In the introduction to his novel The Census, Jesse Ball explains that his deceased brother with Down syndrome inspired him to write a story to help readers better understand and love people with Down syndrome. To achieve this, Ball writes about a father and his son with Down syndrome, a relationship that Ball feels resembles the one between him and his brother.
After his doctor diagnoses him with a terminal illness, a widowed father becomes a census taker in order to travel the country with his son before his imminent death. Knowing he will not return home, the father plans for his disabled son to live with a trusted friend. They leave their home in city A and continue to travel to cities B, C, D, and so on, exploring each city, its landscape and people, and discovering the true purpose of census work.
The Census is a fascinating blend of fable, travelogue, and autobiographical fiction. Despite the gloomy subject matter, Ball writes with a kind of lightheartedness, though his language is overly sentimental at times. Ball does not fixate on the son’s Down syndrome; however, the most affecting moments in the novel are the son’s brief interactions with the many genuinely interesting characters whose treatment of the son ranges from heartbreaking to heartwarming, offering readers a memorable lesson on empathy.
|Page Count||272 pages|
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