When Jean-Louis Fournier’s first child was born disabled, it was unexpected, but neither he nor his wife could fathom that a second child could be similarly affected. They are astonished when after a few years their second child exhibits the same symptoms as his brother. The Fourniers go on to have a third child, a healthy girl, but their marriage is unable to withstand the strain of raising two severely disabled children, so they divorce. Fournier eventually settles into another relationship, but this memoir is solely his searingly honest account of the difficulties and tedious nature of raising his sons.
Where We Going, Daddy? is a memoir containing some of the truest feelings that I have read. Fournier isn’t concerned about what others think as he relates the experience of raising two children who will never grow up to live adult lives, who will always need to be cared for and addressed as little children. I never doubted his feeling for his children, but did appreciate the honesty and picture painted of not everything being right – seeing the face of frustration. He tells of how he had made fun of his children, laughed sometimes at their expense to just stay sane, his resentfulness of parents with no disabled children, and his laments that they will never grow up and do anything with their lives.
Fournier writes with brevity and the short chapters keep the heavy emotional punch of this book from ever becoming too overwhelming. A lot of the time I think books that seek to shed light on issues with children or to share experiences about hardships are heavily weighted to making the best of things and being grateful no matter what, and Fournier’s story does not negate those perspectives, and indeed there are incredible moments of sweetness and joy here. He loves his children. However, there is also something equally valid and important about the perspective of human limitations faced with incredible hardships and love, and the very real way that unfolds. Recommended.