Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon
Parents, Children and the Search for Identity

77%

18 Critic Reviews

In my experience of the past few days you don't so much read Far from the Tree as cohabit with it; its stories take up residence in your head and heart, messily unpack themselves and refuse to leave.
-Guardian

Synopsis

From the National Book Award–winning author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression comes a monumental new work, a decade in the writing, about family. In Far from the Tree, Andrew Solomon tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so.

Solomon’s startling proposition is that diversity is what unites us all. He writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender. While each of these characteristics is potentially isolating, the experience of difference within families is universal, as are the triumphs of love Solomon documents in every chapter.

All parenting turns on a crucial question: to what extent parents should accept their children for who they are, and to what extent they should help them become their best selves. Drawing on forty thousand pages of interview transcripts with more than three hundred families, Solomon mines the eloquence of ordinary people facing extreme challenges. Whether considering prenatal screening for genetic disorders, cochlear implants for the deaf, or gender reassignment surgery for transgender people, Solomon narrates a universal struggle toward compassion. Many families grow closer through caring for a challenging child; most discover supportive communities of others similarly affected; some are inspired to become advocates and activists, celebrating the very conditions they once feared. Woven into their courageous and affirming stories is Solomon’s journey to accepting his own identity, which culminated in his midlife decision, influenced by this research, to become a parent.

Elegantly reported by a spectacularly original thinker, Far from the Tree explores themes of generosity, acceptance, and tolerance—all rooted in the insight that love can transcend every prejudice. This crucial and revelatory book expands our definition of what it is to be human.
 

About Andrew Solomon

See more books from this Author
Andrew Solomon is the author of The Irony Tower: Soviet Artists in a Time of Glasnost, A Stone Boat, and The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, winner of fourteen national awards, including the 2001 National Book Award, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and a New York Times bestseller, now published in twenty-two languages. He lives in New York and London with his husband and children.
 
Published November 13, 2012 by Scribner. 976 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, Political & Social Sciences, Parenting & Relationships, Self Help, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Dec 02 2012
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Critic reviews for Far From the Tree
All: 18 | Positive: 13 | Negative: 5

Kirkus

Good
on Jul 29 2012

An informative and moving book that raises profound issues regarding the nature of love, the value of human life and the future of humanity.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Sep 17 2012

Solomon’s own trials of feeling marginalized as gay, dyslexic, and depressive, while still yearning to be a father, frame these affectingly rendered real tales about bravely playing the cards one’s dealt.

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NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Julie Myerson on Nov 21 2012

Spending time with the parents...Solomon notes that to be in the room with them and their son “is to witness a shimmering humanity.”...It’s also a very accurate description of what he’s achieved in this wise and beautiful book.

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NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Dwight Garner on Nov 13 2012

Mr. Solomon’s first chapter, entitled “Son,” is as masterly a piece of writing as I’ve come across all year. It combines his own story with a taut and elegant précis of this book’s arguments. It is required reading.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Tim Adams on Feb 10 2013

In my experience of the past few days you don't so much read Far from the Tree as cohabit with it; its stories take up residence in your head and heart, messily unpack themselves and refuse to leave.

Read Full Review of Far From the Tree: Parents, C... | See more reviews from Guardian

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by EMMA BROCKES on Jan 23 2013

The book starts out as a study of parents raising "difficult" children, and ends up as an affirmation of what it is to be human.

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WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by Paul McHugh on Dec 17 2012

There is much to praise in "Far From the Tree." Mr. Solomon has found remarkable fonts of love and kindness in the mothers and fathers of children afflicted with severe problems, and he captures their lives in one touching anecdote after another.

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NY Journal of Books

Above average
Reviewed by Liana Giorgi on Nov 12 2012

...some readers may find Mr. Solomon’s comparing his own horizontal identity as a gay man to those of people with medical conditions such as Down syndrome or schizophrenia a somewhat hyperbolic approach.

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Star Tribune

Good
Reviewed by ANN BAUER on Dec 01 2012

Read from beginning to end, this is a raucous, joyful tribute that exalts all parents who love their alien offspring with molten force.

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Globe and Mail

Above average
Reviewed by Robin Roger on Nov 24 2012

If Solomon had balanced his book with a few more accessible examples, less shock and more reflection on the part of the reader might have been the result.

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The Washington Post

Above average
Reviewed by Lisa Zeidner on Jan 22 2013

...the overall approach is more journalistic than scholarly. Given the amount of material he has synthesized, Solomon might have offered more of an overarching theory about the qualities of the successful parents.

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USA Today

Excellent
Reviewed by Carmela Ciuraru on Nov 21 2012

Far From the Tree is a stunning work of scholarship and compassion.

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The Boston Globe

Good
Reviewed by Kate Tuttle on Nov 23 2012

The book’s sheer size can seem daunting, but Solomon is a storyteller of great intimacy and ease. It’s impossible not to be charmed by some of these voices...

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Oregon Live

Below average
Reviewed by George Estreich on Dec 29 2012

...Down syndrome, for Solomon, remains more illness than identity, and so the people who have it are missing...their individual voices are silent.

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Chicago Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by Reuters on Dec 27 2012

Regardless of whether a trait is viewed as an illness or an identity, he believes that the goal should be to improve the life conditions and minimize suffering for the types of families featured in "Far From the Tree."

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The New Yorker

Good
Reviewed by Nathan Heller on Nov 19 2012

Solomon, an assiduous journalist with an essayistic bent, is fascinated by the paradoxes of procreation...

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More

Good
Reviewed by Judith Newman on Nov 01 2012

Their stories are entirely unpredictable and offer us the full range of human experience—not only the horror but also the astonishing beauty—and in the end a Shakespearean sense that we are such stuff as dreams are made of.

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The Akron Beacon Journal

Above average
Reviewed by Brook Wilensky-Lanford on Nov 30 2012

Far From the Tree does occasionally get mired in sentimentality. He writes in the affecting final chapter, “I am unabashed by this book’s occasional whiff of rapture and reject the idea that beauty is the enemy of truth.”

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Patrick Priore 3 May 2013

Rated the book as 5 out of 5

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