells Gillian and her husband that she will understand if they want to leave the hospital without their child and sign their rights away.  This was in 2006 and that scared me:  the mind set in many Eastern European countries is still this way.

Gillian also bares her soul by the telling readers how she coped with her new daughter's existence and while it wasn't the way I personally coped, I know many moms have coped in the same way in order to shut off their feelings and the depression that can often follow an at birth diagnosis that no one was expecting.  What I liked most about this memoir is that she was so honest and upfront about her feelings; there was no hiding behind the words.  It is a very raw and emotional memoir and it is very real.

Eventually the sun would shine down again and the realization that Polly is just like her other daughters (and, as her husband Sergei says, "looks just like a Marchenko") would sink in for Gillian, which happens for most other parents who have a child with Down syndrome.

This is definitely worth a read by all parents, not just those who have a child/children with Down syndrome.  I think Gillian's thoughts about trying to deal with a situation she didn't ask for and trying to maintain an outward happy persona are things that many people can relate to.  Two thumbs up!