The Bookworm Sez: 'Ugly' tells a beautiful story

The Bookworm Sez: ‘Ugly’ tells a beautiful story

You already have a name.

Your parents gave it to you when you were born. It might’ve meant something special to them, it might’ve been a name they liked, or something that sounded beautiful. Whatever the situation was, you have a name that’s served you just fine but, as in the new book “Ugly” by Robert Hoge (c.2016, Viking, $16.99, 200 pages), your classmates often use a different one.

Usually, when a baby enters the world, there is a great celebration of its birth. But for Australian Robert Hoge, there was silence. He was born with a “massive bulge” from his forehead to the place where his nose should’ve been and his eyes were on either side of his head. His legs were both “mangled” and misshapen. His mother, expecting her fifth child, instead “got a little monster,” Hoge says.

A week after his birth, when his mother went to see him for the first time, Hoge says she “did not care about her son.” His parents planned on giving him up but they first decided to discuss the matter with Hoge’s siblings, who insisted their parents fetch the baby – and so, just over a month after his birth, Hoge went home with his family.

It didn’t take long for them to realize their love for him, nor did it take long for them to see Hoge’s fighting spirit. Despite his leg deformities, he was able to get around. Though he had a misshapen head, he was clearly very smart. They could appreciate who he was, but they understood that society might not – and so, at four years of age, Hoge underwent an hours-long surgery to correct some of his physical problems.

The surgery was successful – or, at least as successful as it could be with a growing boy – and so Hoge went to school with his siblings. He made friends, got into mischief, found school subjects he loved, tried to find a sport he could play, and was bullied by name-calling. He went to camp, learned to swim, and as he grew, “doctors were… starting to notice me noticing how girls noticed how I looked.”

And so, the year he turned 14, Hoge was offered more surgery to make him look “normal” – a surgery that came with risks…

You’re having a bad hair day. You feel fat in those jeans. And you’ll never complain again, once you’ve read “Ugly.”

What’s striking, the one thing you’ll notice immediately about this book, is that author Robert Hoge writes entirely without a pity-party invitation or an over-sugary attitude of gratitude. His life just is, and he doesn’t fancy that up much; in fact, there are times when his story is told surprisingly unimpassionedly. That near-monotone telling is saved by Hoge’s delightfully spry sense of humor, which shows up in unexpected places and makes this book less of a sad tale and more of one of triumph.

“I’m the ugliest person you’ve never met,” Hoge says early in his book but readers will know better. They’ll know “Ugly” is the name of a beautiful book.

 

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Email her at bookwormsez@yahoo.com.

More in Life

Will Morrow (courtesy)
Once bitten

Just keep moving. For some people, it might be a mantra for… Continue reading

Joan Brown Dodd, left, and Doug Dodd pose for a photo at the Homer News on Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
‘Hero Unaware’ based on author’s compilation of father’s war correspondence.

Letters home span the entire length of World War II from a Navy corpsman’s perspective.

Mindful ramen. (Photo by Tressa Dale/For the Clarion)
Take guilt off menu with mindful ramen

I do a lot of preaching about healthy eating, but I have… Continue reading

Bonnie Marie Playle (file)
July Musings

July is the seventh month, and is called “Dog Days” because it’s… Continue reading

2007 photo by Clark Fair 
Sometimes called “Murder House” in the years after the killing, this dilapidated Quonset hut was the scene of the crime.
A killing close to home

By Clark Fair For the Peninsula Clarion We all hope we live… Continue reading

The stage for "Grounded" is seen inside of the Kenai Performers’ black box theatre on Monday, March 15 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Presenting Little Mermaid

Kenai Performers youth drama camp takes center stage

This rich Parmesan risotto makes a creamy base for mushrooms and kale. Photographed July 10, 2021, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Kale salad? Not so much

A cream risotto makes an indulgent base for the nutritional green

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: The generations … my how they flow by

It has been over 20 years since we had a 1-year-old in the house for any extended period of time.

This orange Julius swaps out the traditional egg whites with sweetened condensed milk, for a tangy and safe summer treat. Photographed July 4, 2021, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Adding some orange to the red, white and blue

A quintessentially American drink cools off any Fourth of July celebration.

Nick Varney (courtesy)
Flying fish and lead. Oh my!

Homer can become rather rowdy at times.

Pottery is on display on Wednesday, June 30, 2021, at the Kenai Art Center, which is reopening on Thursday for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, in Kenai, Alaska. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
‘The more we get together’

Kenai Art Center celebrates reopening with work from Potters’ Guild

Containing onions, carrots, shitake mushrooms and noodles Japchae is a stir-fried Korean vegetable and noodle dish that is delectable hot, cold and everywhere in between. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Noodles made with a loving hand

Japchae is a stir-fried Korean vegetable and noodle dish that is delectable hot, cold and everywhere in between