One of my favorite gripes about books in general is that for one to be successful it is important to hook the reader in the first 50 pages, if you don’t you are lost, the reader will move on to another book. Terrell Harris Dougan has taken this principal to new highs, she has the reader hooked in the prologue, who can resist a book with the opening sentence:

It’s Christmastime, and in a bright supermarket, with “Joy to the World” spilling out of the speaker, I am ducking a flying packaged chicken that is sailing past my head, thrown at me by my furious sister.

If there was a book award for best opening line Terrell Dougan deserves to win by a landslide!

That Went Well takes us into a place that few have experienced, how to cope and embrace a family member that is challenged, either physically or mentally. For most people their sole contact is by watching a tantrum occur on the bus, or in the local shopping mall. We tend to avert our gaze, or walk away while some patient soul tries to offer comfort. Terrell Dougan is one of those patient souls, and the person that she offers her support to is her sister Irene. These ladies are now in their 60’s and still going strong.

This book is incredibly well written, I know it is cliché to say that it made me laugh and cry at the same time, but it did. There are sections that are so sad, they represent a text book definition of the phrase ‘mans inhumanity to man’, the curious part is that often the perpetrators of the crime are professionals that by training should know better. There are also parts of the book that are laugh out loud funny. Being challenged, does not always mean being stupid, having a 57 IQ does not mean that there is nothing that you cannot excel in. Irene certainly has her issues, but has learned how to manipulate those around her. Her sister Terrel being one of the prime clients.

Another of Irene’s ploys is when in a restaurant she inevitably manages to slip the waiter the good news that it is her birthday, more often than not scoring a small cake at the end of the meal.

One of the the great stories Terrell tells is of the Fridge Magnet that Irene has, it is plain but to the point “NORMAL PEOPLE WORRY ME”. I want one! How many ‘normal’ people would you love to give this to?

To most of us the idea of having to bear the burden of a sibling with special needs seems overwhelming, yet Terrell does not see it that way, yes Irene creates obstacles, yet she also is a source of joy and happiness. Although the time requirements are great Terrel has also led a very full and interesting life including being one of the organizers of the Sundance Film Festival for a few years.

You can pick up your copy of That Went Well from Amazon, there is also a companion web site.

Simon Barrett

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