Book Review: ‘The Difference’ by Justine Delaney Wilson

Title: The Difference

Author: Justine Delaney Wilson

Year of Publication: 2016

Publisher: Hachette Ireland

Rating: 3 out of 5

Beth and Steve are happy to bring their new daughter home from the hospital. They feel like their family is complete. But Ismae isn’t like everyone else. She’s different. And Beth knows that her difference is something that will affect them all. As Ismae grows up, Beth’s life gets farther and farther away from how she imagined it would be. When she makes a discovery about her husband, she has to decide if the life she has ended up in is really what she wants, or if she needs to break away and take a new path.

The Difference is a book about life and how it doesn’t always go as planned. Beth is disillusioned with how her life has turned out. She thought she and her husband would have ended up in New Zealand, where Steve was born. But instead they live in a house only a short distance from her parents and the house she grew up in, which just emphasises to her how far she hasn’t got in life.

When she finds out she’s pregnant again she’s surprised, her and Steve had never planned on having any more children. But she’s excited and when Ismae is born she’s hopeful. But Ismae isn’t what she and Steve had expected. She is born with Down’s Syndrome, and from the beginning, Beth and Steve aren’t sure if they can handle all that comes with that.

The book excellently emphasises the way people can react to disability. Wilson captures the way people behave when they don’t know how to behave, the awkwardness when people try to be sympathetic but aren’t trying to understand what they’re being sympathetic towards. Even the doctor when Ismae is born point out that she ‘one of the good ones.’ Beth and Steve ‘s neighbours are superficially sympathetic. They say what they’re supposed to say, that it’s really not that bad, but are secretly glad it’s not them in Beth’s situation.

I read a few reviews of this book after reading it and noticed that a lot of people seemed to empathise with Beth and her whole situation in life. A lot of people said that they could relate to her because they know what it’s like to not be where they wanted to be in life. Maybe it’s just because I’m not at the stage in my life to feel like I’ve missed out on something (or maybe because I have no idea what I’m doing with my life so I have no expectations to miss out on) but I just couldn’t relate to Beth. She wasn’t an unpleasant character to read, I just didn’t really get her, I couldn’t sympathise with her. This was probably just me, though, so please let me know if you felt any different about her.

Overall this is a good book. It’s got an unusual premise with Ismae, and it’s dealt with well. But there’s something lacking for me. The characters just didn’t grab me and the story itself was a bit boring in that nothing really happened. It’s just a lot of Beth moaning about her life. Maybe that’s a bit unfair of me, but I prefer a plot that has a bit of suspense; something to keep me turning the pages more than just obligation.

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