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Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  6,852 ratings  ·  1,065 reviews
The "slyly ironic, frequently hilarious"(Time) memoir about angels, academics, and a boy named Adam...

A national bestseller and an important reminder that life is what happens when you're making other plans.

Put aside your expectations. This "rueful, riveting, piercingly funny" (Julia Cameron) book is written by a Harvard graduate--but it tells a story in which hearts trump...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published August 1st 2000 by Berkley Trade (first published January 19th 1999)
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Community Reviews

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Jenny
This book was recommended to me as a wonderful read, filled with spiritual strength. Unfortunately, I had a very different experience with it. It greatly disturbs me that so many women have been duped by this book.

It's a memoir of Martha Beck's spiritual struggle as she gives birth to a son with Down Syndrome. In reality, it's the story of a woman's fall from truth and grace. She repeatedly rejected the hand of the Lord reaching out to her during her time of need. After I read the book, I resear...more
Erica
Memoirs are tough. They lie in that fuzzy grey area somewhere between truth and fiction, and are, by definition, the subjective experiences of someone you may or may not like. This book is, shall we say, less grey than most--I would actually call it a novel.

I had nothing else to read, the library was closed, and I thought this book would be an interesting insight into another family with Down syndrome. The book was entertaining--albeit more for the the author's fantastic experiences and her alm...more
Jami
I really agree with Jenni's review of this book. There were parts in it that were really fantastic, and the author definitely has talent, but so much of it was contradictory and offensive. I hated how Beck wrote that she detested the arrogance and superiority at Harvard, but she makes it VERY clear how very intelligent and gifted she herself is. She goes on and on . . . really beating the reader over the head with it.

She is too intelligent, in fact, to fall for the religious beliefs she and her...more
Jenni
Extremely well written. Has some brilliant moments. But in the end, I just couldn't get past the WAY creepy feeling the book gave me. I know a lot of people that love it...but I think the author is a walking contradiction: not sure of what she believes, what is truth and what is fiction. If you're going to read the book, I would recommend knowing the author's religious/anti-religious bias, background, and current controversies. Just know what you're getting into.
Nikki
Sep 11, 2008 Nikki rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Nikki by: Jen
I'm not exaggerating when I say this is the most beautiful book I've ever read. It's about a subject I've been fascinated by for a little while now and yet one that so many people seem so tight-lipped about. I remember a church leader telling our student congregation my freshman year of college that he felt it was important for us to know that angels really exist and administer to humans on Earth, but that was it: no further details. My mom has confessed that she knows her "guardian angel" is he...more
MCOH
Here's the review I wrote on Amazon a couple years ago when we read this book for book club:

As an LDS woman, Harvard alum, mother, and friend to someone who has Down Syndrome, I anticipated loving this book. I somehow imagined that Beck's experiences might have mirrored mine, that I would find in her a kindred spirit. I was wrong.

Beck's Harvard is inhabited with mean-spirited, intensely competitive, narrowly focused, hamsteresque charicatures. None of the students or professors has the wisdom,...more
Britta
"...you'll never be hurt as much by being open as you have been hurt by remaining closed."

"...then I understood. She was talking about the soothing, singsong language mothers speak spontaneously when they talk to babies. Baby talk is found in all nations, all cultures; it is the original Mother Tongue. It translates across any language barrier because it is more about music than about words; the sounds themselves, not their meaning, give comfort and support."

"When he got home, the sun came out."...more
Nora
This book describes the author's experience of carrying to term a Down's Syndrome baby while she and her husband were graduate students at Harvard in the 1980's. The juxtaposition of this non-practicing Mormon family's religious heritage, intellectual milieu, and vivid spiritual experiences made this book fascinating to me, doubly so because the author and her husband were acquaintances of mine long ago. The book is funny, witty, and wonderful in its descriptions of intellectual and family life....more
Tanya W
Although Martha Beck has some writing talent and this book is in some ways a very interesting read, the drawbacks make it more of a one or two star read.

In spite of it being a one plus or two minus star read, I admit I was wanting to know what would happen next and read it quickly. As it went along it felt more like a movie or book that I realized at some point wasn't really very good, but I wanted to know what was going to happen anyway. Its contradictory nature made it more of a garbage book...more
Kristine
Jul 14, 2007 Kristine rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: probably women
So good. So much to say... true story, and I love Beck's writing style.
Here's the hook:
Beck is in a PhD program at Harvard. She gets pregnant, has amazing visions and intuitions during the pregnancy, like seeing what her husband sees as he is in China (or somewhere). She finds out the baby she is carrying has Down's Syndrome, and from then on, no one in the department mentions her pregnancy. They are horrified that she wouldn't terminate an imperfect baby... this is when she realizes that acade...more
Tracy
A few months ago, my husband and I went to the Friends of the Seattle Public Library book sale, a huge book sale held in an old airplane hangar. Books are piled up everywhere, and people are toting around bags and suitcases, nudging--even pushing--each other to discover the treasure of a good book...it's great fun!

