Book Review: The Seeing Glass

The Seeing Glass: A Memoir

by Jacquelin Gorman

copyright 1997, Penguin Putnam Inc., New York

375 Braille pages

Disability, Memoir

Robin was not like the rest of the family. He had a special way of viewing the world—and it wasn’t just because of his seeing glass. But as Jacquelin Gorman interweaves sweet and bitter childhood memories of her autistic brother Robin with her devastating experience of blindness, readers are left groping to find any insights she may have gained.

The Seeing Glass chronicles Gorman’s sudden vision loss and her terrified self-imposed isolation in excruciating detail. A gray wall of blindness separates her from everything known to her, but it is she who refuses to move beyond it. She reaches back to her childhood, basks in the vivid colors of dreams and memories, and looks to Robin for answers.

Written in present tense, Gorman’s tale is immediate and emotionally charged. But, as a person who experienced sudden, permanent blindness at the age of twelve, I found Gorman’s self-absorbed attitude both irritating and disturbing. She continuously stumbles and falls, bitterly ignores the pleas of her four-year-old daughter, and only reclaims hope and the love of her family when her sight shows signs of returning.

In my opinion, The Seeing Glass is worth reading–not because of Gorman’s encounter with blindness. By telling Robin’s story, she presents a brief but fascinating glimpse into the life of an autistic boy before Autism was readily diagnosed.

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