Best-selling writer Andrew Solomon has back-to-back Ann Arbor book signings this month: at a Michigan League fundraiser (for the U-M Depression Center) on April 12, and at Crazy Wisdom Bookstore & Tea Room on April 13 (see Events). Bill Zirinsky, who owns Crazy Wisdom with his wife, Ruth Schekter, doubts that a star like Solomon–his latest book, Far from the Tree, was named one of the ten best books of 2012 by the New York Times–would ordinarily visit a “small, specialized bookshop.” But in this case, there’s a personal connection: Zirinsky and Schekter are featured in the book.

Far from the Tree explores what it’s like to parent “different” children, a category in which Solomon includes offspring with deafness, autism, schizophrenia, dwarfism, and genius. From a mutual friend, he learned that Zirinsky and Schekter had a son and daughter who suffered from a degenerative neurometabolic disorder. Sam Zirinsky could not eat, talk, walk, or hear; his younger sister Juliana’s situation was slightly less severe, but both died before age ten. (The couple now is raising two adopted daughters.)

Zirinsky, at first, found it difficult to read their section of Far from the Tree–it was, he says, as if he were “somehow awakening the spirits of my now-gone older children.” But he and Schekter praise Solomon’s depiction of the struggles and unexpected rewards of parenting Sam and “J.J.” Quoting Solomon, Schekter says, the “book’s conundrum is that most of the families described here have ended up grateful for experiences they would have done anything to avoid.”