The Shape of the Eye: a Memoir


2012 Oregon Book Award in Creative Nonfiction


“This is a poignant, beautifully written and intensely moving memoir, and I think only one writer in the world, George Estreich, could possibly have pulled this off. It will become part of the canon of narratives that are studied and taught in medical humanities courses.” 

Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone

“In this wise and moving memoir, George Estreich tells the story of his family as his younger daughter, Laura, is diagnosed with Down Syndrome and they are thrust into an unexpected, unfamiliar world.  Estreich writes beautifully, with a poet's eye and gift of language, weaving this personal journey into the larger history of his family, exploring the deep and often hidden connections between the past and the present.  Engaging and unsentimental, The Shape of the Eye taught me a great deal.  It is also a book I couldn't put down, a story I found myself thinking about long after I'd finished the final pages.”

Kim Edwards, author of The Memory Keeper's Daughter

This book is beautifully written, poetically insightful, and personally transformative. To read it is to rethink everything and to be happy because of the journey.”

Timothy P. Shriver, Ph.D.

Chairman & CEO of Special Olympics

“A story about being open to the unexpected, about how welcoming a child with Down syndrome leads one to see the world anew.  The Shape of the Eye is a richly rewarding book– witty, reflective, and deeply human.”

Michael Bérubé, author of Life as We Know It: A Father, a Family, and an Exceptional Child



People: "This elegantly written, unsentimental memoir . . . "

MORE Magazine: “A father’s eloquent, searching memoir.” [Ranked by MORE Magazine as one of  “Five Books That Will Transform The Way You Think”]

Booklist [starred review]: “An elegantly written, luminous, and profoundly human portrait of pain and sorrow, hope and cautious optimism.” 

Kirkus Review: "The moving, heartbreakingly lucid story about how a family learned to cope with, and ultimately appreciate, a daughter born with Down syndrome."

H-Disability:  "...the language that he uses to articulate his emotional world is rich, vivid, and arresting... he seeks to convey the raw and competing emotions of love, resentment, confusion, and admiration as he goes about his daily caring for his daughter."

The Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine: "Skip the rest of this book review, and get the book I describe..."

Motherwell: "A stunning meditation on raising and loving a child with Down syndrome. The beauty and lyricism of the prose, alongside Estreich’s careful attention to detail, will sink deep into your bones ... Never overly sentimental and always vitally honest, this memoir will stay with you long after you close the covers."

Literary Mama: "The Shape of the Eye is meticulously researched, introspective yet not sentimental, and written in absorbing and rich prose. . . . Estreich's gift for writing is extraordinary, his prose wry and evocative."  

About the book


When Laura Estreich is born, her eyes present a puzzle: does their shape indicate Down syndrome, or the fact of a Japanese grandmother? In this powerful memoir, poet and at-home dad George Estreich tells his younger daughter's story, his family’s, and his own. As Laura survives early medical difficulties, then begins to heal, grow, and learn, Estreich delves into the way Down syndrome is described, tracing contemporary errors to Victorian beginnings.  Against a medical story about children who are all alike, Estreich shows us a child unlike any other. The Shape of the Eye is a meditation on the differences that matter, the ones that don’t, and what it means to belong.