Last Updated on October 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 542
Life As We Know It is a work of nonfiction about Down syndrome. In particular, it focuses on the author’s son James (often called Jamie), who is born with this syndrome. Because of the subject matter, the characters in this book are primarily framed in terms of their relationship to Jamie.
Michael Bérubé, the author, is a scholar of American and African American literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is an academic, and the tone and content of the book reflect this. Michael endlessly considers the future and status in the world of his disabled son, Jamie. But when he and Jamie are alone together, these concerns evaporate; he sees his son as a typical child, a marvelous child. Michael says, “As long as I am with him I can’t think of him as anything but Jamie.”
Janet is Michael’s “wife and general partner.” She is James and Nick's mother and teaches British literature and women’s studies. Before that, she worked as a cardiac intensive care nurse. When doctors propose invasive medical procedures for her young son, Janet’s medical expertise enables her to credibly oppose these risky interventions. Janet and Michael can be a “gratuitously contentious” couple, disagreeing often. But in caring and advocating for their disabled son, they are a united front and do not complain or argue with one another. From the moment Jamie is born, Janet insists, “We can handle this together.”
Nick Lyon Bérubé
Nick is Michael and Janet’s oldest son and Jamie’s only sibling. Nick is five years old when Jamie is born. The author notes, “The most important thing about the house into which Jamie was born, however, is that it already contained Nick.” Nick is a gifted child, scoring exceptionally high on nationwide intelligence tests. His behavior, personality, and milestones are cited often as a point of comparison to Jamie’s.
Bud and Sarah
Bud and Sarah are Janet’s brother and sister-in-law, respectively. They appear as minor characters in the book.
Trevor is the healthier of Bud and Sarah’s prematurely-born...
(The entire section contains 542 words.)
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