Disclaimer: I'm not a book reviewer. I don't do this as a profession. There are many more talented people out there who review books. However, I read books - tons of them. I don't know how many books I've read in my lifetime, but it could be close to 10,000 (that's probably an exaggeration) So I have a fairly strong sense of what good writing looks like. And although I can't always agree that a book is "captivating" (just because it's a classic, for instance), I can certainly come to appreciate another reader's opinion. So if you've read Bloom, feel free to debate with me.
And so it happened to Kelle Hampton, who wrote a heart wrenching blog post about her daughter's birth (when it was discovered she had Down Syndrome), and watched as the world shared the link, and then shared it some more.
Fast forward a couple of years, and the memoir is now on bookshelves. Bloom tells the story of Nella Cordelia's birth, and the family's realization that little Nella has an extra special chromosome. Interspersed in the present day story are short anecdotes from Kelle's own childhood (a bit of a dysfunctional family life, with a scandalous divorce in a tight-knit church community) and her life pre-children.
So...what's to like about this book? First off, it's gorgeous. The paper is coffee table quality, and about half the space is dedicated to Kelle's bright and airy photographs (who doesn't love photographs of the Floridian landscape? Is Floridian a word?). And if you're an avid reader of Kelle's blog, you'll be hit with her familiar style of writing. Her editors have clearly done a great job in keeping her "brand" in check.
Kelle provides just enough information to the reader to satisfy our curiosity, without over sharing. The book offers a very brief glimpse into her family life, her past and what she is working through at the present. But if you're looking for mud slinging or shocking stories, you won't find any. Just as Kelle's blog offers on a daily basis, this book is a tale of triumph - oh, and joy. Plenty of joy.
What's not to like about the book? Here's where my inner book critic eagerly jumps into the foray.
Her writing is somewhat repetitive. There are definitely chapters (or paragraphs) that involve family dialogue and stories, and these are the more interesting bits. The rest follows Kelle's style of grand similes and hyperbole, with quotations from the masters of poetry (e.g. Mary Oliver) thrown in here and there. Oh, and crying. Lots and lots of crying. She is clearly a creative, artistic and emotional individual, but it did grate on the nerves once or twice that the crying had to be described again.
And here's the other thing - if you're a parent of a child with special needs, this book (and probably Kelle's blog), might not be to your taste. Most likely, your days are not spent combing the beach for shells, and you may have a hard time summoning the "rah rah rah" attitude that Kelle imbibes. I can't imagine what a special needs parent goes through, but I know if my own life with a completely healthy child is any indication, I might maintain Kelle's optimism about 25% of the time. I'm British, what can I say. We love to whine and complain.
Despite some criticism, I liked this book, and I'll continue to read the blog. I look up to people with uncontrolled enthusiasm for life. I've always been attracted to positive women, and they represent to me the person I hope I may one day become (in another life of course...I'm still British in this life). When my house is a wreck and my child is screaming, looking at Kelle's blog doesn't make me jealous or sad. It just fills me with joy, and brings back memories of all the wonderful vacations my family spent together in Florida.
If nothing else, Bloom is the ultimate in self help. It's cozy, breezy, and warm, just like a Florida sunset. So grab your Pina Colada and enjoy. If it's not worth the $25 (in hardcover), it's certainly worth a trip to the library.