Christine Kehl O'Hagan, Author . St. Martin's $21.95 (210p) ISBN 978-0-312-32955-6

"Don't you feel so guilty passing it on?" O'Hagan asks another mom who's also passed fatal Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) to her son. It's "God's will," the woman answers, but in spite of O'Hagan's Catholic upbringing, she finds little comfort in the thought that God would want to afflict innocent boys. O'Hagan lays out the basics of DMD: one in 4,000 males are born with the hereditary disease, passed via a faulty X gene. Females can be asymptomatic carriers, but if they pass a faulty X to a male offspring, he'll end up with DMD. O'Hagan's brother, son and two nephews were all born with no apparent symptoms, but the DMD was undeniable when the boys had trouble walking and climbing stairs, and kept falling down. O'Hagan watched her parents care for and then bury her only brother; when she realized she'd passed DMD to her own son, her grief was almost unbearable. Still, she stayed with him continually until his death at 24. Though missing him tremendously, O'Hagan worked through her anguish and learned how to live like a "regular" person. O'Hagan's story is extremely depressing, her pain raw and messy. Though marketed as a memoir, this is really a disease/grief book. While the book may resonate with parents of children with other similar illnesses, memoir readers lured by the book's Irish-Catholic title should look elsewhere. Agent, Ann Rittenberg. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/15/2004
Release date: 01/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
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