Terrell Harris Dougan, a former columnist for the Deseret News and winner of the National Federation of Press Women's Best Humor Column award, covers more than six decades of her life living with and caring for her younger sister Irene in That Went Well: Adventures in Caring for My Sister. Irene was born with mental disabilities, and tests showed that she has an IQ of 57 and an emotional age of 3. Caring for Irene is a major challenge, given her temper tantrums and sometimes violent outbursts, but Dougan stepped up to the plate and eventually became an advocate for the mentally disabled. She even went as far as designing a private home program for Irene when all the other places she lived after leaving their parents' home didn't work out.
Dougan expresses frustration at times, but she focuses on acceptance. Her love for Irene shines through in her writing, and it's obvious that she doesn't want people to feel sorry for them. Dougan has a happy life with her husband, children, and grandchildren, and despite her disability, Irene is happy and loved by many people. Dougan tells stories about Irene in a humorous tone, from trying to buy a shopping cart full of candy for just $2 to stealing pricey oils from the incense factory where she worked to sell for $1 in a yard sale. Just as people reach out to her, Irene reaches out to others, and I loved reading about Irene's desire to bring Christmas presents to children in the hospital.
I don't read a lot of memoirs, but I'm glad I read That Went Well. Dougan's writing flows as though she's sitting right next to you reminiscing, and when I turned the last page, I felt like I'd known her and Irene for years. The book made me think about happiness and what it means to different people and our expectations for others. It gave me a new respect for the mentally disabled and their caregivers. Readers with friends or relatives with mental disabilities definitely will want to pick up this book, but I think That Went Well is an important read for everyone in that it aims to raise awareness of people with special needs.
Visit Terrell Harris Dougan's website, That Went Well, for more information about the book, a reading group guide, and resources for people with disabilities.
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Disclosure: I received a free copy of That Went Well from Author Marketing Experts, Inc. for review purposes.