I found a few books I thought worthy of my time, including Expecting Adam. For some reason, I'm drawn to stories about real people and real lives. I often agree with Mark Twain that "t...more
Christia
Oddly enough, another one of my all time favorite books. Martha Beck and her huband are both caught up in the world of academa at Harvard University and find themselves expecting their second child, only to discover he has Down Syndrome. An amazing story of how they prepare themselves for their son's birth (keeping him is never a question) and of the strange, supernatural events occurring during Martha's pregnancy. (For example, prior to Adam's birth, both parents independently somehow know that...more
Lesley
This book is very hard for me to rate... there are some things about it that I want to give it a High Five, and some things were so hard for me to believe that I thought about making it a single star. So here I am riding the fence and going with 3 stars.

Martha Beck wrote this as her story about her second pregnancy…it was very hard on her physically, and then was made even harder when she found out that the baby she carried had Down Syndrome. She proceeds to tell the story of all the things tha...more
Rachel Penso
This book is about a woman who is pregnant with a Down syndrome baby. During her pregnancy, she experiences many different spiritual occurrences and tiny miracles. She and her husband are both deeply embedded in the Harvard community, and tend to have to ask the question, "Is it rational?" At the beginning of the pregnancy they are both very skeptical of the feelings, voices, and visions but grow to embrace it as a part of their son.
I really enjoyed this book, but there was one thing that real...more
Sarah Sammis
I received Expecting Adam by Martha Beck as a gift when I was about 14 weeks pregnant with Harriet. That's the time when one is tested for possible genetic abnormalities like Down Syndrome. Expecting Adam is Beck's memoir of her difficult pregnancy with Adam, her son who has Down Syndrome.

As some one who has suffered through two miscarriages for unknown reasons, I completely understand Beck's decision to continue with her pregnancy even though her son would require extra help at school and would...more
Susan
I have a real hate/love relationship with all things Oprah, meaning I get the magazine but hate myself in the morning, you know what I mean (or maybe not... major root canal, people, I don't even know what I mean). But I love Martha Beck, her sanity, her clarity, her humor. She's got a regular column in Oprah which is one of the reasons I keep getting the magazine. Before I really knew she was a life coach (doesn't that just sound dreadful, but get over it, she's not a jerk) I read this book and...more
Jenny
This book sucked me in right away. Beck has a tremendously engaging writing style, and I was hooked only a few pages in. I enjoyed following her story (that of her decision not to abort her son Adam after he was diagnosed with Down's syndrome in utero), even as I wondered if so many years later, she was still remembering events accurately (she addresses this in the author's note at the end of the book, saying that she kept detailed journals and even cross checked her recollections with those of...more
Debra
Feb 07, 2013 Debra marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
DNF
Shauna
I love people with Down's Syndrome. I am bothered by the fact that 90% of fetuses with a known dianosis of Trisomy 21 are aborted. It scares me that the world can do away with anyone who is not perfect.

Favorite quotes:
"...the word 'mother' is more powerful when it is used as a verb that as a noun. Mothering has little to do with biological reproduction. You can always find it, if you're smart and know where to look."

"...the Taoist saying that "when two great forces collide, the victory will go t...more
Heidi
To the friends (and other Goodreads readers) who chastise me when I say this book touches my soul: I know. I know Martha Beck grew up Mormon, left the Church, and wrote a nasty book where she accused all Mormons of being child molesters and liars and other things. I've heard it all several times before, so I'm going to ignore any comments that point this out to me. (And by the way, that other book of hers wasn't nearly as bad as everyone says.)

