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Suzanne Lezotte
Raising Owen: An Extra-Ordinary Memoir on Motherhood
As a first-time mother, the diagnosis of Down syndrome derailed every expectation the author had of motherhood. From complete grief and denial to acceptance and advocacy for her son, she takes the reader on her quest for full inclusion from preschool through high school. "Life will not be a special needs class" became her motto as she challenged society and the norm while raising her son.
Plot/Idea: 8 out of 10
Originality: 7 out of 10
Prose: 8 out of 10
Character/Execution: 8 out of 10
Overall: 7.75 out of 10


Plot/Idea: This is a deeply personal tale recounting the emotional highs and lows of a parent whose son is diagnosed with Down Syndrome. Lezotte unflinchingly shares her frustrations, fears, and hopes as she navigates the unfamiliar—and often treacherous—world of parenting a child with special needs.

Prose: Lezotte's writing is more guarded initially, but as the book progresses and Lezotte opens up about her victories and disappointments, the prose blossoms. 

Originality: Raising Owen is a heartfelt memoir that delves into the pain and beauty of parenting a child with special needs, alongside practical advice gleaned from Lezotte's personal experience.

Character/Execution: Lezotte shares her stumbles and revelations candidly, allowing readers to learn alongside her while she maneuvers through uncharted territory. As she hits her stride, the memoir comes alive, and her experiences are unforgettable. 

Date Submitted: October 16, 2023

Reedsy Discovery

There was so much to process. Her newborn didn't come home immediately as the doctors assessed his condition. He spent seven days in the NICU which can feel like an eternity when a parent craves bonding with their child. Lezotte never regretted her decision of not doing the amniocentesis because she would never put conditions on a gift from god. Yet, she knows from experience that her son Owen’s future will be rocky. Families that have a special needs child already know that friendships end at the school door. As the child grows up, it is the family that creates those special moments and bonds. Accepting this undeniable truth becomes the gateway to envisioning her future. Whenever it was possible, she wanted her child to flourish. Achieving inclusion in a school classroom was a tough battle, but she reached that summit. How Lezotte’s successful career in tech and journalism proved her ability to get projects completed. She had the drive, stamina, and vision. There was a role reversal when her husband became the stay-at-home parent. Her family and close friends supported her and kept her grounded. Even her critical mother-in-law would come at a moment’s notice, and she adored Owen. Why? At three years old, Owen met the revered Maori healer, Papa Joe, who said Owen was Owen. He came with the grace to heal others simply by being himself. Owen also had focus and drive. When Michael Phelps competed in the Olympics, Owen replayed the races constantly. When he said “I can swim like Michael Phelps,” his mom believed him and signed him up for a swim team. He was a visual learner, and he knew how to study. Most people are visual learners. Perhaps Owen's technique should be considered for inclusion in the curriculum.

The story ends as Owen is filling out his application for attending an away school that will teach him life skills that will help him live as independently as possible and take his place in the wider world. Lezotte lets herself be vulnerable and shares some of the hard questions and disagreements along the way. She includes the struggles at home with Owen’s younger siblings while maintaining their privacy as much as possible.

One of her writing strengths lies in her ability to credit the friends, staff, students, and coaches by detailing their specific actions with her son. This writer took notes, which is remarkable. She wrote the early chapters with clarity thanks to the notebook she kept of Owen’s early days.