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The Independent Critic

 Book Review: Blessed Are the Rest of Us by Micha Boyett 
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I have struggled with how to review Micha Boyett's "Blessed Are the Rest of Us: How Limits and Longing Make Us Whole."

I've wrestled. Mightily.

Were my expectations different? This may be partly true.

Does my perspective as an adult with disabilities come into play? Most definitely.

The book sounded very up my alley when I first requested and received my ARC (Advanced Reader's Copy). The book also received praise from two authors whose recommendations I trust and, quite honestly, I wholeheartedly embrace books that at least explore the landscape of theology and disability.

Right there may very well have been my first mistake. It should be noted up front that a good majority of "Blessed Are the Rest of Us" is inspired by the birth of Boyett's son, Ace, with Down Syndrome and eventual diagnosis of Autism, "Blessed Are the Rest of Us" is not at its core a book about Ace or disability.

Instead, "Blessed Are the Rest of Us" is ultimately a book about Boyett herself and how Ace's birth led her toward the ancient teachings of the Beatitudes. This, of course, isn't a bad thing. In fact, at times it's quite moving and inspirational. Despite the fact that I didn't completely resonate with "Blessed Are the Rest of Us," I assure you there will be many who will.

"Blessed Are the Rest of Us" is about how Boyett's turning toward the Beatitudes helped her release so many values embraced by the world - performance, perfection, and strength - in favor of Jesus's call toward meekness, mercy, and justice. Rather than always finding value in her accomplishments, Boyett began embracing her wholeness in God's love.

And yes, Ace, who is present throughout much of "Blessed Are the Rest of Us," helped facilitate that journey as a young child for whom nearly every developmental milestone was missed and whose life expectations are envisioned as less about performance and more about simply being beloved and in beloved community.

Each chapter of "Blessed Are the Rest of Us" centers around one particular beatitude and is typically companioned by Boyett's own life journey. The majority of the time Ace is included, however, this isn't a book about Ace or disability or disability theology. There are chapters where the focus is elsewhere, from a discussion of Boyett's other two children (Brooks and August) to a discussion around LGBT inclusion among others.

The subtitle of "Blessed Are the Rest of Us" is perhaps most indicative of what to expect from this literary journey. Those who are exhausted, overworked, drowning in performance expectations, or simply anxiety ridden will find much to love here and will likely be who most appreciates Boyett's work here. Parents of children with disabilities will also appreciate Boyett's gentle and compassionate weaving of a tapestry of faith that embraces those who perform at a different standard and, yes, those who may never be able to have their lives measured by performance standards.

As an adult with a disability, one with came with significant limitations that I have largely surpassed, I must confess that I at times struggled with "Blessed Are the Rest of Us." At times, it seems to cross the line into what the late disabled comic called "inspiration porn," a term she coined to symbolize material perceived as objectifying disabled people for the benefit or gratification of the able-bodied. Is this constant? Heavens no. Is it intentional? Absolutely not. However, I sometimes felt like I was seeing Ace through the lens of his mother rather than through the lens of Ace.

There's a difference and I think Boyett understands this because there are also times "Blessed Are the Rest of Us" nails it.

Disability and theology are difficult to write about, in fact while it seemed somewhat an outlier my favorite chapter in the book involved the LGBT discussions, as far too often these discussions can turn into affirming weakness rather than affirming the human being. Even the title, for me, somewhat "others" Ace - "Blessed Are the Rest of Us?"

There's so much more I could write about. Ultimately, I have a unique perspective that won't likely impact most readers, though certainly it's a valid perspective. It's not often that I contemplate my review for quite some time before writing, however, I really wanted to reflect on my response to the book.

While "Blessed Are the Rest of Us" may not have ultimately landed for me as well as I'd expected, for those seeking a poetic and tender exploration of the Beatitudes in a world that often emphasizes quite the opposite this may prove to be a valuable read.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic