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Jean-Louis Fournier did not expect to have a disabled child. He certainly did not expect to have two. But that is precisely what happened to this wry French humorist and his attempts to live and cope with his Mathieu and Thomas, both facing extremely debilitating physical and mental challenges, is the subject of this brave and heartbreaking book. Fournier recalls the life he imagined having with his sons–but his boys will never really grow up, and he mourns the loss of every memory he thought he’d have.
Though a devoted father, he does not shy away from exploring the limits of his love, the countless times he is filled with frustration and disappointment with no relief in sight. Mathieu and Thomas can barely communicate, and each in turn repeats learned phrases, such as “Where we going, Daddy?” (a favorite in the car) in what feels to Fournier to be an eternal loop.
In Where We Going, Daddy? Fournier reveals everything, and that is perhaps his most remarkable quality. He does not hide behind a mask of cliché, but gives voice to the darkness that comes with disability, and the rare moments of light. Through short, powerful vignettes Jean-Louis manages his grief with cynicism and humor. For parents of disabled children, this book will offer some relief from the courage they must garner every day, a chance to let down their guard, laugh at themselves, and embrace even the ugly emotions they feel. For the rest of us, it’s an unsettling and heartfelt glimpse into an otherwise unimaginable life.