Eli loves people. He loves them so much that he hugs strangers and considers them friends. Like 1 in 10,000 to 20,000 of the population, Eli has a genetic disorder called Williams syndrome. Journalist Jennifer Latson spent a considerable amount of time with Eli and his mother, Gayle, over three years, starting when he was 12, to find out what it is like to have Williams or to parent someone who has this syndrome.
In this, her first book, Latson looks at Eli’s experience. She also talks to doctors and others who have Williams to learn more about the emotional and physical health issues that go along with Williams. She explores the science behind the disorder, once in awhile briefly veering off into more academic science, but overall keeping it quite accessible.
At the same time, she wonders what we can learn about North American culture when the people who are most open and loving to strangers face the most rejection. Ironically, Eli’s wholly trusting nature and his inability to comprehend the signals and codes of social interaction make it much more difficult for this loving boy to develop friendships, even though friendships are the one thing he wants most in the world.
The Boy Who Loved Too Much gives readers a close-up look at the challenges of parenting a child who has Williams syndrome. Latson subtly urges a kinder disposition towards people with differences, and she helps develop more understanding and compassion for the lengths parents of children with special needs must go to for the sake of their children.
While the church does not really figure into the book, we in the church have a lot to gain from it. Here is a child, an imagebearer, who has a very different way of interacting with and understanding the world. Eli and Gayle are in dire need of healthcare and educational resources, a network of friends, and a community of support. None of us have to look too far to see someone else in those shoes, whether the issue is Williams syndrome, autism, Down syndrome, or any kind of “difference” that doesn’t fit neatly into social norms. The church is the perfect place for this kind of community and support, and Latson’s book helps open our eyes to the need. (Simon & Schuster)