cover image CHOOSING NAIA: A Family's Journey

CHOOSING NAIA: A Family's Journey

Mitchell Zuckoff, . . Beacon, $25 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-8070-2816-2

For a 1998 Boston Globe article, reporter Zuckoff interviewed Greg and Tierney Fairchild, a happily married, interracial professional couple who went for the usual prenatal screenings and came away with some very bad news: the fetus carried a major heart defect that could signal Down syndrome. Zuckoff's compassionate and informative medical cliff-hanger draws on extensive interviews with the Fairchilds, their families, friends and medical practitioners, as well as broad research into the history and science of issues related to the developmentally disabled. The story opens with Tierney's joyous "positive" result on the home pregnancy test. All is going well until, during a routine ultrasound, a doctor declares, "I think we have a problem here." More tests confirm the Down syndrome diagnosis. Up against Connecticut's 24-week deadline for elective abortions, the couple struggles with complicated ethical and practical concerns, since the newborn would have to undergo major open-heart surgery and face lifelong retardation, in addition to other medical problems. In the end, they decide this will simply be one more challenge they'll face together. After Naia's birth, the Fairchilds struggle to keep her alive and fight to strengthen her for heart surgery, while working to develop her social and mental skills to the best of her abilities, which turn out to be great indeed. While Zuckoff's focus stays on the couple, he broadens the usefulness of their story with asides on the history of the treatment of retardation, including the legal and medical issues such cases raise, with endnotes detailing his sources and an appendix listing resources for people needing further guidance. (Oct. 21)

Forecast:At once a powerful argument against abortion and an eye-opening look at how a functional couple handles an extremely vexing decision, this book should become a classic in the field. Its publication during Down Syndrome Awareness Month and an author tour will push sales.