In the mid-80's John and Martha Beck were two over-achieving Harvard grad students. They juggled their marriage, school and careers in order to parent their 18 month old daughter, Katie.
Their hectic life got even crazier when Martha found out she was pregnant again. What should have been a joyous occasion was hidden from colleagues who wouldn't understand the choice to put children above an academic career.
Expecting Adam documents Martha's extraordinary pregnancy. The Beck's were already experiencing many personal difficulties when they found their unborn child had Down Syndrome.
Martha writes candidly about her feelings during this time. She also discusses the reactions and perceptions of others. Relatives had a hard time accepting the diagnosis. Medical personnel and Harvard colleagues didn't think Adam should be born at all.
As readers, we see the dramatic change in the couple's perception of what's important in life. The author goes back and forth between her pre-Adam and current outlook. The birth of this special child made the couple realize that multiple college degrees did not provide the happiness they were seeking. As readers, we learn the family gave up the Harvard academic life and moved closer to their families. They credit Adam for showing them what mattered most in this world.
Through her pregnancy, Beck began to believe in angels. She is adamant that her son spoke to her in-utero and his conception was prearranged. This is pretty amazing considering the author's research background, so dependent on data and facts.
Even if you can't accept the angel theory, you must admit Beck's memoir is poignant. Humor flows freely and makes the story shine. The author's writing style is similar to that of Anne Lamott, who wrote Operating Instructions about her own son. Beck's words are refreshing. You don't have to be a parent to be moved by her story.
In another point, it could be said that Beck portrayed Harvard in a negative light. She doesn't name names, but points out the narrow minds that can develop from a prestigious, exclusive academic career. In my opinion, these could have been any professors in any large university. Harvard doesn't have exclusive rights to pompous faculty members, you know. I mention this only because someone somewhere will complain about the way Harvard was described. I'm only saying all colleges are that way so calm down and read the real message of the book.
From beginning to end, we follow the Beck family through the pregnancy and delivery of their son. Personally, I wish I could have learned more about life with Adam. I love stories about people that give up the crazy life and find true inner happiness. However, this book is called Expecting Adam. If you excuse my pun, that's exactly what is delivered. I just hope the author chooses to write more about her family. I feel many people can benefit from her words.
That being said, I recommend Expecting Adam to just about everybody. I don't see men liking it as much as women. However, you don't have to be a parent to benefit from the Beck's world. With absolute wit and grace, Martha Beck tells a very inspirational story.