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

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  9,358 ratings  ·  1,302 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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Lisa Martha Nibley Beck and John Beck were married from 1983 until 2004. Together they wrote in 1990, "Breaking the Cycle of Compulsive Behavior", that "tr…moreMartha Nibley Beck and John Beck were married from 1983 until 2004. Together they wrote in 1990, "Breaking the Cycle of Compulsive Behavior", that "treated homosexuality as one of several "compulsive behaviors", like bulimia. However, both she & John subsequently came out publicly as gay(!) and have stated that they no longer consider homosexuality a form of compulsive behavior." You can search online for Martha Beck and John Beck, and find quite a few comments he's made questioning the veracity of Martha's claims in her books and writing.(less)

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Apr 17, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Jan 16, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Oct 11, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: total-crap
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
Oct 10, 2007 rated it did not like it
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.
Aug 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 29, 2008 rated it it was ok
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,
Nov 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
"'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."
Sep 06, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-books
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
Jennifer Hughes
Feb 04, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: unfinished
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
Tanya W
May 29, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kel-s-5-star
The reviews of this made me furious. Seriously - 1 star because she ignored Gods hand reaching out to her. Who the hell are you?? How dare you? "I believe all miracles stem from God in my life" well whoop de doo.

This book inspired me, it changed my life and i can't quite explain why. I have 2 healthy children, I don't even know anyone with Downs Syndrome, but this book was full of realism and emotion. It also introduced me to the word natsukashii which also changed my life.

Why is it that religi
Jul 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Milica Carter
Jul 10, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
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
Mar 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Quirky Shauna
May 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir-biography
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
May 14, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
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
Jan 06, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Oct 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 03, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Nov 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
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
Nov 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I can't help it. I love this book. And I cry, every time. Every time. A lot of crying. It's definitely cheesy at times, and I'm not 100 percent into the whole spirit world thing, but I love the naked honesty of this and it's a good thing to cry at how life can be messy and beautiful and scary all at once. I guess it should be all those things.
Jan 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
What an amazing story. It follows Martha Beck's pregnancy with her down syndrome son, Adam. More importantly though, it tells the story of coming to understand the amazing spirits that are born into our homes, and the love and support we are always receiving from the other side of the veil.
There were certainly things about this book that bothered me, as a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; however, I loved Martha's perspective that the things that we stress about
Jan 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Sarah Sammis
Apr 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: released
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
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
There were a few great insights and some incredibly frustrating attitudes that both existed in this book. I thought this book would be solely about the author’s emotional and physical journey through a pregnancy of a child with Down Syndrome, but it goes beyond that in ways that were interesting and extremely frustrating.

She and her husband were both die-hard Harvard students when she became pregnant with their second child. She felt incredible pressure to abort this baby, but she started havin
Feb 25, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic, poignant, funny, moving memoir from Martha Beck, one of my all time favorite authors. This is about her experience of being pregnant with a son she found out would have Down Syndrome while pursuing a Ph.D. at Harvard and raising another daughter, alternating with chapters about examples of the magic her son brought into her life as he grew up -- proving that a disorder she thought would be an unbearable burden ended up being her greatest gift and teacher. Gave me an amazing sense of ...more
Mar 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book! The author writes profusely in many magazines, from GOOD HOUSEKEEPING to the magazines that you find in airplanes. She is an academic and this book talks about her experiences at Harvard while she is expecting a child that has Down Syndrome. The emotional pace that the author manages to capture in relation to this troublesome pregnacy, and even more troublesome venue, is exhausting, but brilliantly done. And, in the end, the book is hopeful.
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I grew up wanting to be an ecologist or a professor. However, after bearing three children while acquiring three Harvard degrees, I decided I’d rather just lie down for a few decades. During that time I became an author and life coach. My books include Expecting Adam, Leaving the Saints, Finding Your Own North Star, The Joy Diet, Steering By Starlight, Finding Your Way in Wild New World, and The M ...more

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