That Went Well by Terrell Harris Dougan

Title: That Went Well
Author: Terrell Harris Dougan
Publisher: Hyperion; First Edition edition (January 6, 2009)
Pages: 224
4 out of 5 stars

Meet Terrell Dougan’s sister, Irene: a woman in her sixties who still believes in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny–but who also enjoys playing those characters for the children at the local hospital; whose favorite outfit, which she’ll sneak into whenever Terrell’s back is turned, consists of Mickey Mouse kneesocks and shorts; who wins over the neighborhood kids by hosting two fire trucks at her lemonade stand; whose fridge bears a magnet: NORMAL PEOPLE WORRY ME.

When Irene was born, her parents were advised to institutionalize her. They refused and instead became trailblazers in advocating for the rights of people with mental disabilities. The entire family benefited, with a life rich in stress, sorrows, hilarity, joy, and overwhelming kindness from strangers. Terrell has found that the only way to get through the difficult moments is to laugh–even in the most trying of times. In her moving, funny, and unforgettable memoir about life with Irene, Terrell Dougan shows that love, humor, and compassion are enough to heal us, every single day.

I had varied reactions to this book in the course of reading the 200 or so pages. At first I was really impressed by the writing style, simple yet effective. After I got used to the writing style, I admired the way the family coped with Irene’s disability. They wanted her to have a life in the community and not to be sent in some home where there are no proper facilities. After 100 pages or so I started getting irritated because it was more about Terrell and her sacrifices and her accomplishments. Honestly I was expecting a more compassionate approach towards Irene. But most of the time it was how unmanageable she was, how stubborn and manipulative.

I was all about writing a negative review for this book. But then somewhere around the last 50 pages or so, I realized something. Whenever I read a book about mental disability or any form of disability for that matter, there is always an expectation that you get to know how wonderful that person is and that he/ she has enriched your life in so many ways and that you would not have it any other way in spite of everything.

In the beginning the book felt like all complaining and how much Terrell and her family had to sacrifice for Irene. But deep down you see they care and they love and do it because they want to and not because they have to. At the end of the book there’s a letter to Irene which says all the things I wanted to read, that she was special and she impacted her life and all that. And then there’s this,

However, as my dear friend says of her mentally disabled son, “Yeah, yeah, I know. But I still wish it had happened to the neighbors.”

So yes, I understand now. I loved the honesty in this book. And even though it’s a difficult subject, the book does not get overbearing at any time. This book, I feel, is not about Irene, it’s about the people who deal with her and cope with the difficulties that come with raising and managing a mentally disabled person. There was this fear of what would happen to Irene when no one was around, the guilt of not doing enough that always seemed to be there, the codependency (read about this in the book) and finally coming to terms with the situation. I think people who interact with disabled people will be able to relate to this book very well.

Thank you Paula from Author Marketing Experts for my copy.

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13 thoughts on “That Went Well by Terrell Harris Dougan

  1. Great review, Violet!
    It is definitely not easy to read such books but the message behind the story can be so powerful and meaningful, isn’t it?

  2. You’re right – this book is about what it’s like to live with and care for Irene. I really enjoyed it. Irene reminded me of a friend’s child who has a very similar personality.

  3. Great review. I can imagine it must have been hard to write honestly and fairly about the difficulties the family has faced in having a family member with a disability. People with disabilities tend to be portrayed with very definite stereotypes in books and movies, either as being saintly or impossible. It must be hard to strike the write balance in this book. Anyhow the book definitely sounds interesting.

  4. I enjoyed reading this review. So much, that I can’t decide how and what to comment. This topic has recently become more personal – I think I’ll just go tbr this book. Thanks!

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