Martha and her husband, John, are in post-graduate p...more
Beth
Oct 24, 2007 Beth rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
A friend told me about this book. It is not something that I normally would have picked up on my own. It is the author's autobiographical story of her second pregnancy. During the pregnancy, she found out through amneosenthesis (sp?) that her son would be born with Down's syndrome. By the way, both she and her husband were studying for PhDs at Harvard during this time. [As a side note, the friend who recommended this book was in the second year of her Master's studies at Harvard when she was pre...more
Christina
While the story itself was amazing, I just couldn't get past the authors underhanded bad comments about the LDS church. She lumped all members under what she grew up with. I kept waiting for her to get a clue and realize the "puppets" she had helping her along the way was really God. I kept telling myself I wasn't going to finish reading the book but I kept going back in hopes that she would wise up. For a Harvard graduate with a bunch of degrees she isn't all that wise. If I had known more abou...more
Heidi
I'll be honest, it's been such a long time since I first read this book it's hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that I loved about it. I remember that at the time I was concerned about diversity issues on my college campus because of my job and that I felt like this book was shouting the answers outloud. I love the quote at on the back of the book that says something about this family having to unlearn everything that Harvard had taught them. It's so true that we can get so wrapped up in what e...more
Magda
This book took me on a phenomenal journey, and I don't know what was harder to wrap my mind around: the pro-choice mindset (and her somewhat apologetic, emotional* choice of life for her son), the bitter emotional coldness of the Harvard mindset as a whole, or the presence of spiritual beings which she experienced.

*This wasn't really expanded, but against the Harvard backdrop, non-rationality was definitely bad. Coupled with the spiritual beings experience (which was likened to Bunrako puppeteer...more
Estella
I read this book many years ago, when it was first published, and revisited it recently out of curiosity. The phrase "truth is stranger than fiction" comes to mind, although I'm really not sure what is truth and what is fiction in this wacky auto-biographical story. I gave it two stars because Beck is without doubt a talented writer, and it is also obvious that she loves her son, Adam (born with Down Syndrome), but the story surrounding Adam's birth and her interpretation of her experiences duri...more
Kelley
I waiting for three months to be available at our public library and when I'd finished it, I wondered why??? The book itself is told by a mother who found out that the baby she was expecting had Down Syndrome. It tells of some of the experiences she had as she and her family came to terms with her son's diagnosis and is interwoven with bits and pieces from her son's childhood. It could have been a neat book, but my emotions teetered between disgusted and saddened as I read; I felt like she made...more
Rhiannon Lawrence
Mar 16, 2008 Rhiannon Lawrence rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Rhiannon by: Book Club
I stopped reading this book midway through it. I am pregnant and felt that the images of miscarriage were a little too much for me. I also felt this was a very emotional book and I'm focusing on keeping my vibe positive for this pregnancy.

This author interests me, mostly because of who she is and the claims that she's made -- She's Hugh Nibly's daughter and she's made sexual abuse claims.

While I thought this book started out very sweet and I am interested in finishing it after I deliver, I had...more
Crystal
Mom had recommended this book because of the Harvard and Japan connections, but that actually made me reluctant to read it, as I read to escape. However, once I started I just loved all the Harvard references - sadly the university's recognition of the needs of students with families had not improved much in the ten years between the book being written and my time there.
As prenatal screening continues to advance, situations like the Becks' will continue to arise. This book makes a good argumen...more
Allanna
The story of a mother, studying at Harvard, who has a son with Down's Syndrome.

Overall, it wasn't a bad book. I actually enjoyed it. Except that Beck is so disenchanted with the Mormon faith. Which made me enjoy the book a lot less than I would have if she hadn't harped about her problems with it so much.

(I'm fine that she doesn't like the Church. She doesn't have to like it. I'd be just as annoyed reading an author who was disenchanted with any other faith: another branch of Christianity, Judai...more
Rachel Norris
i really enjoyed reading this book. the way the author views certain miraculous events are a bit different than i might, but that is because of her life experiences and it doesn't take away from the miracles themselves. God's presence is very apparent in her life to a degree that i find myself a bit jealous. but she went through much harder times than i ever have and i know God is no less present in my life just because He doesn't reveal Himself to me in the same ways He did to her. I feel happi...more
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Martha Beck is a writer and "life coach" who specializes in helping people design satisfying and meaningful life experiences. She holds a bachelor's degree in East Asian Studies and master's and Ph.D. degrees in sociology, all from Harvard University.

She worked as a research associate at Harvard Business School, studying career paths and life-course changes in today's economic and social environme...more
More about Martha N. Beck...
Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith Steering by Starlight: Find Your Right Life, No Matter What! The Joy Diet: 10 Daily Practices for a Happier Life Finding Your Way in a Wild New World: Reclaim Your True Nature to Create the Life You Want

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“Angels come in many shapes and sizes, and most of them are not invisible.” 10 likes
“Most people go through their whole lives," John went on, "and never have one miracle happen to them. You've had dozens and dozens, and you still want more! It's like God gives you a brownie, I mean a really good brownie, but you can't be content with it. You want the whole pan of brownies. Nobody gets that.” 6 likes
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