Saturday, March 20, 2010

Book Review - The Book of Kehls

When Bridget Moore left Ireland in 1865, she never suspected that along with her trunk and rosary beads, she was bringing Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy to New York City. It wasn't until Bridget was a grandmother, one who had buried four of her grandsons, that she realized she'd brought MD to the States, a disease that would haunt her family for generations. Years later, her great-grandchildren grew up under the elevated trains of Jackson Heights, Queens—and one of them was Christine Kehl O'Hagan, the author of this moving and insightful memoir.

Christine, her sister Pam, and their brother Richie played in the streets and attended mass every Sunday. But Richie had trouble walking. By the time he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, Christine learned that two of her mother's brothers—uncles she'd never known about—had died of MD. Christine eventually married and had a healthy son. But one day she saw her second boy, Jamie, struggle to climb onto the school bus—and she knew knew then and there that this disease would be with her the rest of her life.

Extraordinarily written, with much honesty and humor, The Book of Kehls is the engaging story of a family that has known love, courage, and heartbreak in equal measure—and survived.

My Thoughts: This is a sad but courageous story of one family that has been cursed by Muscular Dystrophy for years and years. Christine Kehl O'Hagan's family carried the gene for the disease, which strikes boys only. She had two uncles who died from the disease that she never even knew about, until she found their pictures hidden deep in the back of her Grandmother's closet. Christine's brother, Richie, was struck with the disease when he was very young. Almost as soon as he started walking, they noticed a problem. Richie lived to be 22 years old, when most DMD patients are only given until they are in their teens.
When Christine and her husband Patrick had children, they were blessed with two boys. The eldest, Patrick Jr, and Jamie....Jamie, who had unfortunately been passed the DMD gene. Christine stayed in denial as long as she possibly could, but poor Jamie could not even climb the steps to the school bus. Once they had a confirmed diagnosis, their lives took a dramatic turn.
This gritty, honest memoir was tough to read, but at the same time, very uplifting. Jamie knew that his life would not be long and accomplished so much in the short time that he was here. He passed away at the age of 24.

~"I don't know what I'll do if anything happens to you," I told Jamie some months before he died, a couple of pneumonias into the year. When he'd ask me how long I thought he would live, the same question that my brother had asked all of those years before, I'd simply told him that he wouldn't live to be old, that he shouldn't worry about long but instead, how deep.

"You'll be alright,", he said, staring into my eyes until I looked away, a conversation I remembered about a year later, on a Sunday afternoon, when Patrick called me into the living room to see a football play, and I came out of the bedroom to read him a poem. I hate football. He hates poetry. I don't know why it is that miracles come into our lives wearing toe shoes, yet the disasters show up in construction boots - but Jamie was right. We're alright.


  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (February 7, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312329563
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312329563


Cath said...

I think I'm going to buy this, though it sounds sad. Great, indepth review. Thanks!

Stephanie said...

This sounds fascinating ... and terribly heartbreaking. Thanks for sharing this book with us.

Lisa said...

I love to read true stories by real people and this one sounds really interesting. I cannot imagine losing a child--let alone watching one die slowly. I'm going to need to find this one.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin
Blog Design by Use Your Imagination Designs Enchanted Neighborhood kit by Irene Alexeeva