cover image Life on Delay: Making Peace with a Stutter

Life on Delay: Making Peace with a Stutter

John Hendrickson. Knopf, $29 (272p) ISBN 978-0-593-31913-0

Hendrickson, a senior editor at the Atlantic, debuts with a powerful examination of his lifelong stutter. After his 2019 story about Joe Biden’s stuttering went viral, Hendrickson decided to write about his own experiences. His stuttering, which began at a young age, was “viewed as something to be fixed, solved, and cured” and he underwent speech therapy lessons in elementary and middle school, which proved to be mostly futile. Throughout high school, Hendrickson attempted to mask his dysfluency by drinking and getting high: “Nearly every decision in my life has been shaped by my struggle to speak,” he writes. Hendrickson captures the claustrophobic terror that a stutterer feels when he’s unable to express the sound of a letter (“A bad block can make you feel like you’re going to pass out”), and his interviews with researchers, therapists, fellow stutterers, and parents of children who stutter widen the narrative scope and compassionately uplift a stigmatized community. The author is a thoughtful reporter, and he delivers a visceral understanding of how he compartmentalized his shame. This memoir casts a necessary light on a disability that too often goes unseen. Agent: Amelia Atlas, ICM Partners. (Jan.)