More about Keeping Katherine

What happens when you have life on a string-Yale Law degree, wonderful husband, excellent health, perfect first child-and then everything goes wrong? The baby starts crossing her eyes. Her screaming at night can’t be soothed. She stops babbling, stops crawling, and sits wringing her hands all day. Hospital and doctor visits give no answers. The baby slips away to a place her parents can’t reach.

Keeping Katherine, an expanded and updated version of Susan’s award-winning Grief Dancers, is a remarkable story about a family overcoming adversity and growing stronger as a result. Zimmermann describes life with her daughter Katherine, a child who developed normally for her first year. Then, without warning, her words ceased, she stopped crawling, and she paid no attention to her surroundings. By the time Katherine was two, she was severely handicapped. Not until Katherine was seven did Zimmermann and her family learn that Katherine had Rett syndrome, a neurological condition akin to autism. By that time, Katherine had three younger siblings: Helen, Alice, and Mark. Keeping Katherine tells of the odyssey Zimmermann and her family undertake to embrace, and eventually celebrate, their altered life and disabled daughter.

"I wouldn’t wish this on anyone," Zimmermann says, "but Katherine has truly enriched our lives. Helen, Alice and Mark are stronger, more compassionate and more resilient because of Katherine. For years, I hoped for a miracle that would heal Kat. That never happened, but a miracle of a different sort did. We came to understand the power of the powerless. Through serving Katherine and being touched by her spirit, she became our teacher."

This story of family dynamics and personal transformation reminds us that it isn’t what happens to us that determines our life, but how we respond to it.

Reader responses to Keeping Katherine:

  • From the Boulder Daily Camera: "In Keeping Katherine, Susan Zimmermann walks through myriad emotions to find genuine acceptance; she comes to feel almost as if the unbilical cord between her and Kat has never been disconnected. This memoir documents her journey, a rich collection of life’s lessons on love and acceptance."
  • From The Telluride Watch: "Her [Susan’s] story is a parent’s worst nightmare -- a perfectly healthy first-born seized by an unexplicable malady slipping into an irrevocable spiral of illness and mental retardation from which there is no cure and no escapte. Any yet out of this sad tale, told with piercing honesty and immense grace, Zimmermann discovers the gift implicit in tragedy, and shares an intensity of understanding and compassion that most of us, blithely absorbed in our material world, might never have the opportunity to experience...I can’t remember a book that had me sobbing so often, not half as much out of sadness, as out of appreciation for the immense power of suffering and grief to teach us what it means to be human. Keeping Kathering is beautifully written, full of amazing insights, touching moments, and deep pain. I can’t recommend this book enough. It will sear the soul, and yet in the end through your tears, you too will be dancing with grief in a way you never would have expected."
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