Reston writes about his daughter, Hillary, who was stricken at the age of eighteen months with a high fever that left her significantly (and mysteriously) impaired. His descriptions of the onset of her seizures is enough to keep us up at night. But it was this observation that resonated with Julie, and with me, enough to share with you.
When we moved to Washington that summer, the coldness and embarrassment of strangers were evident. With Hillary's yips and her strange gait and her impulsive gestures and her hovering parents, it was clear to any passerby that something was wrong with her. Strangers turned away or looked at her curiously as if she were an exotic creature from Mars or the circus. As we met new people, their reaction to Hillary, whether inviting or embarrassed, became a litmus test of whether we chose to pursue the relationship. In our minds we knew this to be unfair, and later we came to realize, in our denseness, that good and well-intentioned people often simply did not know how to react. But we could not help it. It meant that our circle of friends shrank to a precious few.
We haven't finished the book yet, but so far, it has given us a sobering and gripping look at a family dealing with another child's monster, one that is much bigger and more sinister but vaguely familiar all the same.