The Book of Kehls

Christine Kehl O'Hagan

St. Martin's Griffin

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When Bridget Moore left Ireland in 1865, she never suspected that along with her trunk and rosary beads, she was bringing Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy to New York City. It wasn't until Bridget was a grandmother, one who had buried four of her grandsons, that she realized she'd brought MD to the States, a disease that would haunt her family for generations. Years later, her great-grandchildren grew up under the elevated trains of Jackson Heights, Queens—and one of them was Christine Kehl O'Hagan, the author of this moving and insightful memoir.

Christine, her sister Pam, and their brother Richie played in the streets and attended mass every Sunday. But Richie had trouble walking. By the time he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, Christine learned that two of her mother's brothers—uncles she'd never known about—had died of MD. Christine eventually married and had a healthy son. But one day she saw her second boy, Jamie, struggle to climb onto the school bus—and she knew knew then and there that this disease would be with her the rest of her life.

Extraordinarily written, with much honesty and humor, The Book of Kehls is the engaging story of a family that has known love, courage, and heartbreak in equal measure—and survived.

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Praise for The Book of Kehls

"While Christine O'Hagan beautifully and candidly renders detailed stories of loss and sorrow from a five-generation family history of Duchenne MD, it's the family's perseverance and hope, their ability to love and laugh and sustain each other, that most touched my heart."
- Jerry Lewis, National Chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association

"Though born nearsighted, Christine Kehl O'Hagan's childhood myopia blinded her from nothing. She came into the world with perfect vision of her family's karmic brawl with disease, dysfunction and death. Yet The Book of Kehls is a remarkable testament to the power of faith and fortitude, of cunning and courage. After reading her gripping, don't-you-dare-give-up memoir, you will never see your life quite the same again."
- Saralee Rosenberg, author of the New York Times bestseller A Little Help From Above and Claire Voyant

"With this brave and unflinchingly honest memoir, Christine Kehl O'Hagan tells the story of her family, struck, again and again, by the tragedies of Muscular Dystrophy. But this is not only a chronicle of death; The Book of Kehls is a true story of life, courageously told with keen insight, grace, and humor."
- Binnie Kirshenbaum, author of An Almost Perfect Moment

“I read the book straight-through. I couldn't put it down. It broke my heart, then, at the end, my heart began to mend.

The Book of Kehls is a story of shattering losses. Christine Kehl O'Hagan exposes her heart in moving and unsentimental prose and recounts her family's story with astonishing candor. She does not shy away from the hair-pulling grief, the deep guilt, the blind rage she and her family have struggled with because of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. At the same time, this is a book of all-encompassing love and abiding loyalty. An extraordinary book for everyone and for all families that demonstrates the immeasurable capacity of the human heart to endure the unimaginable, to rise above what seemed impossible to live through."
- Sandra Benítez, author of Night of the Radishes and The Weight of All Things
“Affecting and joyous...Christine Kehl O’Hagan shares the ordinary and the extraordinary in this honest, disarming memoir of her multi-generational struggle with the progressively destructive genetic disease, muscular dystrophy... A moving testament to the power of family love and a paean to the charm and courage of the Irish.”
- Louisa Ermelino,author of The Sisters Mallone

Reviews from Goodreads


About the Author

Christine Kehl O'Hagan

Christine Kehl O'Hagan is also the author of the novel Benediction at the Savoia. She was born and grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens, and now lives with her husband on Long Island.

Christine Kehl O'Hagan


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Available Formats and Book Details

The Book of Kehls
Christine Kehl O'Hagan

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
St. Martin's Press
St. Martin's Griffin
February 2006
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780312329563
ISBN10: 0312329563
5 x 7 1/8 inches, 224 pages

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
St. Martin's Press
February 2006
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429932134
ISBN10: 1429932139
224 pages

From The Publisher

St. Martin's Griffin

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