Catharine With An "A"
by Edna Keir
(Ginninderra Press, Canberra, 2003, 125pp, $20.00 plus $2.00 postage. Available from the author, tel (02) 6382-1677)
Catharine with an "A" is a mother's story told with honesty and frankness. It is not only the life story of the young lady Catharine who was born with the condition, Down Syndrome, but also a story of an ordinary Australian farming family who lived in isolated rural western NSW. It has particular poignancy because at the time of Catharine's birth there was little medical knowledge of the Down Syndrome condition and no support services were available.
Noel and Edna Keir ignored the dismal predictions for the future of their baby daughter. They used their own initiative and resolve, motivated by their parental love, to confront and overcome the challenges.
Edna Keir records each step of Catharine's progress as adversities are challenged and conquered in a way that captivates and holds the reader's continual interest. Edna's natural and sincere expression brings the reader into the intimacy of the large Keir family culminating with Noel's sudden illness and death.
Of particular interest is the degree of maturity Catharine had achieved in coping with the loss of her beloved father and expressed with her beautiful, simple faith. The reader warms towards the whole family as one is brought into their everyday working lives and their efforts to establish Catharine's full potential.
Against all the odds and through her family's unrelenting perseverance, Catharine has developed into a charming self-sufficient young lady. The book covers a range of emotions from tears to laughter and sometimes anger. The most inspirational underpinning theme is the unwavering strong belief and adherence to their Catholic Faith and how they applied it to everyday living in an unpretentious matter of fact way.
It is a book with an appeal to all readers and of particular value to those having a disabled child. The philosophy of living skills based on common sense, Christianity and Catholicism is an example for us all.
Joan Graham is President of the Lambing Flat Branch of the Fellowship of Australian Writers.