June 3, 2014

Pressed Pennies by Steven Manchester

Shortly before Addison was born, one of the publishers I review for sent me a copy of Steven Manchester's Novel, Goodnight, Brian.  This was an entertaining and inspiring story of a child with a disability whose life was touched and changed by the love of his family.  A few short weeks later our Addison was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at birth.  There were many dark and gloomy diagnosis and prognosis in those first few days.  We cried a lot as we considered all the horrible things we were being told.  And then one evening, when Addison was a few days old, I was crying and trying to feed him and the words of Steven's book came back to me.  I was encouraged and inspired as I determined "won't" and "can't" are not going to be part of Addison's existent.  I was sure from that moment on God sent Goodnight, Brian to prepare us for the journey we were going to walk with Henry. 
A few days later I got an email from Steven asking me to review his soon to be released book, The Rocking chair.  When I wrote Mr. Manchester back I had to tell him what his novel had meant to us.  Steven wrote back asking if he could use Addison as a character in the novel he was currently working on.  Pressed Pennies arrived in the mail the first week of March. 
These days I scarcely have time to read a book.  In fact, I have completely abandoned reviews for the time being. When I do read, it has something to do with therapy or down syndrome.  For all those months now Pressed Pennies has been calling me from the top of my summer vacation reading stack under the night table.  Once or twice I picked it up and read a page or two before feeling guilty and putting it away.  
But now school is finished.  Summer is here.  And I have given myself off.  No research.  No obligatory reading.  A lovely 3 month sabbatical to read just what I want.  With the Memorial Day weekend kick off to summer I pulled Pressed Pennies out with no guilt and spent three lovely afternoons in the hammock lost in the world of Rick, Abby, Paige and Addison "Henry". 
As Steven has demonstrated time and again, in Pressed Pennies we see his gift for defining the vulnerability and strength of human relationships in a way which touches your heart and inspires you to find a life you want to reach out to.  This was a fun love story of how God takes us from the rubble of life to restore love and redeem the time.  As someone who was in Abby's very place a long time ago, this was a fun read and a good chance to remember all God has done in my life. 
As an added bonus, it was neat to see how Steven would develop the character of "Henry".  I intend to ask him if he had already written Henry or if the character was developed after he "met" our precious son.  Regardless, I could clearly see the character of Henry as our Henry in ten years. 
There were two neat things that jumped right out to me about Henry and Pressed Pennies.  Before publication, Steven sent me a passage where Henry was first introduced to the story.  There was a note which said, "I hope you don't mind me making him a Red Sox fan."  Well, first we chuckled because we've always been Yankee fans.  For those of you who don't follow much baseball, Yankee Fans and Red Sox fans are pretty big rivals.  But there was more to it than that.  Unbeknownst to Steven, or most anyone, Addison's name came from Addison Park, which is now known as Wrigley Field, home to the Chicago Cubs.  
The other thing which stuck out at me was that riding a bicycle is a key element for the character of Henry.  One of our specific prayers since Addison was a newborn was for him to one day ride a bicycle.  It is estimated that only about 5% of people with Down Syndrome ever learn to ride a bicycle.  This seems like a trivial thing and it is certainly something most parents take for granted.  However, as we contemplated what we needed to do to help our Henry gain independence (even less people with Down Syndrome ever pass the test to become licensed drivers) we knew this was something very important to us.  In fact, our family, and specifically Kaitlin, have put a lot of time and effort into raising money to bring Camp I Can Shine to our area to teach children with Down Syndrome how to ride a bike this summer.   
Whenever my mom read a good book she would say it was like eating peanuts.  You know, you have to keep popping more and more in your mouth because one is never enough. And when the bowl is empty you are kind of bummed.  That is the perfect description for Steven Manchester's books.
Pressed Pennies is a fun, easy going story perfect for a breezy summer afternoon.  Get your copy at Amazon.com in paperback or Kindle Instant Download.  
(Please note:  There are two listings for Pressed Pennies at Amazon.com.  The link I have included is the book I am reviewing here.)

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