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

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  7,625 ratings  ·  1,136 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
Paperback, 336 pages
Published August 1st 2000 by Berkley Trade (first published January 19th 1999)
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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
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
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
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.
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,
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
"'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."
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
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
Jennifer Hughes
Before you embark on this book, you need to know something about yourself.

Are you comfortable reading fiction that insists on being called Drop-Dead True Memoir? Would you rather know some background before beginning, or would you rather just stay uninformed and enjoy the story?

I've had to ask myself this as I read books like The Education of Little Tree and Papa Married a Mormon. Believing they were true as I read made for a magical experience that left some nasty Santa-Claus-isn't-real disill
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
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'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
Milica Carter
I enjoyed the parts of the book about her actual life. I even enjoyed the narratives of the "Angels" helping her. When she started the seemingly never-ending personal introspective analysis of God and Angels and religion my mind went numb with boredom and my eyes inevitably rolled. That, and the fact that I don't think I've ever met such a clueless pregnant woman. I mean, seriously, she is an idiot despite her Harvard education. (oh, she will bash you over the head constantly with this fact - an ...more
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
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
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
Sarah Jamison
I am going to have a tough time writing this review. And I really don't even want to write much of anything because all my criticisms make me think I am writing just like Martha N. Beck, Ph.D., shallow as hell, narcissist above all. But anyway, the blurbs and jacket cover are misleading, so I'm adding to the reviews that attempt to give a clearer picture of what is going on in this book.

Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic is a pregnancy memoir. Beck, a Harvard grad
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
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
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
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
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
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
This is the story of a overachieving Harvard couple who unexpectedly become pregnant. They discover mid-pregnancy that the baby has Down's Syndrome. (Side note: Martha Beck is the daughter of Hugh Nibley, and her husband seems to come from some prominent Provo family.) During the horrific pregnancy, Ms. Beck has a variety of ESP-ish and/or otherworldly experiences. She also faces criticism and judgement from nearly everyone in her life, first for getting pregnant, then for choosing not to termin ...more
Ever written an amazing review and then lost it? Argh!

My senior year of college, I babysat a sweet infant with a lovely family. Ryan and I got along, so whenever he got tired, I could rock him to sleep quickly. I enjoyed my time while he was asleep because his family's house was calming and I always felt welcome and safe there, since he mother thought I was the best thing since sliced bread. She was happy to have a babysitter she could trust.

Sometimes, after the baby fell asleep, I would sit in
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
As a mother of a Down Syndrome son, a wife who helped put her husband through Wharton, a top business school, who's husband then worked for 7 years at a top consulting firm and who is a mormon from Utah, I don't think I could have less in common with this woman.
I don't go around dissing Ivy league schools, Professors, Business/Consulting Executives, Utah, Mormons, my family, my in-laws and organized religion in general. I give credit for the miracles in my life to God. I didn't struggle with any
Martha Beck made me think hard about many things. In particular, she made me ask, "Am I listening and acting upon the messages that come to me?" The title uses the phrase "everyday magic," which I guess is a good enough label for the things that happen to her while she is "expecting Adam," but the word magic doesn't quite get to the essence of what I decided she was revealing through her story. However, I don't have a better descriptor, and that doesn't matter because Beck communicated her meani ...more
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
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2015 Reading Chal...: Expecting Adam by Martha Beck 2 10 Apr 04, 2015 06:32AM  
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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 about Martha N. Beck...

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“Angels come in many shapes and sizes, and most of them are not invisible.” 11 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.” 7 likes
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