Named one of the Top Books of 2011 by Publisher’s Weekly.
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Amy Julia Becker always imagined that her children would turn out just like her. So when her daughter Penny entered the world with Down syndrome, Becker had to rethink everything.
Beyond tackling the day-to-day whirlwind of doctor visits, child development experts, insulting comments from well-meaning friends and even her own prejudices, Becker comes face to face with terrifying emotions. Worry that Penny would die early or that she wouldn’t be able to live on her own. Sorrow over the thought that Penny might not know deep love from another person. And her darkest fear, that Becker herself wouldn’t know how to love her daughter.
But love, love from Penny, love from her husband, love from friends, and love from God – finds a way to pick Becker up out of her fear and into faith. Instead of being a parent crippled by control and expectations, she finds freedom and joy in loving Penny and watching her thrive in who she was perfectly created to be.
A GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT is more than just a narrative that spans the first two years of Amy Julia Becker’s new life with Down syndrome. From the initial dark moments in the hospital to the light and laughter Penny brought into the family, it is a story of a remarkable little girl who surpassed expectations. It is the story of a young couple coming to terms with their first-born child being different than they anticipated, and eventually receiving that child as a precious gift. It should appeal to any reader who wonders how grief can be transformed into joy.
If you are interested in Amy Julia’s more recent writing about Down syndrome, Penny and disability, check out her blog, as well as her facebook page. She also includes more recent stories about Penny in both of her books Small Talk and White Picket Fences.
Praise and Reviews
“This excellent and moving book about Penny as a wonderful gift should be read not just by parents of people with disabilities but by all of us who should discover the beauty of those who are different.”
-Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche and winner of the Templeton Prize
A Good and Perfect Gift is loving, thoughtful, and full of just the kind of spiritual questions that so many family members – including those who aren’t Christian, like me – have had, too. It’s sweet and lovely, and I’m very glad it exists.
-Rachel Simon, bestselling author of Riding the Bus with my Sister and The Story of Beautiful Girl
Amy Julia Becker has the courage and grace to tell the truth. Whether you are a parent or not, whether the children in your life are “typical” or not, her story will shake you, change you, and encourage you. In a world obsessed with achievement and perfection, A Good and Perfect Gift opens the door to a much more excellent way.
-Andy Crouch, Author, Culture Making
It takes faith to turn an unmet expectation into something delightfully exceptional, and Amy Julia Becker learned to do just that when Penny was born. Poignant and powerful, the world needs more stories of inspiration like this one!
-Joni Eareckson Tada, Joni And Friends International Disability Center
It has been said there are places in our heart we do not even know until the heart is broken. A Good and Perfect Gift is the moving story of how Amy Julia Becker and her husband found their hearts broken – broken open, wide and deep – through the arrival of their very special child. There is beauty here – in the writing, in the story, told with deep feeling and faith but not sentimentality. I recommend this book highly, not only to parents with a special child, but to all who seek to discern what God gives us through some of our most painful times.
-Leighton Ford, author, The Attentive Life
Do not be fooled. This is not a typical book about disabilities, sorrow and triumph. This is a book about a mother who loves her daughter. “I needed to see her as our little girl, not as a diagnosis, not as an obstacle to overcome.” This is among the best books I have read about the true power of the powerless.
-Christopher de Vinck, author, The Power of the Powerless
A forthright account of a how a mother used her religious faith to come to terms of adjustment, acceptance, and love for having a child with Down syndrome.
-Dr. Carl Pickhardt, psychologist, author, child development expert
Amy Julia’s rare gift with words-descriptive, vulnerable, penetrating- bring to life a message of joyful contentment inspired by her daughter Penny.
-Susan Alexander Yates, author and speaker
Amy Julia Becker makes herself vulnerable to enlighten us, not just about Down syndrome, but about the intrinsic gifts of life. Amy Julia’s daughter Penny is the pure heart by which many assumptions are exposed. This book is a must-read, and not just for families and friends of children with Down syndrome.
-Sara Groves, singer and songwriter
Questions for Discussion Groups
Over the course of the narrative, Amy Julia’s understanding of the nature of perfection changes. How did she originally understand perfection, and how does Penny’s life change that concept? How do you think our culture thinks about “the perfect life” or “perfect children”?
What needed to happen for Amy Julia to be able to receive Penny as a gift?
Have there been times in your life when your expectations weren’t met? How did you adjust your desires and expectations to match your new reality?
Amy Julia and Peter decide to have Penny baptized even though at one point Amy Julia had been opposed to infant baptism. Why does she change her mind?
Amy Julia and the other women with children with Down syndrome share their stories surrounding prenatal testing. What problems exist because of prenatal testing? Is there anything good that comes of it?
On page 167, Amy Julia shares a journal entry about her hopes and fears. What is she most afraid of? How are those fears addressed?
In the beginning of the story, Amy Julia and Peter talk about how they would take away Penny’s extra 21st chromosome if they could. By the middle of the narrative, they aren’t sure any longer. What do you think they would say now? Why? Having read this story, how would you answer this question?
Amy Julia writes about accepting the limitations that come with Down syndrome. She also writes about the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” How do these parents both accept Penny for who she is and push her to overcome expectations at the same time?
Amy Julia struggles throughout the book to understand why Penny has Down syndrome. Does she ever understand it?
Have their been times in your life when you have wanted to know “why” something happened? How have you handled it?