Book Review: Far From the Tree: Parents Children and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon

962 Pages. 3 pounds. Truly, I wish I’d gotten the kindle edition.

The size and weight of the print book prevented me from carrying it along at all times which really slowed my reading. The ideas were at least as heavy as the  book.

It was painful. Heartwarming. Tragic. Hopeful. Agony. Thought-provoking. Fraught.


Not an antidote to insomnia.

Every time Pierre would catch me reading I would be in tears.

This is a book I wish most parents would read even before having children.

I wonder, though, if you can grok this book in the same way if you are not a parent.


The research and discussion of vertical identities – where you are like your parents or where you come from versus horizontal identities – how you are that is different from parents but where you can find others with your experience is fascinating.

Solomon looks at the categories of deaf, dwarf, down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, disability, prodigies, rape, crime, and  transgender.

How much do we all have a tiny bit of this experience of feeling alien from our parents  or families of origin and needing to find our people?

From (and maybe a page in the book but I was leery of how long it would take me to find it.)

As the gay child of straight parents, I had a “horizontal identity”—a condition that I shared with a peer group but not with my family of origin. I discovered that there are many such identities; parents are constantly struggling with children who are alien to them in some profound way. Though individual differences can be isolating, the fact of difference is nearly universal.

Almost any characteristic can be experienced as an identity or an illness, and it is our human limitation not to be able to hold both points of view in mind at once. If we strive to do so, however, we may discover that while individual differences are lonely, the fact of difference is common to most of humanity. The families I studied ended up grateful for lives they would have done anything to avoid.


Book Review of Far Fromthe Tree by Andrew Solomon at LisaNalbone.comDepending on your circumstances it might make you feel like you have had it pretty darn easy, or maybe help you feel not crazy since there are others dealing with similar issues.

 on page 6  

 To look deeply into your child’s eyes and see in him both yourself and something utterly strange, and then develop a zealous attachment to every aspect of him, is to achieve parenthood’s self-regarding yet unselfish abandon. It is astonishing often such a mutuality has been realized-how frequently parents who had supposed that they couldn’t care for an exceptional child discover that they can. The parental predisposition to love prevails in the most harrowing of circumstances. There is more imagination in the world than one might think.

In all these instances, Solomon addresses the challenge of acceptance as well as the danger of denial of difference and the implications for the individual and our culture.

I am going to keep looking at  to keep posted on when he may be speaking nearby.

The Far from the Tree website and FB page look like great places to take the conversation further.

But first, read the book.


Thanks, Lisa.

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